Chapter 7 : Albus
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Edited 5th January 2011. Chapter image by socal @ TDA
No I can’t take one more step towards you
All that’s waiting is regret
And don’t you know I’m not your ghost anymore
Albus froze, unable to move his glance from the page of his book.
“Al,” Scor repeated more urgently. “Eva. She’s here, at the door. You have to come out.”
The words on the page seemed to be moving around of their own accord. That made sense, he rationalised, through the numbness that was encasing his body. You couldn’t read when you dreamt, everyone knew that. This was a dream, just like it had been a dream every day for the past two years.
Scorpius strode over to him and smacked him across the head. Al winced. This wasn’t a dream then, it was happening.
“Come on Al, just get up and talk to her.”
Albus looked at his friend. Misery loved company, and both miserable friends had found company in the other. It wasn’t long after Eva left as Al was barely holding it together, when Scorpius Malfoy arrived on his doorstep, wanting to get his own act together. He had severed ties with everyone after school, with the world really, when he and Rose split. He turned to Al for help when he wanted to get better. Gradually, both men had gotten back to something resembling normal.
“What do I do?” he said hollowly, hardly looking at his flatmate.
The grey eyes widened dramatically. “This is your shot, mate. Whatever you want to do, do it. Just do something.”
Al nodded slowly. Gryffindor bravery was needed. Gryffindor bravery, however, was a lot easier to muster when you had a Quidditch team behind you or an invisibility cloak in hand.
Scorpius left, all but shutting the door behind them. He heard the deep voice from the kitchen.
“He’ll just be a minute, he was sleeping.”
Al rose, eyes closed. He took one step, and could go no further. His inner eye was assaulted by the memory of the fight.
“It could be a year or two. Since I’ll be travelling so much, it’s hard to say whether you could get another job or not. I think… I think maybe long distance could be the way to go.”
Albus didn’t know what he was hearing.
“You’re taking the foreign affairs job?”
Eva nodded; her big, expressive eyes watchful. “I can’t pass it up, Al. It’s an amazing opportunity, when I come back I’ll be in demand in the department.”
Al’s jaw dropped. “You’re Eva Florick! You already are!” They both were. “Why do you have to leave? Can’t you just keep moving steadily here?”
Eva frowned. “I know the idea is horrible Al, but I could be here most weekends. I know I can’t ask you to drop everything and come with me. I wish I could, but I can’t.”
Al shook his head. “No,” he said firmly, the anger in his voice surprising him. “Everything is perfect here, we have the apartment, our jobs…” he trailed off, fingering the jewellery box in his pocket. Tonight was supposed to have been the night he would ask her.
“You know you won’t be back on weekends.”
He had her there, he thought grimly, as she hung her head. She knew well what the job would entail. The timing was perfect, she was young and unmarried. It appealed to the ambitious streak inside her, and the curiosity and thirst for knowledge that pervaded her conscience. They had discussed this, but he had opposed it. He thought she wanted to stay with him, to settle down with him.
“Albus, love,” she took his hands in hers, her eyes searching his. “This isn’t the end. Just a year or at the most two. We can visit each other all the time. I’ll come back and everything will be as it was”.
When she spoke like that, there was nothing he wouldn’t do. At that moment, he was almost ready to leave his own career, leave his life and family and follow her. He didn’t care if he didn’t have a job, he’d pick up jobs along the way. They would be together, that’s all that mattered. He smiled at her, and watched her face light up. Here was the young girl he’d fallen in love with.
“I knew you’d understand. Oh Albus, it doesn’t even start until next week, so – “
He interrupted her. “Next week? Why not leave tomorrow? Make a clean break?” He said bitterly, the resentment coming on him quickly with his alarm.
She raised her eyebrows. “I told you, I’m taking over from someone else. I had to be available next week. I told you this when I mentioned it first.”
He couldn’t stop the words coming next. “Sorry, I didn’t take that in, I thought you’d love me and wouldn’t consider leaving me.”
She jumped up from her chai suddenly, shrieking with a fury that was unusual for her.
“God Albus, I’ve explained this to you a hundred times, why are you being so childish about it?”
“Because I love you,” he said, trying to shout, though his voice cracked. “I didn’t think you’d be so cold.”
“It’s my life”, she countered, her teeth gritted. “And I’m taking this amazing job. We can visit, or you can come with me.”
Al shook his head, all idyllic images of following her around the world disappearing with reality.
“I have ambitions too. If I give this up, they might not let me back.”
“So we try long distance,” she pleaded. “Your parents did it while your Mum was in seventh year; Teddy and Victoire did the same. And they had just gotten together, we’re stronger than that.”
She was still standing, he could see her shaking. They had fought before, but this felt different. He half whispered his next words.
“I was going to ask you to marry me.”
He couldn’t bear to look at her as her face crumpled.
“Al,” she said, her voice taking on a different tone. “No. I want to, but not now. We’re twenty five, and we’re really just moving up in the Ministry.”
Al couldn’t believe this. “Dad was twenty five when he got married.” He knew this was a childish answer, but his heart was breaking with her rejection, albeit a temporary one.
“Our parents’ generation aren’t us, Al. They were probably so happy to be alive they saw no point in wasting time. We have that time.”
“I don’t want to waste time,” he said. “I want us to be married, and settle down.”
“No, Al”, she whispered, closing her eyes. “Not now.”
He didn’t even know now how it happened. Things went from bad to worse as they fought for the whole evening. He thought now, if they had gotten formally engaged perhaps things would have been better. They didn’t part on good terms when two days later she left for Bulgaria, her first stop. The idea was that they were still together, though they wouldn’t contact each other until they had calmed down.
Two years later, they still hadn’t met and letters had trickled to almost none. He hadn’t heard from her in months. He cursed his childish actions, for making everything worse in his moment of terror. He dreamt she would come back almost every day and night. Sometimes he would scream at her, saying he didn’t want to see each other again. More often they fell into each other’s arms. Sometimes, the worst one, he dreamt that she had found someone else, though he knew this was not the case. On two occasions, almost going mad with despair he had sought out women, and used them once as a source of comfort. He confessed this, and she said the same, though he got the feeling her second was out of spite, a way of settling the score.
He hadn’t gone off the deep end like Scorpius had, for almost seven years before asking for help. Scorpius’ breakdown had been over more than the break-up, too, the family were more than cause enough for anyone.
The difference between the two was that Al had his family behind them in a way Scorpius didn’t have the Malfoy’s. The only thing that saved him was his family, something he had always had but hadn’t realised he needed. Al’s trouble was limited to Eva leaving him. Rose, his best friend, was wonderful, though her own almost-hidden sadness depressed Albus further. James was excellent, Al remembered fondly, in the time before Scorpius came and a little after. Despite their differences as teenagers, his brother was always there for him for him. His parents, Teddy, and all the other relations had been incredible; the only people Al couldn’t bear to see were Teddy and Victoire’s young children, reminding him of what he could have had with Eva. He hadn’t even realised he’d have liked children further down the line until she was gone.
It was Lily who snapped him out of it. The neighbours, who knew her boyfriend, Daniel Wood, had called. They reckoned the place was being burgled, hearing smashes of glass above. Lily, knowing better, Apparated straight over. She had left Hogwarts in a flash, where she and Daniel taught. She found him there, seeking out every piece of glass in the flat so that he could break it. He was going through all the plates, smashing them against the counter. She took his hand and stopped him. It had been three weeks at that stage, and he had broken down in her arms.
It was back again. The crippling sickness that had taken hold of his heart as a teenager, a result of being Harry Potter’s son. It was like being back at Hogwarts, back when he didn’t know who he was, when he felt he was alone in the world. Before Eva, before he had asked for help. Before he had been persuaded that he’d be ok, once he had people who loved him. Lily always said that, but it was hard to remember her “All You Need is Love” mantra now.
But he had gotten better again, as had Scorpius. He threw himself into his work, and an amateur Quidditch team in the ministry. He had risen steadily through the Department of Law Enforcement, just as Eva was doing from afar. For a long time, he lived half a life.
And here he was, staring at the door that separated them. This was it; his moment. He would go out, and be polite, nothing else. She deserved no better. With all the strength he could muster, he moved to the door. A brief glance in the mirror told him he looked pale, which was to be expected, and his hair was a mess, which was unavoidable with his father’s genes. There would be no time to shave the shadow on his jaw.
Scorpius was leaning against a counter, his eyes silently on the woman near the door. He saw Albus, and stalked to his bedroom hastily. He obviously knew this was not the place for him. And so it was just Al at his bedroom door, and Eva across the room at the other door, obviously too afraid to invite herself in to the apartment that was still partially hers.
Al did a double take when he came out of the room, though was careful to keep his face neutral. He expected to see a huge change in her, but did not. His mind had convinced him that she was some kind of cold-blooded heart-breaker, and he had forgotten how she really looked. Her hair was long again, the way it had been when they were at school, incredibly thick chocolate waves that Al had loved so much.
Eva too was incredibly pale and had been obviously drenched when outside. Al hadn’t even noticed it was raining. At that moment, vulnerable, she looked exactly like she had at fifteen. He had helped bring her back to life after a horrible Quidditch accident, the accident that had brought them together.
He was completely powerless. He wasn’t looking at the woman he lived with and worked alongside as an adult, or the woman dressed in her nicest clothes, she who had spent the past two years getting over him. She was the teenage Eva who blushed when she talked to him, the Eva who he first kissed in the hospital wing, the Eva who couldn’t speak the first time he introduced her to his parents. Nothing could have prepared him for the memories that rushed back, crushing his will as thunder crashed overhead.
He realised neither had spoken and stepped forward. “Come in, sit down.”
She did so mutely, taking a seat at the table. Not knowing what else to say, he flicked his wand in the general direction of the kitchen counter, and water began to boil for tea. He sat down across from her, maintaining some distance. She was still wet. He asked her if she wanted a towel. She shook her head, and dried herself off with her wand, as if it had only occurred to her to do so then.
Eva cleared her throat. “I hadn’t realised Scorpius was back.”
Al nodded numbly. He had forgotten she and Scorpius used to be friends. “He showed up a month or so after you-“ He trailed off. She got the picture.
“She’s fine. I visit her now though, she doesn’t come here. Obviously.”
Eva frowned. “Still? Nine years later?”
Al nodded. So far so good. Scorpius and Rose were a safe topic, Eva was the first to find out about them in Hogwarts after him. Out of sheer confusion over it he used to talk to her about it. Still, eventually someone was going to have to say something.
“How long are you back for?”
She cleared her throat again, and pushed her hair back. She was wearing new earrings, Albus noticed, little hanging discs that looked like they came from Africa somewhere.
“The job’s actually finished. The Law Enforcement Department are bringing me back, on a higher level as an international correspondent. It’s still basically a desk job.” She paused, before awkwardly adding. “On your level, apparently.”
This last part gave Al grim pleasure. Work hasn’t just been a distraction. A part of him sought out these promotions so that he would be even with her when she returned, so Eva would see what she would have gotten if she’d just stayed and put in more hours. He was happy for a moment, before realising they’d be working side by side again, even if not as closely. She had obviously thought of this.
“I’m actually just back, I left my stuff at Mum and Dad’s earlier and went for dinner with them. I thought it’d be better to come here straight away, instead of just showing up in work on Monday.”
The water was boiled. Al busied himself making the tea. He silently gave out to himself for remembering how Eva liked it; lots of milk, no sugar. But then, how could he forget? How could he forget anything about the woman he had been madly in love with for twelve years?
He turned back and set the mugs down on the table, before resuming his seat without a word. He glanced at Eva, who seemed to be undergoing an internal battle. He was thankful then, as he had been before, that Eva had never been much of a crier.
“Ok,” she said firmly, I’m just going to say this. Please do not interrupt me until I’m finished. Then you can ask me to leave.”
Albus held his breath.
“I’ve always been ambitious, you’ve always known that. The Sorting Hat considered Slytherin for me, but said I had too much Ravenclaw in me. I knew in school what I wanted, and worked hard for it. I always swore I’d never let personal stuff stop me from getting ahead. Mum left the Wizarding World with Dad during the war, and gave up all her dreams. I couldn’t do the same.
So when the job came along, I made myself take it. I know now I was too forceful and didn’t consult you properly, but I was afraid you’d make me stay and I’d always regret it. I know you wouldn’t have reacted so badly if I’d done that. I was so angry with the way you acted I couldn’t even make up with you before I left. I’m so sorry I didn’t try harder.”
Al watched her carefully. She was right; he had been in the wrong. However, he was more interested in what happened next. This speech was classic Eva, completely rehearsed, no emotion getting in the way. For once he wished she wouldn’t be her. As soon as he thought this she looked down and finally saw the mug. It was the blue one with the big white spots. Al hadn’t given it a thought, but he remembered now that was the one she favoured.
As if the sight of the cup was too much, her eyes welled up with tears, and a little sob escaped from her lips. Al’s eyes widened in panic, and half got up to go over to comfort her before realising that could be now inappropriate. She waved at him to sit down before speaking weakly, at last veering away from her script.
“I’ve missed you so much Albus,” she said miserably, wiping away the tears that were rolling down her full rosy cheeks. “It’s been so horrible not seeing you every day, and being afraid to write what I really feel. Not knowing whether we were broken up, if I could visit you… I’ve never felt so alone. I thought I could go away and be strong but I can’t do it anymore Al. I’m not strong and I love you so much.”
He had absolutely no idea what to say. She was wiping her tears again, looking mortified at her outburst. He was just as helpless as she was.
“What do you want from me Eva?”
She laughed bitterly. “Your forgiveness maybe? Or at least for you not to hate me, I can work for your forgiveness if you let me.”
He closed his eyes, and stood up; he heard her doing the same. He took a moment before he looked at her again. She was so beautiful, even when she cried. Her face was quite pretty, but something inside her made her exquisite.
“I think you should go. We both have a lot to think about.”
She bit her lip, her eyes watery, and nodded.
“It took me a while to be ok again, Eva, there was a time when I’d have thrown myself at your feet. But… I’m not your ghost anymore . I’m not anyone’s.”
She gathered her things and left in a hurry, mumbling that she’d see him in work as she passed through the door.
At the sound of the door slamming, Scorpius burst out of his room. Al didn’t even have the energy to reprimand him for obviously listening at the door.
“Don’t start,” he said tiredly, rubbing his eyes. “You won’t even talk to Rose.”
“I’m not saying anything,” Scorpius said, holding up his hands as if to show his innocence. “But Al, she put it all on the table, and didn’t even expect you take her back.”
Al shook his head, trying to clear the temptation to run after her. She had probably Disapparated by now, anyway.
“It’s too late.”
“No!” Scorpius roared, uncharacteristically loud. “It’s been about three minutes, not nine years. Nine years, Albus, is too late and even still if I thought I even had a chance with Rose, even to be friends with her, I’d do everything I could.”
Albus tried answering back but was cut off.
“Do you love her?”
“Obviously, don’t be thick.”
“Do you understand why she had to go, and that she’s sorry she did it like that?”
“Yeah but – “
“Do you understand you were an idiot not to make things up before she left?”
“Yeah – “
“Do you regret not making it up in the mean time?”
Albus was getting just as annoyed now. “Of course I do, but I didn’t know what to do, did I?”
Scorpius looked like he was going to pull out all of the blonde hair on his head. “Ok, is there any chance you would ever want to get back with her, even if you were friends first? ’Cos she came by muggle transport from her parent’s place, and you could get her if you really wanted. If you do I suggest you start running, mate.”
Suddenly, the image of a little girl who looked exactly like Eva came to mind, except she had Albus’ eyes. Harry’s eyes. Lily Evans’ eyes. They could have that; her.
That was all he needed. He turned and ran with all the speed of a seeker on a Firebolt, ignoring Scorpius’ jubilant shout.
He got outside before realising three things. He had no idea how to get to the nearest muggle bus, it was pouring rain, and he’d forgotten his wand; which meant he couldn’t fix either of the first two things. He needed to reach her before she got home, before she put up her walls again. He threw his head back, letting the water wash over him. His mind cruelly replayed their first tender kiss, both of them terrified and trembling with excitement. Both so filled with first love.
He spun around, seeing Eva half slumped against the wall. Like him, she seemed to have given up moving despite the near-torrential rain. He wasted no more time before crossing over to her and embracing her.
She collapsed into him, burying her face into his chest and hugging him back fiercely. He didn’t know, and would never really know how long they stayed like that. It seemed he had he had built himself to be strong enough not to fall back into her arms, only to be strong enough to choose to do so.
They didn’t have to get back together straight away, Eva could stay at her parent’s house until they had gotten back on track, but it didn’t matter. They were together again.
He was not the young boy who wouldn’t ask for help while he struggled with his name, or identity. He was not the young man who had reverted back to his introverted, angry ways. He was Al, and he had Eva, and that was what mattered.
Love is all you need.
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