Chapter 1 : When nothing goes right, what's left?
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I try not to be bitter. Try not to be jealous of Lysander. But it’s nearly impossible to look at him, in all his stupid perfect glory and handsomeness, and not feel the knots of anger coil in my stomach and my throat close with the growing inability to breathe.
Looking at him used to be like looking into a mirror. That’s how being an identical twin works, I suppose. But things happen and then things change; change until they’re unrecognizable. Like me. Unrecognizable.
“You’re looking better,” he says as he sits in the ugly armchair that has become a permanent fixture next to my bed.
I don’t respond. I don’t look at him. Nothing good could possibly come out of either of those things. I’m staring straight ahead at the wall. There used to be a picture of Lysander and me hanging on that wall. Smiling, laughing, goofing off like we used to do. I took that picture down weeks ago; when everything went wrong. That’s when the mirror broke, too. A million scattered slivers of glass on the floor that could no longer show me all the things I didn’t want to see. Now the wall is simply blank; something I can stare at without having to feel anything.
There’s a knock on the door and I’m not surprised to see Lucy enter with a tray. She’s a nurse and usually works at St. Mungo’s but they thought familiarity might be nice for me and so they roped her into taking care of me at my home. We don’t actually know each other that well. Our families are sometimes at the same parties; usually Weasley parties. But we don’t talk much. She is familiar, but not a friend.
“I guess that’s my cue,” Lysander says and laughs nervously, a noise I had never heard from him before. Nervous was never an emotion Lysander bothered with. He tends more toward ridiculously happy and annoyingly carefree. He gets up from the chair and leaves the room, smiling briefly at Lucy as he does.
“I have your medicine,” Lucy tells me as she places her tray down on my nightstand.
She picks up a vial of green potion and hands it to me. The green potion has become a routine part of my life and I obediently swallow it down. There’s no point in trying to refuse or argue. I’ve tried. But Lucy doesn’t take no for an answer when it comes to this sort of thing. I hand her back the vial, which she places neatly on the tray again before grabbing another one – a white salve that she rubs into the burns on my face. I don’t mind this part at all – besides its general awkwardness – because the salve is cool on my face and makes my skin tingle pleasantly.
“You didn’t eat your lunch,” she comments after she’s washed the salve off of her hands in the loo. She’s looking at the sandwich and crisps lying next to her medicine tray. Lysander brought them in earlier. I ignored their presence almost as much as I ignored Lysander.
I shrug noncommittally to Lucy, who sighs. “Well, if you aren’t going to eat them, I will,” she states simply and snatches the bag of crisps from the table before plopping down into the armchair and settling her feet on the nightstand. The bag opens with a pop and I can hear them crunching as she chews, but I’m staring at the wall again.
She does this sometimes; this thing where she just sits in my room. She doesn’t say much and I rarely say anything. She just sits. Sometimes I feel her staring at me, sometimes she brings in a book and she reads. I don’t mind her company too much. It’s better than my mother, who pretends nothing is wrong at all. Better than my father, who looks at me as if I’m going to die. Certainly better than Lysander.
My stomach gives an embarrassing rumble and I suddenly wish I had eaten my lunch. Lucy giggles. “Do you regret not eating your lunch now?” she asks. I fleetingly think of how strange it is that she seems to have read my mind.
“Too late now,” I say. “You’re already eating it.”
“Eat the sandwich,” she instructs. “I’ll get you another bag of crisps if you do.”
I scowl at her bribery but grab the sandwich anyway. She holds true to her promise and soon my stomach is full and Lucy is trying to hide a small, triumphant smirk.
No one has visited me today, besides Lucy and her potions. It seems that my resistance toward all things social has finally paid off, and everyone has decided to leave me alone. Funny how that’s all I’ve wanted for weeks and now that I have it, I don’t feel happy or relieved at all. I just feel alone.
“Are you comfortable?” Lucy asks, breaking the silence that’s been engulfing us for an hour. There’s a book resting in her hands, her thumb bookmarking the page she’s on. I can’t see the title, but it looks old.
She asks things like this occasionally. Am I comfortable, am I hungry, do I need anything. I usually just shrug and shake my head, which is what I do now. She opens her book back up and resumes reading. There’s a crease between her eyebrows and a few strands of messy red hair have escaped her ponytail and are falling in her face. Her clear blue eyes are focused on the page before her; she doesn’t notice me looking at her.
My mum left a copy of The Quibbler on my nightstand this morning, and out of boredom, I am flipping through it. I’m not really reading it; just glancing through and taking in the headlines and pictures. The strange creatures and plants that The Quibbler writes of never held much interest for me.
Lucy comes into my room and we go through the motions we go through twice every day. She sits down afterwards. There’s no book to entertain her today and she seems a bit antsy.
“I’m bored,” she says.
I raise my eyebrow at her, trying to indicate that this tidbit of information doesn’t mean a thing to me.
“Let’s go for a walk,” she suggests. “Honestly, you rarely leave that bed. Have you even seen the sun since you came home? You need to get some fresh air. This is a horribly unhealthy way to live and frankly it is making me sick to watch someone live like this.”
I think of a million things to spit back at her. I could yell about how I’m the one who’s been injured, I’m the one with the scarring burns on their face and body, I’m the one who lost everything. But I keep my mouth shut.
“Please?” she asks. “It will be fun.”
Fun is the last thing it will be, I think. But instead I just mutter a reluctant, “Fine.”
She grins and tugs gently on my arm, trying to get me to stand up. I do, and I notice for the first time how much taller I am than her. She goes about making all the necessary preparations for the walk. She rubs something called sunscreen into my skin while explaining that my skin is still too sensitive to put spells on, which is why she can’t just make me immune to sun. She pays extra attention to my face, where the worst burns are. They’re all in various stages of healing, but the ones on my face are still very painful.
I wince a little when she accidentally scrapes a finger across my cheek. “Sorry,” she whispers quietly and takes extra care to be gentle.
When she’s satisfied that I have enough of the lotion on, she pulls a cap from her bag and fits it onto my head. She obviously came prepared for this excursion today. She steps back and smiles a little bit at her handiwork. I think I must look very stupid and feel a bit embarrassed but Lucy motions for me to follow her out of the room and I do.
I have my own flat in London but I’ve been staying at my parents’ cottage since the accident. I had forgotten how pretty the land was out here. A rolling expanse of green with various flowers and plants; most put there by my parents.
Lucy leads me on a seemingly pathless walk. We walk in silence, which is fine. I don’t want to have to admit that it’s nice to be outside; the place where I used to spend almost all of my time. I used to run around out here for hours and hours, but now I notice that I’m tired after maybe twenty minutes of walking. My pace slows and when Lucy notices, she sits down and so do I.
“That’s what you get when you spend a month in bed, you know,” she comments, a light and teasing lilt in her voice.
“It hasn’t been a month yet,” I counter. This isn’t really an important detail, but it’s the only one I can dispute.
Lucy insists on walks every day now. She says they’ve done more to lighten my mood and heal me than any medicinal remedy. But of course, the potions are still a prevalent part of my life. According to her, I look nearly healed. I’m still avoiding mirrors, though.
“Did you and Lucy go for a walk today?” my mum asks in the evening.
I shake my head. “It was raining while she was here.”
“She told me you’re just about all better. Do you feel better?” she asks. We haven’t talked much about my injury, my mum and me. At first it bothered me that it seemed like she didn’t care at all, but I’ve begun to realize that maybe she just knew I didn’t want to talk about it then.
“I do,” I tell her. “Not like before. But a lot better.”
I don’t think I’ll ever be quite the same as I was before. My burnt hair has grown back a little and isn’t so rough to the touch and my skin is healing but there’ll always be scars, outside and inside.
“Has…” I begin, but hesitate. “Have you heard from Lysander lately?”
I haven’t seen him for almost a week. He used to visit almost every day. I’m healed enough that I could probably seek him out myself if I really wanted to see him, but I’m not sure my pride can handle it. I’m ashamed of having pushed away the person I’m closest to in the world and ashamed of the things I feel when I see him but I think maybe he’s the only person who can really remind me of who I used to be. Because I used to be him.
“I’ll let him know you asked.”
“Thanks,” I mumble in reply.
She sighs and fidgets with her hands. There’s something she wants to say. “Lorcan, I…” she trails off. Mum usually never has trouble finding her words, but I’ve seen her stumble once or twice. “I wish you’d be more careful. This accident… you know I support the experiments you do. You’re doing a good thing, trying to find cures. But if things like this are happening, I just wish you’d be more careful.”
I reach over and hold one of her hands in mine. She smiles weakly and squeezes back.
I’ve made an important discovery about Lucy. She blushes furiously anytime she’s paid a compliment or teased. It’s an entertaining characteristic and I’ve made a vow to myself to make the most of it. There’s only so much in my life that’s entertaining these days, I have to take advantage of the things I can.
“Your eyes are very bright and sparkly,” I say to her. My adjectives are getting more ridiculous as the day wears on. I’ve already abused words like cute, pretty, and attractive and have been forced to get more and more foolish sounding with my proclamations.
“Your brain isn’t,” she retaliates unconvincingly. She’s got her eyes focused intently on the blade of grass between her fingers and her cheeks are a very dark shade of pink.
“You’re quite beautiful, you know.”
She sighs. “Haven’t you paid me enough fake compliments for one day?”
“They’re not fake,” I argue. “Perhaps said with the intent of making you blush, but not fake.”
She’s silent for a minute. “It’s getting colder out. We should get inside.”
There’s two quick raps on the door and then Lysander is walking in, a hesitant smile on his face as he takes a seat in the ever hideous armchair. I smile back and he seems to relax a bit.
“Hi,” he says.
I clear my throat. “Hey.”
“You look good,” he tells me.
“Thanks,” I reply. “I feel great, really. I’ll be back to all the normal routines and such in the next few days, I expect.”
“Coming back to London, then?” he queries. We don’t live together, but we live close to each other in the city. His question isn’t just asking me if I’m coming back to London, it’s asking me if I’m coming back to my brother.
I nod. “As soon as Lucy tells me I’m all better.”
“Let me know when you’re moving back, I’ll help you out.”
He’s grinning widely now and I can’t help but reciprocate. Maybe I haven’t changed completely after all, I think. Our smiles are still the same. Our hair is still the same color, even if mine is still short from being singed. And our eyes are still the same green, despite the scar I have under my left eyebrow. We’re still brothers.
I didn’t have much to move back. Just some clothes and some other random things that found their way to my parents’ house with me. I didn’t even really need Lysander’s help, but he came by anyway and helped me rearrange some things before having to go to work. Lucy is still here. She insisted on coming; she said she had to see her work through. Make sure she did her job right.
“This is a nice flat,” she says after everything has been put in its place.
I shrug. “It’s alright.” It’s nothing too special. A small kitchen, a living room, a bathroom, and a bedroom. Some random pictures hanging from the walls. A splash of blue paint on the tan walls from one of Lysander’s mishaps.
In the kitchen, I motion for her to sit down at one of the barstools and I fix up a pot of tea. I figure it’s time I did something for her instead of the other way around.
After I hand her the mug of tea and sit down next to her, I speak up, “Thank you. For everything, I mean. You helped a lot, and I know I was kind of an ass about it for a while.”
She giggles. “I had fun. Even if you were an ass.” She knocks her elbow against my arm playfully.
“Are you free Friday night?” I ask after a pause.
She stares down at her mug of tea and I see her cheeks redden before she nods. “Yes,” she replies nervously.
“How about we go to dinner? My treat. I owe you.” It’s a sad excuse for asking her out and we both know it but she smiles and nods anyway.
“I’d like that,” she says and I smile back, thinking that maybe everything turned out all right after all.
A/N: First thing I've posted since the end of July. What do you think? I have lots of people to thank for this. Firstly, my dear Jane(TenthWeasley, that fab girl) who I forced to give me a random next gen character and then who listened to my plotting and writing woes forever. Speaking of listening to my plotting and writing woes (and for helping me with them) big thanks to Mel, Annie, Gina, Gubby, Sarah, Ash, Julia, Mary, and all the puffins because I am in a hurry and must wrap this up! Anyway, I love all my little lovely helpers and all of you reading. Gracias!