Chapter 20 : XX
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You're always leaving me behind
And I can think of a thousand reasons why
I don't believe in you, I don't believe in you and I
Time passed, even for someone like me. I lived in a constant standstill, but yet, all the same, it seemed that life still went on.
Soon, a month had past of which I had spent either in the hospital wing or in classes that I paid little or no attention to. My grades were insignificant, but the professors were kind and let it slide due to my ‘condition’. Potions classes were the worst. They made Albus’s absence so much more pronounced, and not just because he had been my partner. Seeing his empty stool next to mine every day affected me more than I’d ever like to admit.
Whilst others were excitedly packing for the week and a half off of school, celebrating something done during the war – something Harry Potter and his friends had done, no doubt – I was with Rose, avoiding thinking of what I was going to do. I didn’t want to stay at Hogwarts, alone, for almost a fortnight – but I had no choice. Or so it seemed.
“Are you going to go stay with Dennis?” Rose inquired, looking up at me from her book for the first time in almost an hour. She had only started reading it that morning, but already she was almost half way through. It never ceased to amaze me.
“No.” I replied, avoiding her curious gaze. “I said I’d see him over Easter – or maybe during the summer. It’s too soon for me right now.”
“Excellent. That means you’re free to come back with me.” She suddenly exclaimed, her beaming grin as startling as her unexpected words were.
“You have to be joking?” I sputtered in disbelief. Rose had surely lost her. “Rose – your family hates me. Have you forgotten what I did?”
“Oh, please. Don’t be ridiculous. We won’t be seeing the Potters; we’ll be at my house. It’ll just be my parents, and my brother.” She said it casually – overly nonchalant, as though she were trying to hide something from me. I put it down to my paranoia. Rose wasn’t a liar. “Anyway, it’s only Aunt Ginny who has a problem with you.”
Her obliviousness, and the way she said everything as though it were simple, made me stare at her for a long moment out of sheer incredulity.
“I need you to come with me. I’ll be alone if you don’t.” Rose complained, milking the annoying way that I somehow had to do the things that made her happy. “Scorpius can’t even write to me. He says he never writes to anyone whilst he’s visiting his grandparents. He says his grandmother’s very doting, and that she hates it if he is writing to someone because she thinks they are not making him feel happy – or welcome. It’s very strange.”
“Fleur’s a bit like that whenever I go to visit her...” I mumbled distractedly, “But really Rose. I don’t think it’s a good idea. Look at what happened the last time I went with you to see your family.”
“Emmanuelle Delacour, you are coming with me whether you like it or not. You are not staying here all by yourself. I don’t care whether you’re sleeping the hospital wing or not. I do not like the idea of my friend, who is still... still... unwell staying in a big castle all by herself.” The way that Rose said my name made my head snap up. She spoke with the sternness of a tired, frustrated mother.
“Fine! I’ll come.” I snapped, playing into the role of her angsty, flippant teenager. “When are we leaving, mummy dearest?”
“Perfect!” Rose exclaimed excitedly as she began to fidget happily in her seat. The way she ignored my sarcastic tone made me smirk. “I’ve taken the liberty to pack for you, and have already signed you out. I have also written to your mother to tell her where you will be for the holiday however she has yet to respond.”
“But – how? I’ve only just told you that I’d come.”
“Pfft. Don’t be silly. I knew you’d eventually say yes, so I did all this about a week ago. Though, saying that, I only finished packing for you this morning. It took a lot of persuading for the nurse to let me near your things – she’s grown awfully fond of you, and is startlingly suspicious for someone who’s meant to be sweet to everyone. School nurses are meant to be overly maternal and should not hover like an owl over your shoulder when you’re doing someone a favour. It’s ridiculous.” Rose hurriedly said to herself, rambling in a manner that once again suggested that she was hiding something from me.
“When are we leaving?”
“At around dinner time – if you like.”
“Don’t you need to say goodbye to Scorpius?”
“I already did. He left for the manor about two hours ago.”
I didn’t want to sound disappointed – because I wasn’t. I wanted to go with Rose because the thought of being at Hogwarts alone made me feel like crying, or screaming. The castle was not my home, the people within it were not my friends and the teachers were not people I looked to for guidance. I hadn’t loved Hogwarts in a very long time.
I needed to get away from it all, and Rose was giving me a chance to do so.
Rose and I left not long after that, quietly bickering, and went to the library for the rest of the afternoon. We picked up my trunk from the hospital wing at half past four, and were still quietly bickering.
We were using a portkey, because of Rose’s family importance (and need for extra safely) and my injury. It was in the head of Gryffindor’s office, which was a place I never thought I would enter in all my life.
I found myself looking forward to the visit, and the holiday I had previously thought I’d suffer through.
That was, of course, up until Professor Longbottom told Rose to say hello to ‘Uncle Harry and everyone’ and I saw the way that Rose’s eyes widened. She pushed me towards the shining mirror and forced me to take hold of it. I thought that I heard her call out my name as the room suddenly began a blur.
We fell to the floor, and Rose was on her feet before I was. Wearing an apologetic expression, she dragged me to my feet. I felt both fury and fear rising within me as I stared at the Burrow. I looked at Rose, seething, and she shrugged.
“I know you probably hate me for lying – but you’ve got to do this, Em. There is no one in that house who will harm you and there is no one who hates you. My brother doesn’t even hate you. He’s just holding a grudge because he’s upset that he seems to be the only gay person in Hufflepuff – which, as we both know, is definitely not true.” Rose murmured softly.
It was dusk, and the cool breeze ruffled Rose’s hair. In the moment she reached up to brush her hair away from her face, I saw her hidden anxiety. Her fingers were trembling and as she glanced up at me fleetingly, I saw unease within her wide eyes. I knew I had put it there. It made me feel unexpectedly guilty.
“It’s fine, Rose. Let’s go inside.” I whispered hurriedly, trying to disguise the tension within my own voice. Rose wasn’t convinced. She never was. She took hold of my hand firmly and I faintly smiled as she brushed the stray hair out of my eyes.
She didn’t even have to knock on the door. Before we’d even reached the mat that sweetly welcomed us, someone had opened the door. It was Mr Weasley, Rose’s grandfather. He smiled warmly at the sight of us, though seemed to have to force it to remain there when his eyes met mine.
“Nice to see you again, Em.” He said in a friendly way; however he touched my side as I passed and lowered his head to my ear. “Don’t take to heart what my daughter’s got to say. She thinks she’s angry, but she’s not. She was just worried, and has always needed someone to blame.”
He smiled at me with a warm affection that left my eyes stinging. That he seemed to care about my wellbeing, and my feelings, mattered to me in a way I had not expected.
I entered the house, hugging my elbows self consciously, and followed Mr Weasley into the dining room. There were mouth-watering smells floating around the house, so I supposed that everyone was sitting down for a meal. I felt my forehead break out in a sweat, and struggled to ignore the racing of my heart.
Each step I felt brought me closer to death. Each beat of my heart pounded in my ear like the pounding of a war drum. I could feel my entire body shaking.
The room, one that had been so full of voices, fell silent upon my arrival. All eyes were on me, but there was only one person whom I wanted to have eyes for. I sought out Albus with a sudden desperation. He was sat either side of his parents, and was about as far away from me as he could get. Hungrily, I drank him in. I took in his dark dishevelled hair, his angular face, his full lips – and lastly, his eyes. I met his eyes after what seemed to be years.
My lips trembled at the sight of melancholic bewilderment in his eyes. Tears I had not known I had been building up spilled over and ran down my colourless cheeks. Albus’s mother, angrily, rose to her feet. Her husband gripped her arm and said something I could not hear. James grinned at me, carefree and content that he was finally with the one he loved. He sat next to Fiona, who looked as beautiful as always, despite her baffled expression. Lily observed me with a neutral expression, her ever curious eyes searching my face until they stopped at the visible scar at my throat.
The world, despite it rushing on around me, had come to a sudden halt the moment my eyes had met with Albus’s. He was what mattered. It had taken me almost killing him to finally realise it. He was someone who loved me, and he was someone who I could actually have. He wouldn’t leave me the way my past love had done.
I could not have helped the sudden influx of memories, not even if I had tried.
Part of me wanted to hide, to avoid him in fear that he would look at me with the same disgust as I looked at myself in the mirror each day. However, it was the more prominent side of me that got its way. It told me to seek him out, to face my fears and to know why the person I loved had betrayed me.
I had not seen him since the afternoon in which he had made love to me. It had been four days. I had not been to classes. I had scarcely left my own room. I was too ashamed. But I couldn’t afford to be any more. A part of me had changed that morning – for what reason I did not know – I just knew that it had. I was no longer content in crying, and in asking the eternal question of “why?”. I had had had enough, and that was that.
I searched for him for an entire morning until someone finally told me where he was. In the hospital wing, a first year said as they fearfully ran their eyes up and down my body. I looked a mess, I knew that. I didn’t ask myself why he was in the hospital wing. I just went there in the hope that it was actually true.
And it was.
A smile lit his face at the sight of me for a single fleeting moment. Then that beautiful smile was replaced with something else. Something that was more than just the apprehension and the frown. He looked more than just worried, and it made my anger falter until all that was left was an unabashed desperation for the truth.
“Emmanuelle, you should not be here.” He said, sounding so unlike himself that it should have made me stop to question it. But I didn’t. I saw his weariness and flat tone as a sign of indifference.
“Why did you do it – why did you leave me there like some – some horrid little slut? I thought you cared about me. I thought you – you loved me. But you don’t, do you?” I cried, almost hysterically, from the foot of his bed.
“I do care about you.” He argued despairingly, “You know I do.”
“If you loved me, Scamander, you would not have left me in your bed. Alone.” I snapped despondently, “If you really loved me, then you would not think it was alright to have another girlfriend – one who you refuse to leave - and you would not call me jealous for thinking it was wrong that you hadn’t already done so!”
“You said you were fine with it – you said –”
“No – don’t throw that in my face. I wanted to be with you, so of course I said that. I had no idea how much it would hurt. I thought you’d – you’d change your mind. I thought you’d want to be with me – and just me. I thought I’d be good enough for you. I guess not.” Tears ran down my flushed cheeks as I spat out those last three words. I wanted to be strong, to stalk away – but I couldn’t. I clung onto the false hope that he’d say something to stop me, that he’d say something to sew the pieces of my heart back together.
“I thought I could be enough. But I was wrong – because I never am. I’m never enough.” I cried in a whisper as I turned my face away. I couldn’t bear to look at him. It hurt too much. I focused my stinging eyes on the floor, waiting for the moment when my new tears finally began to shed.
“Come here.” He softly whispered, extending his hand towards me. My eyes shifted, instantaneously, towards it. His fingers were trembling. His knuckles were purple. “Please.”
Slowly, as though I had legs made of lead, I took a shaky step towards him. My hand slipped into his and he pulled me, gingerly, to him. He lay in the hospital bed as though he were paralyzed, and I sat on the edge of the bed beside him. Lovingly, he brushed my hair off of my forehead and placed a kiss on the back of my hand.
“I love you,” He gently beseeched, “and there’s only room for you in my heart. You’re the one – the only one – I love.”
I wept against the hand that lay against my cheek. Freely, tears ran down my cheeks and in his, I saw, were some of his own. The sight of them made me breathless, and weakened whatever armour I had left. I sank into him, burying my face in the thin material of his shirt. He still smelt the same as he always did, and it comforted me.
“It’s always going to be you – and just you. There can be no one else. Not where it matters.”
“I love you – and I want to believe you, I really do. But – but I can’t. This is too hard for me – it’s just so messed up, and it’s making me see everything wrongly. This is wrong – but it feels right. And I don’t know who I am any more – and yet, when I’m with you, it’s like that doesn’t matter.” I cried pleadingly, begging for him to let me let him go, “You’ve turned my whole world upside down, and you’ve become exactly that – my world. You’re everything, whilst I am nothing.”
“Emmanuelle, you are not nothing!” He exclaimed, almost angrily, as he abruptly sat up. He squeezed my hand tightly in his, and affectionately, he brushed the tears from my cheeks with his thumb. He made me feel loved, yet he also made me feel insignificant and worst of all – he made me sick with envy. He made me wonder, cripplingly, if he behaved like his with her – with Dominique.
“You mean the world to me – you’re my everything, too.”
“No, I’m not... You’ve got her, and I imagine you’re her everything just as much as you are mine.” I unhappily murmured, “I just – I don’t know what to do with these feelings. I want to be with you, yet, I don’t. I can’t be with you without wondering... wondering whether you’re saying all this to her as well.”
“But I don’t love her like I love you...” He whispered softly in response, his cold lips pressing against the corner of mine gently. I could’ve turned my face a fraction to the left, and have been kissing him in a second yet I did not move, not one single inch.
“That’s not good enough.” I replied, drawing away from him until no part of him touched me at all. I merely stared into those grey eyes of his; silently begging that he wouldn’t let me go. “Don’t I deserve better? Don’t I get to be loved by someone whose heart I know is mine? Have I done something wrong – have I not earnt the right to be happy?”
“I won’t make you choose,” I whispered, “but unless you do, I’m not yours any more. I think I deserve better than this – and even if it’ll break my heart, I’ll make myself stop loving you to get that. I don’t care if it’s selfish and I think don’t care if hurts you – I just want to be happy, Scamander, can’t you understand that?”
Very slowly, and seemingly reluctantly, he nodded his head.
“I don’t want to lose you, Emmanuelle but... if it’s what you want, then I guess I have to let you go...” He said softly. His eyes wouldn’t look into mine, and his lips were turned down unhappily. I wanted to laugh and to say that I was only joking, but I knew that I couldn’t.
“But,” He suddenly added, his eyes rising to meet mine, “if I were to choose then it would always be you.”
Before I could respond, or even react, the nurse suddenly appeared at his bedside. She smiled at me, albeit rather bewilderedly, and handed him a tall potion in a black vial. I stared at it momentarily, confused, before my eyes flickered back to his. He downed it in one and handed it wordlessly back to the nurse. I muttered a quiet ‘thank you’ as she drew the curtains around his bed.
“Why are you in here? Are you sick?” I asked slowly, touching my hand to his forehead as Fleur always did with me when I was sick. I didn’t know what it meant, whether he should have been warm, and I found him cold. But he was always cold.
“Quidditch accident.” He replied nonchalantly. I frowned, and drew away from him.
“But you hate Quidditch.”
“I was helping my brother. He’s got it into his head that he’d make a good beater even though he’s been a keeper for the team since the very beginning.” He stated offhandedly, making it sound far simpler than it most likely was. A part of me told me not to believe him, to be suspicious.
“You should probably go.” He said, yawning loudly, “I don’t know what she just gave me but it’s making me feel awfully tired.”
“You want me to leave?” I murmured, hollowly echoing his words. “I thought – but you said –”
“And I stand by what I said. But you said you wouldn’t make me choose, and for now I won’t – I can’t.” His words, declared so simply, tore at the fragile pieces of my heart until I doubted that there would be anything left to break. “I’m sorry but – you need to go, Emmanuelle.”
Wincing noticeably, he sat back up and reached for me. His hand cupped the back of my neck and slowly, he drew me to him. His lips pressed against mine for the most fleeting of moment’s before his eyes closed off to me and his entire face grew cold and indifferent. I stared, in horror, as his eyes shifted to seemingly stare straight through me, as though I weren’t there.
“You need to go.” He said, his tone indifferent and his face composed.
“I’ll – I’ll see you tomorrow?” I whispered shakily, and my words, through my tears, sounded like a question. He curtly nodded his head, and I stood up. His eyes were closed, but I could see, beneath the mask of composure, tension in his frown and in the way his lips were set. I wiped my cheeks with my sleeve, murmuring a small goodbye, and left.
I heard someone speak, and I saw as I glanced over my shoulder that Dominique had hurried into the infirmary from the other doorway. She approached him without hesitation, wearing a brilliant smile that matched her warm, sunny face. She exclaimed his name and plunked herself down on the same place where I had sat only moments ago.
She giggled and kissed the tip of his nose. I watched him wince as he drew his arm around her and his eyes squeezed closed as her lips attacked his. As his arms encircled around her small waist, I turned away, unable to watch any longer.
My eyes stung and tears freely ran down my cheeks as I passed through the large wooden archway of the hospital wing and into the corridor. As I rounded the corner, someone big and running very fast slammed straight into me. I was half-knocked off of my feet, and would’ve fallen had I not stumbled back into the wall and grabbed the tapestry that hung on it with all my might.
“Bloody hell, mate. Mind where you’re going.” Another bellowed down the corridor, appearing at once. To my dismay, I saw that it was James Potter running to us and saw, with my heart sinking, that it was Albus Potter who lay with his head on my feet. “Oh, good morrow, m’lady.”
“I can see up your skirt, Delacour. It’s very nice indeed.” Albus Potter said, wearing an arrogant smirk as he looked up at me. I was wearing tights – thick tights, so I knew he was only jesting, but it irked me in a manner I did not expect. I hooked my foot under his shoulder and pushed him away, then kicked him in the stomach hard enough to surprise him. James Potter laughed, shouted something childish and hurried towards us wearing the infamous smirk both boys wore like a brand.
“Fuck off, perv!” I exclaimed crossly, hastily wiping away my tears before James Potter could get close enough to see. My attempt was in vain however.
“Aw, look what you did, mate. You made the poor little girl cry.” James chortled, leering at me arrogantly. My blood boiled and my eyes suddenly welled with tears of anger, rather than sadness. For a moment, I wasn’t sad. I was just angry. And it felt good.
“Shut it, Potter.” I snapped brusquely, ignoring the strange look of concern that Albus Potter shot at me. As though he actually thought he’d made me cry, and was regretting it.
“Why don’t you stop PMSing and come have a drink with me and my brother? How about that, eh? We’re just off to a little party in the Room of Requirement, you should come. Lighten up a bit.” James smirked, running his hands up and down my bare arms with a wink.
“Don’t touch me.” I hissed, pushing him away from me roughly. I hoped to send him to the fall like his brother, but I wasn’t so lucky. He looked surprised for only a beat, and then returned to smirking. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a cigarette, and popped it into his mouth. He winked once again, and then sauntered away from me.
“If you change your mind...” He called, over his shoulder. He strutted, childishly, like drunken Muggle fashion model away until he disappeared around the corner, laughing. With narrowed eyes, I snapped my head back around to glare at his brother.
“He is such a twat.” Albus Potter quietly remarked as he pushed himself onto his feet. He ran his fingers through his dark hair and grinned impishly at me.
“And you think you’re any better?” I snapped harshly, quickly turning away from him once more. My eyes had begun to sting once again and my anger was rapidly leaving me. I felt, like a sudden winter breeze, the crippling sorrow return to claim me as its own.
“Did I – uh, do something to offend you?” Albus Potter asked, appearing in front of me suddenly. He looked different when he wasn’t smirking – he didn’t look like his brother. It should have made me less sharp, less inclined to hate him – but it didn’t.
“Go away.” I whispered, feeling the onslaught of tears about to begin once more. Images of him lying there, looking through me as though I were wearing an Invisibility clock flooded my thoughts, alongside the feelings I had felt when I had awoken in his bed to find him gone and whenever I watched him kissing my cousin.
I lifted my hand to my face and failed to repress a sob. I told myself crying wasn’t necessary, that I would only embarrass myself and that Albus Potter would go and tell everyone that I was a stupid, silly girl who cried for no apparent reason. But it didn’t work – rather, it made it worse.
So I cried, pathetically, into my hand in front of a Gryffindor whose brother I despised and whose father had pretty much saved the entire world. For a moment, Albus Potter did nothing. Then, abruptly, he cleared his throat and put his hand on my shoulder.
The abruptness of it was enough to distract me. I lowered my hand and glanced at the spot where his lay. I frowned and then glanced up at him. I saw myself reflected in his green eyes and saw that I looked about as small and pathetic as I felt.
“Are you alright?” He asked, slowly and carefully.
I reached up, and very pointedly removed his hand from my shoulder. I shook my head firmly, in response to his question, before I straightened my skirt and turned to walk away from him – and from the hospital wing where I had left my heart lagging behind.
“Wait –” Albus Potter exclaimed as I walked away. I did not stop, however glanced fleetingly over my shoulder. I saw that he held in his hands the silver necklace I had been given on my birthday. Albus Potter frowned and stretched his hands out towards me.
“Keep it. Destroy it. I don’t care.”
As I left, I could have sworn I heard him shout out to me once more – but by then, I didn’t care. I wanted as much to do with Albus Potter as I did with that necklace.
The dining room of the Burrow had grown unusually quiet, with only the sound of someone’s rasping breath filling the once cheerful room. I continued to stare at Albus, my eyes taking in the man before me, rather than the boy of my memories.
Only one person spoke, and that was Lily Potter.
“Oh Em...” She whispered dejectedly, as she slowly rose to her feet. She ignored her mother’s whispered warning and drew her wand. Within seconds something landed in her hands: My necklace.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I hoped to end with a cliff-hanger on both parts (flashbacks/the present) but I don’t know how ‘cliff-hangery’ they are. I hope they weren’t disappointing – but I tried! I’ve been rejecting this, and for that I am so sorry. On top of still being a little sick, school and life is a nightmare. But I’m doing better – the next chapter is almost finished! It might be one of the last chapters, maybe - I don’t know yet.
LYRICS: I’m not yours – Angus & Julia Stone.
Anyway, thanks for much for reading!
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