Chapter 9 : Identity
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"She said, 'If you were ugly, I would only love you more.'"
- Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Act 4
Roxanne was back to work on Monday, so Perry went to visit his best friend. Hilarion hadn't contacted him since Roxanne had chucked him, and though Roxanne had assured him that Hilarion was aware of the developments between them, Perry wasn't going to let it go at that. He needed to talk to his friend.
Hilarion answered the door after a few minutes' wait, looking dishevelled and in need of a shave. Perry frowned as he came inside.
“You look like hell, mate.”
“Thanks for that,” Hilarion said, heading into the kitchen.
Perry followed him, surveying the scene. The place had obviously not been cleaned in a few days: dishes were piled up in the sink unwashed, and empty butterbeer bottles crowded the kitchen counters. This evidence of heavy drinking – for Hilarion – made Perry feel guilty about leaving this conversation so long.
“You might want to get the cleaning service over early,” Perry said, poking at one of the bottles as they passed through the kitchen. “They're going to charge you extra for this mess.”
Hilarion ignored him. “Haven't seen you in a while. What have you been up to, Perry?” He collapsed on the couch, and Perry sat down beside him, tossing aside a dirty sock.
“You know Roxanne and I...” He wasn't sure how to put it.
“I figured,” Hilarion said, taking a long pull of his butterbeer.
Perry wasn't sure how to bring up Hilarion's apparent depression, or his uncharacteristic behavior. He'd never seen his friend sit around drinking this way, even if it was only butterbeers. At best, Hilarion probably only had a light buzz, but he'd never been a drinker.
Roxanne had said Hilarion had seemed relieved at being chucked. That didn't jibe with what was in front of him, going on a butterbeer bender and apparently not showering, so something else must have happened between Roxanne chucking Hilarion and Hilarion butterbeering himself into an unwashed stupor.
“So... Anything new going on?” Perry asked, trying to lead his oldest friend gently to a confession.
Hilarion shrugged and slumped down into the couch cushions. “Not really.”
An image of Lucy Weasley stopping by Roxanne's, looking distraught and asking about Hilarion, popped into Perry's head. We talked for hours, she'd said. That wasn't the Hilarion he knew, at least not around women.
Lucy had clearly liked Hilarion quite a lot. She wasn't as pretty as Roxanne, but she was certainly pretty enough. He wondered if Hilarion had noticed that as well. He decided to prod at this particular wound and see what happened.
“Talked to Lucy lately?”
Hilarion stopped drinking and set the bottle down on the floor beside the couch. “No.”
His suspicions aroused, Perry leaned back with studied nonchalance. “Why not? I thought you were friends.”
“We had a fight,” Hilarion admitted. “She... she shouted at me when I told her about, well, everything. What about Roxanne? Is she mad at me too?”
“No. She thinks you're kind of pathetic for doing it, but she's not angry.”
He groaned. “I am pathetic, I know. It was a stupid idea.”
“I don't want to say I told you so, but in fairness I should point out that I did tell you so.” Perry grinned at him. “It's over with now, mate. You can't change the past.”
Hilarion thought of lying by the lakeside holding Lucy's hand, laughing with her at the Leaky Cauldron, picnics in the park, tea at her flat, and wished he'd never seen Roxanne Weasley. “Wish I could.”
He wasn't ready to tell Perry about Lucy, though. Somehow it didn't seem right to talk about her yet. If he had to say out loud that he loved her and she wouldn't speak to him, it would make everything too real. And he didn't want to see the pity on Perry's face.
His life was a mess, Hilarion thought resentfully. Considering how famous he was for his looks, one wouldn't think he'd have such trouble with women. He had the sudden urge to kick something hard.
“So you and Roxanne, eh.” Hilarion shook his head at his friend, trying to joke around to get Perry off the subject of Lucy. “You stole my girl, you git.”
Perry was completely unconcerned by this accusation. “Not on purpose. I think she stole me, actually. You're not bothered by it, are you?”
“No. Knock yourself out. I'm glad you're happy,” Hilarion admitted gruffly, and Perry grinned hugely.
“You're well-suited for each other, now I've been thinking about it,” Hilarion said. “Better than she and I were. Obviously, since she only ever liked the things about me that were really you.”
“Just your looks,” Perry added teasingly.
Hilarion made a face. “Thanks for that. Anyway, I'm glad you're happy, and I'm glad she's happy. I never should've asked her out. Shouldn't have let Bergie talk me into that book signing in the first place.”
Perry's expression changed, grew sharper, and he said in a suspiciously mild voice, “Maybe not, but then you never would have met Lucy either, would you?”
Hilarion froze, his eyes sliding away immediately to stare at the floor. “What do you mean?”
“I knew it,” Perry crowed triumphantly. “You're not sitting on the couch moping because Roxanne chucked you. You're moping because Lucy is mad at you.”
“I'm not moping,” Hilarion muttered.
“When was the last time you left your flat?”
Hilarion frowned at him. “There hasn't been any training for the Arrows. I didn't need to go anywhere.”
“Have you left since you fought with Lucy?”
Hilarion's silence was answer enough, and Perry shook his head. He didn't remember ever seeing Hilarion behave this way before, and Hilarion had dated quite a lot of women – most of them only for one or two dates. Apparently with Lucy, things were different.
Even with Roxanne, he hadn't been bothered. The fight with Lucy was bothering Hilarion more than Perry had ever realized was possible in his mild-mannered friend.
“Have you even tried to talk to her?”
“She slammed the door in my face. She doesn't want to talk to me.” Hilarion picked up a cushion from the couch and tossed it across the room, almost absently, as if he were skipping stones. “I don't think she's ever going to talk to me again.”
“Laying around drinking butterbeer all day isn't going to change that,” Perry pointed out.
“I know. I do have to leave today though,” Hilarion admitted. “I'm supposed to be at the pitch this afternoon for a team meeting. I was kind of hoping to get out of it.”
“You should go. You should shower, too.” Perry picked up a cushion and tossed it at him. “It'll do you good to get out of the house.”
“I suppose.” Hilarion, having caught the cushion easily, sent it flying across the room after the first cushion.
“I'll leave you to it, then. I need to get some work done today, even if you don't.” Perry got to his feet, and Hilarion didn't move, still slumped into the couch. “You sure you're okay?”
“I'm fine. See you later, Perry.”
Perry left, though he was starting to think it was against his better judgement.
“Hi Lucy,” said Teddy Lupin, stepping aside to wave her into his house. He sounded as if he had a head cold. “Welcome to the insanity.”
“Hi Teddy.” Lucy smiled at him as she came inside. The hallway just inside the door was littered with toys, and she could see small muddy footprints tracking through the hall and up the stairs. Teddy Lupin was married to her cousin Victoire, and the pair of them had three small children.
Teddy sneezed into the crook of his arm, then said to Lucy, “Go on in. They're both in the living room.”
Lucy picked her way through the toys and went in to find Victoire sitting on the couch, supervising a pile of laundry that was folding itself with her sister beside her. Dominique had a mug in her hand, and for the first time Lucy could remember since Hogwarts, absolutely no makeup on and hair in a sloppy ponytail. Although she looked like hell compared to her normal appearance, Dominique was still pretty. Damn her for inheriting better genes than Lucy had gotten.
“Hi Lucy,” Victoire said cheerfully as Lucy came in to sit down. “How are you, dear? Want a cup of tea?”
“What kind are you drinking?” Lucy asked, peering at Dominique's mug.
“Pinot noir,” Dominique said.
Victoire rolled her eyes. “I'd be happy to make you actual tea, but if you want wine with Dommie, feel free.”
“No, I'm good.” Lucy wasn't much of a drinker. From the slightly bleary-eyed look on Dominique's face, she'd been having a go at being a big drinker since her divorce.
Not that Lucy could blame her.
“Who's here?” a small voice demanded behind her, and Lucy turned in her seat. Victoire's younger son stood in the entrance to the living room, dressed in a yellow t-shirt and shorts and a red cape, all of which set off his flaming red hair.
“Hi Johnny,” Lucy said gamely.
“Auntie Lucy! Did you bring me anything?”
Lucy had to fight the urge to flinch as Johnny ran up to her. He was well-known for headbutting for no reason. The boy was a menace. Victoire's oldest son wasn't like that, so Lucy had no idea where Johnny had come from. Probably whatever genes had produced Rose Weasley, and their uncle George, had managed Johnny Lupin as well. And Rose was, after all, Johnny's godmother. It wasn't at all surprising that a child with Rose Weasley for a godmother should turn out like Johnny Lupin. It was almost fate. Thank goodness Rose hadn't yet had any children of her own.
“It's not polite to ask for presents, Johnny,” Victoire told him calmly.
Johnny ignored this, and climbed onto the arm of Lucy's chair. “I have on my cape. I'm a flying manticore, see? Watch this.” And he stood on the arm of the chair and leapt off. Lucy's heart leapt with him, but he landed safely.
Victoire hadn't even blinked. Dominique eyed her nephew warily and drank her wine.
“Very nice, now go play in your room,” Victoire said, still folding laundry.
“No!” Johnny shouted, and Lucy leaned away from him. Among the many notorious things about Johnny Lupin was the sheer volume he was capable of, considering he was only four years old.
“One,” said Victoire.
Johnny climbed back onto the arm of the couch and jumped off, landing in a crouch.
“Two,” said Victoire.
Giving his mother a glare, Johnny swept his cape dramatically aside and dashed off.
Dominique mumbled something under her breath and drank her wine.
“I'm going to go put the laundry away,” Victoire said, getting to her feet. She waved her wand so that the laundry baskets floated up into the air in a neat line. “I'll be back in a bit.” And she headed toward the stairs, the baskets floating along behind her.
Lucy looked at her cousin for a moment, while Dominique drank her mug of wine. She'd thought talking to Dominique would be best, since Dommie was now experienced with men who turned out to be liars. It had seemed like a good idea, getting Dominique's perspective, but watching her down pinot noir like it was chamomile tea, it didn't seem so good after all.
“How are things going?” Lucy asked, trying to bring it up gently. “Have you heard from Andrew at all?”
“That son of a bitch,” said Dominique, pulling a bottle of wine from behind the couch cushion and refilling her mug. “He's been asking for me, can you believe that?”
“Asking for you?”
“Didn't you hear?” But Dominique went on before Lucy could tell her cousin she'd been preoccupied with Hilarion and hadn't heard a thing. “The boys found him, hexed him, and dropped him off at the MLEs. Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione were questioning him, but of course the bastard asked for a lawyer, and while he was in MLE custody, someone wiped his memory. He doesn't remember a thing. Still thinks we're married and doesn't remember running off with another woman.”
Lucy's jaw dropped. “What? But how could his memory be erased when he was at the Ministry?”
“I don't know, and I don't care. I'm not going to see him. I hope he rots in Azkaban.” Dominique's face had a mulish expression that Lucy had seen before. Suddenly where Johnny Lupin had come from was readily apparent. He was just like his aunt.
Between Dominique, Rose, and Uncle George, Victoire's kids had combined some pretty terrifying genes.
“He never even came by once to see me or Thornton. Before he was arrested, I mean. His own son! Can you believe it? Bastard.” Dominique tucked the bottle of wine back behind the cushion and went back to drinking.
“Wow.” Lucy didn't really know what else to say, or how to segue into what she actually wanted to talk about without seeming insensitive. “But he doesn't remember not coming by to see you, right? If his memory was erased.”
“I remember,” Dominique said darkly. “I remember everything that lying son of a bitch did.”
Victoire bustled back into the room. “Dommie, Thornton is awake.”
Dominique set her mug of wine on the coffee table and went off to tend to her baby.
Lucy sat back into the couch cushions. That had not been a terribly helpful conversation. She still didn't know what to do about Hilarion, but she had to admit, what he'd done hadn't been anywhere near as bad as what Dominique's ex-husband had done. Comparing the two men, Hilarion looked pretty good, actually. Maybe she was overreacting. But she didn't think she could trust him, didn't want to think she had fallen in love with a man who would lie to get what he wanted.
Lucy rubbed her temples, closing her eyes. She didn't want to cry over this any more than she already had, and the tears were threatening to come again.
“Are you okay, Lucy?” asked Victoire softly, and Lucy looked over to see her sitting on the couch again, a look of concern on her round face.
“I'm fine,” Lucy said automatically.
“You don't look fine. Do you want to talk about it?”
“I was trying to talk about it with Dommie,” she hedged, and Victoire, who knew her own sister better than anyone, gave Lucy a look. Lucy smiled despite her bad mood. “Yeah, you're probably right.”
“Dominique isn't in the proper state of mind to give relationship advice,” Victoire said diplomatically.
“Well... You know that Quidditch player Roxanne is in love with?”
Victoire nodded. All the Weasley women knew about the Quidditch player Roxanne was in love with. “Hilarion Winston-Fisher.”
“Right. Well...” Lucy let her breath out on a sigh. She wasn't sure where to even begin. Everything with Hilarion seemed so complicated to explain. “It's a long story.”
Victoire smiled slightly. “There are two other adults in this house to keep my kids busy. I've got time.”
It took half an hour for Lucy to pour out the entire story to her cousin, probably in far too much detail, but eventually Victoire was up to speed on the entire situation. She sat back thoughtfully, tapping a fingertip against her lips before she spoke.
“So he and Roxanne aren't actually together now. And he told you that his feelings for Roxanne were only ever a stupid infatuation.”
“Well, yeah.” Lucy gave her a hopeless shrug. “But he lied. He pretended he was someone else.”
“Because he wanted to be the sort of person Roxanne wanted,” Victoire said gently. “Don't you think it's just a little bit romantic?”
“No,” said Lucy.
Victoire sighed. “Look, Lucy, it sounds like he didn't lie because he wanted to impress Roxanne – I mean, she was already impressed by him because he's gorgeous and a famous Quidditch player – but because he wanted to be good enough for her. Haven't you ever felt like you weren't good enough for someone, and wished you were a little better in some way?”
Lucy thought of all the times she'd wished to be thinner, prettier, smarter, wittier, more comfortable around large groups of people, more like her cousin Dominique or Roxanne, and - “No.”
Victoire gave her a look.
“All right, yes,” Lucy admitted.
“He told you the truth,” Victoire pointed out. “And he never lied to you about who he was. He lied to Roxanne. But he came to you and told you the truth.”
“Because we're friends,” Lucy muttered.
“Don't knock friends.” Victoire smiled. “Teddy and I were friends before we got together. And you clearly don't have just friendly sort of feelings for this man.”
“I thought I was falling in love with him, but how can I when he lied like this?” Lucy asked pleadingly, wishing Victoire could make it all go away. As the oldest of the grandchildren, and being by nature a very motherly sort of person, Victoire had fallen into the role of matriarch of their band of first cousins. When you couldn't go to your own mother, or one of your aunts, you could always go to Victoire. “I don't even feel like I know who he is any more. Would you trust him again?”
“Do you really want to know what I would do?” Victoire asked, and Lucy nodded. “I think what he did was silly and poorly thought out, but sort of romantic. And now he's free and he feels bad about the whole thing. I don't think he's a bad person, I think he just made a mistake. I would forgive him.”
Lucy was rather flabbergasted. “You really think I should just forget about what he did?”
Victoire sighed. “You're the only one who can decide that, Lucy. I can't tell you to forgive him, or tell you whether or not you should be in a relationship with him after all this, but I do think you love him. And I wouldn't throw that away easily, that's all I'm saying.”
Tears were starting to sting Lucy's eyes, and she sniffed a bit. “Thanks, Victoire.”
Her cousin smiled gently. “Do you want something to eat? I've got a Bakewell tart in the kitchen.”
Victoire had a habit of feeding people who cried on her couch to stop them from crying, Lucy knew from past experience. But she was also an excellent cook. “Yes, thank you.”
Lucy conjured a yellow handkerchief while her cousin bustled off to fetch her a slice of tart, and wiped the tears from her eyes. On the shelves next to her chair were a few photographs, including one of Teddy and Victoire, both looking absolutely blissful, at their wedding. Lucy sniffed again as she stared at it. Even in those days, Victoire hadn't been as thin and pretty as her sister, or as tall and pretty as Roxanne.
Maybe instead of wishing she were a little more like Roxanne or Dominique, she should have wished to be a little more like Victoire, she thought, watching the newlyweds smiling and kissing in the photo.
Faced with another night alone with her thoughts, and the memory of her blowup with Hilarion coloring her home, Lucy decided to visit her sister and hope for distraction, and maybe take-out as well.
But as she climbed the stairs to Molly's flat, she could hear music playing inside. Was that an accordion? Her life seemed more full of insanity than usual lately. She was starting to worry she might be turning into her cousin Rose.
Normally, Lucy just went right in at her sister's house, but since it sounded like she might have company, she knocked on the door first before opening it.
Her sister was sitting on the couch, turned sideways to watch a wiry but good-looking man play the accordion with every appearance of enjoying herself immensely. Molly's hair was spiked up into the full mohawk, emphasizing the yellow streaks in her green hair. Somehow Molly pulled it off, probably because she was wearing a black dragonhide mini-skirt.
Roxanne and Perry were sitting together on the chair next to the couch, their legs tangled together in a seat that was not built for two people. Lucy's heart sank a bit. She had wanted to see her sister alone, but this was clearly a double date of some sort.
“Hi Luce!” Molly exclaimed, jumping up to greet her sister. The accordionist stopped playing, and Perry and Roxanne both craned their necks to see her. “How are you? Come sit. Have you met Dan?”
Lucy allowed herself to be led to the sitting area rather reluctantly, taking the chair opposite Roxanne and Perry.
“Um, no. Hi,” she managed, waving vaguely at the accordionist.
He smiled, and Molly introduced them. “Dan, this is my little sister, Lucy.”
“Everyone calls me Cornish Dan,” the accordionist told her. “Nice to meet you.”
She smiled at him, knowing it probably didn't look terribly sincere, and then said to her sister, “I didn't realize you had company, or I would have Flooed first.”
“Don't be silly, you can come here any time you like,” Molly said firmly.
“Play another one,” Roxanne urged the accordionist.
Lucy pulled her feet up onto the chair as Cornish Dan began a new song on his garishly painted accordion. It wasn't long before the other three were focused completely on the music, but Lucy wasn't much interested. Oh, the song was pretty, and he played well, but she had never cared for the accordion.
She felt out-of-sorts and out-of-place, sitting there with the two couples, all by herself. Roxanne was half in Perry's lap, his arm around her, and Molly was looking at Cornish Dan as if she might jump into his lap as well. It made Lucy miss Hilarion more than ever, and the loneliness threatened to engulf her.
The music faded from her awareness as her mind's eye popped up an image of herself sitting on Hilarion's lap, tangled together like Roxanne and Perry. She wished it were real, and wondered if she ought to just let go all the boiling feelings of hurt and betrayal inside her. Victoire would forgive him, she thought, and for the first time she seriously considered it.
But even if she forgave him, he thought of her as only a friend. Suddenly she wasn't sure she could go back to being only friends with him. It was too painful to think about him finding a new woman to replace Roxanne, another woman who was prettier, thinner, taller than Lucy. Being his friend would only hurt worse.
This was ridiculous, she thought. Feeling left out and listening to music she didn't care for much wasn't helping her bad mood. She might as well go home.
She waited until Cornish Dan finished the song – no need to be rude, after all – and then got to her feet. “I better get home. I'll Floo you tomorrow, Molly.”
“All right,” Molly said. A small frown of concern crossed her face.
“I'll walk you out,” Perry volunteered, to Lucy's surprise, extricating himself from Roxanne.
They went to the front door in silence, but when the door closed behind them, Perry put a hand on her arm to stop her.
“Are you all right? You seem pretty cut up over Hilarion,” he observed gently.
“I'm fine,” Lucy said. She wasn't sure she ought to talk to him about what had happened, but he seemed determined to bring it up, so she decided to just have out with it. “Why did you agree to help him? And don't say because he's your friend. Why?”
Perry shrugged helplessly. “It was because he's my friend.”
“But you already liked Roxanne,” Lucy pointed out. “Why would you agree to help Hilarion lie to her like that?”
“To be honest, I didn't think of it as lying. It was just... Look, sometimes men do stupid things to show they like a girl. Hilarion has been trying to make himself a different person so girls will like him for years. This is just the first time he did it so elaborately. He never acts like himself around a girl.”
Lucy frowned. “What do you mean?”
“He takes them to fancy restaurants, even though he doesn't like that kind of food, or he talks about the team a lot because they want to be dating a Quidditch star. That kind of thing. He just... tries to be what they expect. It's not a big deal. Plenty of them do the same thing to him.” Perry gave her a considering look. “You must have noticed a bit of that, right?”
“No.” She tried to think back over every conversation she'd had with Hilarion. He had always felt real and honest when he was with her, very down to earth – not at all like a famous Quidditch star. “We ate at cafes and take-out places, and we never talked about Quidditch. He doesn't even really like Quidditch that much. He just happens to be good at it. If he could think of something else to do, he'd probably quit, but he's just waiting to retire from the team. Mostly he likes to sit and read Auror novels.”
Perry stared at her, and after a few minutes of stunned silence, he said, “I don't think he's ever let on about any of that to a woman before.”
Lucy gave him a sad smile. “That's because he doesn't think of me that way. We're just friends, that's all.”
Perry didn't dispute that, but she could see on his face that he didn't believe her. She looked away, unwilling to argue with him.
“He didn't mean to lie to Roxanne,” Perry said quietly. “He just wanted her to like him, and he thought she was too smart for him.”
“That's what Victoire said,” muttered Lucy.
Perry smiled. “I can't keep up with all the Weasley cousins. There are too many of you.”
Lucy's lips quirked. “I suppose there are.”
They stood in silence for a few minutes, lost in thought, and then Perry said, “You may not want to hear this, but he's pretty cut up over you, too.”
“Did he say something to you?” she demanded. “About me?”
Perry shook his head. “Not in so many words...”
Of course he was upset they weren't talking. They were friends. That was all there was to it. The brief hope died in her chest, and she felt completely spent. She didn't want to talk any more. “I'm going home. Thanks for the talk, Perry. I appreciate you trying to help.”
“Good night, Lucy.” He watched her until she Disapparated from the corner pavement, and then went inside to Roxanne.
“Is she all right?” Molly asked as he sat back down.
“I don't know. I'm going to go talk to Hilarion tomorrow. He hasn't left his flat in days.”
Roxanne winced. “Because I chucked him?”
He put an arm around her shoulders and kissed her temple. “Sorry, Roxy, but I don't think it has anything to do with you.”
“I have no idea what's going on,” Cornish Dan said in an aside to Molly, who smiled at him.
“I'm pretty sure my sister is in love with Hilarion.”
“I'm pretty sure he's in love with her too,” said Perry.
“Hell of a night,” said Cornish Dan.
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