Chapter Five - Empty
Standing in the middle of Diagon Alley and looking up at the faded sign that read “Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes”, it suddenly dawns on me that dad never actually got over the death of his twin. I mean, I would be devastated if something happened to my Fred but image having a twin… Guilt rushes through me as I think about how angry I had been at him for not telling me.
“Come on Rox, let’s get this over with,” Fred mutters grimly beside me. I think he took the news of dad’s twin harder than I did, after all, he is named after him. Pushing past me, he shoves open the door and weaves his way through the shelves towards the back of the shop and the stairs that lead to the small flat above. I follow him, navigating the familiar route with ease.
When we get upstairs, Fred knocks on the door.
“Come in,” mum yells from the other side. Hesitantly, he opens the door. Mum is peeling carrots by hand in the kitchen while dad is sitting at the table with a mug of coffee, reading the Prophet. “Oh, Roxanne, Fred,” mum says in surprise. Dad, who was in the process of taking a swig of tea, chokes slightly and puts his mug back down; mum rubs his back and beckons us in. I knew we should have warned them.
I take my usual seat across from dad while Fred remains standing, leaning against the wall, looking like he would rather be anywhere but here.
“Hello honey,” mum smiles, kissing me lightly on the forehead, “how was school?”
“Fine,” I answer half-heartedly. The silence falls heavily upon us. We wait. At last, mum opens her mouth to speak but dad beats her to it.
“His name was Fred Septimus Weasley. He was born on the 1st April 1978; he was born fifteen minutes after me… although people often assume he was born first. We were inseparable from birth until the Battle of Hogwarts. We did everything together, we were beaters on the Gryffindor team, we pulled pranks, we suffered detentions, we even fancied the same girls half the time… but he was always the one the girls chased after. We were practically the same person just in two different bodies… and with slightly different personalities. He was always the leader. He was always the initiator. I was like his shadow. It should have been me.” The words are forced from his mouth and come hesitantly and broken. A tear is escaping from the corner of his eye. Mum has turned her back to us and has paused peeling the carrots. I cannot see her face but I know she is crying too. “We went back to fight… We went together… We got split up… He went with Percy… There was an explosion… Rookwood… Fred… He… He died.” Dad takes a deep breath, attempting to control the flow of tears now streaming down his face. “He was only 20… so much ahead of him…” he continued as if the flood gates had been opened and he could no longer hold anything back. “Ideas for the shop… Expansion… Inventions… Jokes… All gone.”
I have never seen my dad cry before, it is horrible to watch, his face has become blotched and pale, his eyes bloodshot and watery, sobs racking through his lean frame. He looks so vulnerable.
Mum is crying too, she is bent over the carrots and tears are falling rapidly from her face. She looks like she is breaking.
Fred is silent, staring at dad in horror. He looks disgusted.
I sit, my attention flicking to the different members of my family in turn. Dad. Mum. Fred. I am suddenly aware of a big gaping hole that has appeared between us. A hole I can only assume should be filled by Fred Septimus Weasley.
“Why did you do it?” Fred spoke at last. My Fred.
“Do what…?” dad asks, looking at his son with tears still dripping from his lashes.
“Why did you name me after him?” the question drops like a stone into the silence. No one speaks. I look from mum to dad and back. Mum looks away. Dad stares at Fred. My Fred. “Why did you do it?” his voice is becoming louder, more demanding. Still no one speaks. “I am just his fucking replacement!” he screams suddenly. “Is that all I am? His pathetic replacement!” Fred comes over and bangs his clenched fists on the table in front of dad. “I never lived up to him did I? I was never good enough. I was never him.” His voice has switched to a vicious whisper, sending a shiver up my spine. Dad looks horrified. Mum looks appalled. “And I never will be him, so if he is what you want… I’m gone.” Fred spits out the last word with a force that throws my dad back in his chair.
The door slams shut with a thud behind my brother, my Fred, and mum breaks down into tears again. I cannot be dealing with this. Scraping my chair back, I run from the kitchen, across the hall, to my bedroom.
At last, I let the tears escape my own eyes as I sink into the soft duvet covering my bed. They are tears for the uncle I never met; they are tears for my dad, who lost so much; they are tears for my mum, who must keep us together; they are tears for Fred, my Fred, who feels he means nothing anymore… And they are tears for me because I need to cry once in a while for no reason at all.
“Come on,” Rose orders, tugging on my summer robes. Smiling goodbye to mum and Aunt Hermione who are in the kitchen, I follow Rose out the shop. “What colour are you thinking? I was thinking, maybe green… or blue, yeah blue… dark blue of course, that’s much classier,” she rambles on. Our mums gave us some money to go shopping for evening robes for this Ball thing the Ministry is holding at the end of the holidays. We are obliged to go.
“Red… I always wear red.”
“That’s so boring; surely there must be another colour you like, I bet you could pull off beige or purple... Hell, with your skin, you could pull off anything! You can have no idea how jealous that makes me!”
“I like red,” I reply stubbornly. “And no, I could not pull off purple, it would clash with the red in my hair.” She rolls her eyes and drags me into Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions. I begin to loose myself in the myriad of dress robes, colours, fabrics… “This would look amazing on you,” I hold one up for Rose, it is a midnight blue colour. Her eyes widen and she grabs it from me.
“It’s beautiful,” she sighs, “but I’ll never be able to pull it off.”
“Sure you will,” I grab a dark red one for myself, “let’s go and have them fitted.”
Feeling like a bit of a twat, I stand on one of the box-type-things as the dress fitter fiddles with the hem of my robes. I hate this sort of thing. Rose on the other hand, loves it and is twirling and swishing the folds of her robes endlessly, examining every inch of them, chatting away to her dress fitter.
“Where are you going?” I ask as Rose hastily grabs up her skirts.
“To the loo,” she answers vaguely.
“Oh… okay,” I mutter as she vanishes out of the fitting room. Her dress fitter looks a bit pissed off and starts talking to mine, they say they’ll be back in a minute when Rose returns. I shrug. And then I realise I am standing on a box, wearing dress robes with pins in it, all by myself. Great.
A quiet cough sounds from behind me and I spin around. My stomach lurches in surprise. The shock is so great I cannot even form a scowl as I look into the cold, grey eyes of Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy.
I wait for the anger to come, the blinding red, the fury. He seems to be waiting too.
Why is it not coming? Why do I feel so calm? What is happening?
Realising with horror that I am still staring into his eyes, I try to force an insult from my lips. It will not come. My eyes stay locked with his.
My stomach refuses to settle. It twists and turns. I should be feeling sick. I do not. Instead, I feel odd. Just odd. His face is expressionless but his eyes… I can make out surprise… Confusion… Fear? What on earth could scare someone like Scorpius Malfoy? I though he was immune to fear. I thought he was immune to emotion…
I don’t understand… Why am I not angry? Malfoy always make me angry… So why not now? Why am I just… confused? I don’t even know what I’m confused about…
There is a bustle behind him. He does not realise. Not at first. Eventually, he looks away, breaking our gaze and I am filled with… nothing? No joy, no triumph… Nothing. Like my chest is suddenly empty.
Rose appears behind him. She is smiling. I want her to stop. He mutters something… an apology? Then he vanishes. Still nothing. Rose looks at me and her expression changes to concern.
“Roxanne… Are you alright?” she asks, I blink, fighting off the overwhelming nothingness. I smile at her.
“Yes, I’m fine, that colour is lovely on you.”
The hum of people is almost suffocating. I look around, trying to spot the girls. I cannot see them. Instead, I catch a glimpse of white-blonde hair. I wait for the anger… It still does not come.
With dread, I see him approach. Why can he not just leave me alone? Why must he always seek me out? Why must he torment me?
“Weasley,” his voice is smooth, like liquid… oozing from his lips. His lips.
“Malfoy,” I reply, not half as vehemently as I would have liked.
“Are you enjoying yourself?” my lips part in shock… is he making small talk? “There is no need to be so shocked; I am not as arrogant as you like to think.” There is a lilt in his voice that immediately puts me on edge. “Okay…” he says when I still do not reply. “How about a dance?”
I look down in amazement at his outstretched hand. My amazement swiftly turns to horror as I realise my own hand as come up from my side and now rests gently in his. I never said it could do that! We stand, stock still for a few moments as we both take in the situation. This cannot be happening. I am Roxanne Weasley: I hate Malfoy. Why the hell am I agreeing to dance with him?
A smile plays across his mouth as he looks down at our hands, he squeezes my fingers slightly and my stomach lurches again… or at least, I assume it was my stomach, it seemed a little high to be my stomach…
Without warning, he pulls me closer, placing my hand on his shoulder and slipping his arm around my waist. His other hand finds mine and he takes it. I am powerless to stop. His body is so close. I have been even closer but fury had blocked out all thoughts from my mind then. Now, with this eerie calmness, I can see every detail of his face.
I take in his jawline first, it is strong and defined; his lips come next, I cannot linger too long on them; his nose is straight and pointed, almost a little too pointed, I note with satisfaction; then his eyes, they lack the coldness I have grown accustomed to, there is something in them, something I cannot quite read even though he seems to be allowing me to see it… I realise I am staring into his eyes and I quickly lower my gaze. His throat. I have a sudden, overwhelming urge to press my lips to the base of it, just above his collar bone.
Shaking myself, I can feel the anger starting to return. The music picks up and he begins to spin me around… and around… and around. Every time I leave his arms, I want to run, far away from him, from the anger… Every time he pulls me close, I want to be closer, so close that I feel his breathe on my forehead… I do not understand.
The anger is not blinding… In fact, I’m not even sure if it is anger. It is something, something fiery in the pit of my unsettled stomach.
The music goes on forever; surely the song must have changed… I cannot peel my eyes away from Malfoy’s and there is a peculiar feeling in my chest, like I am being weighed down by something heavy, pressing against my ribs. Or maybe it is something trying to escape?
“Roxanne…?” he whispers into the hair by my ear as he pulls me close once again, breaking our gaze, and resting his chin against my forehead. The suffocating sensation in my chest increase, making it hard to breath.
“Yes…” my reply escapes with a sigh from my lips. His arms tighten around me and I feel like I might burst. In the back of my mind, someone chastises me for not correcting his use of my first name.
I wait for his reply. It does not come. Pulling away from him slightly, I look into his eyes. He seems uncertain, like there is something he is desperate to say but cannot form the words… or is too afraid to form them.
For some unknown reason, I am impatient for him to say whatever it is that is clearly on his mind.
“Nothing…” he says at last. The uncertainty vanishing from his eyes, it is replaced by a look of resignation. The apprehension fades from my body as he pulls me back into him, spinning me around so I can no longer study the expression on his face.
The song ends.
Malfoy continues to hold onto me for a fraction of a second longer than necessary. At length, he pulls away from me but does not let go entirely. He looks me straight in my eyes and I feel inexplicably exposed, like he is looking behind my defences.
For a moment, one, fleeting moment, I think he is going to kiss me again, in front of all these people.
For a moment, one, fleeting moment, I want him to.
My hand falls to my side and I watch his back, disappearing into the crowd. An overwhelming emptiness overcomes me. What just happened? Why do I feel so… disappointed?
My fingertips brush against my lips. My unkissed lips. Scorpius.
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