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In the Distance of Bravery by Sunflower
Chapter 1 : 1
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 21


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A/N: Just a warning: this is not going to be anything like what I've written previously - at all. The plot is teetering at clichéed, though I'm trying to make this my own. It's the first thing I've felt inspired to write for years, so I figured that must be a sign. It's my first ever attempt at writing a romantic comedy(ish), which is probably the most daunting writing challenge I’ve ever done. All I've ever written in my life has been angst and romance and seriousness. So bear with me. I’ll probably sneak some deeper stuff in, since I can’t really help myself, but this will be a fun, cheeky comedy - hopefully. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize.




IN THE DISTANCE OF BRAVERY

CHAPTER ONE
THE LETTER

--

CHAPTER IMAGE CREDITS  SophieScarlette@TDA


--


August swung in slowly that year, and I was beginning to lose it.

It was a queer, sultry summer, with the bay shivering in the withdrawal of its partner and the sunflowers blossoming marvellously in a gaudy remembrance. With the heat came a letter, one whose arrival I had dreaded for years.

I stare at the letter lying on my desk, half-expecting the jingle to begin playing again. The pink, heart-shaped confetti billows gently to the floor around me, as reality starts hauling its iron fist at me. I’m slightly at a loss for words as silence takes its place, chokingly stiff as it presses on my throat like water.

Five years of nothing and now this? I kind of preferred the silent treatment instead. Anything is better than this. I’ve heard of singing birthday-cards, but this is taking it just one step too far. The telegram morphs into a rose before my eyes, delicate and pink. I try to find him somewhere in the frilly ornament, but I’m forced to look away before the nostalgia burns me.

It was a surrender of sorts; it was my surrender to the workings of the universe. Because star-crossed lovers or not, him and I belonged only to each other in between the shadows of summer. Even in the distance, with the ocean reaching far out into the corners of our hearts, the quiet sonata of his voice still reached me across borders. It called to me, like wishes passing you in a kaleidoscope parade; it was a quiet whisper that my heart was still too young to make a mantra of but I recognized it with an ancient familiarity.

It’s quiet for too long. Their names still stretch out in extravagant letters on the flower, pompous and formal, stinging my eyes. I wish they had been erased; each letter cuts shards of glass off my heart.


You are cordially invited to –



“What was that?”

Scorpius, my best friend, co-worker and ally, is leaning in across my cubicle, eyeing the delicate rose in my hand.

“That -” I brush away the confetti hearts from my desk, willing my hands to stop shaking. “Was my invitation to hell.”

He glances at me over his dark rimmed glasses. “Sounds riveting.”

He’s wearing magenta robes and has his dirty blonde hair up in a ponytail that rivals every woman's hair-dos in the room. He looks like a fashionista who’s misguided his way into the journalists’ corner with his bulging arms and high-fashion clothes.

“It’s not. Trust me.”

I avoid his pale eyes, sweeping the paper rose into a drawer, shutting it quickly in a feeble attempt to keep the past from creeping out. When I look up, Scorpius is still eyeing me.

He’s one of the few people who has dealt with so many fucked up things in his life that he has now come to depend on drama instead of the other way around. It’s been this way ever since we met, in the middle of Mumbai’s dusty streets, eyeing tourist maps and dreaming big. We're still dreaming big, we're just not traveling the world anymore.

“Come on,” he says, thankfully not pushing it further. “Catchlove’s called an emergency meeting. Best not be late."


--

 
Miranda Catchlove’s conference room is pink enough to fulfil every six-year-old girl’s fluffiest fantasies. Toothpick smiles blind us from the thousands of celebrity pictures on the wall, each smile and pose more provocative than the next. They are all waving frantically at us when we enter the room. We take a seat at the corner of the wide oak-table, as far down the table from Miranda’s throne as possible.

Scorpius immediately pulls out quill and paper, scribbling across the paper in bold bulky letters, POSH JUICY ASSEMBLY like the overachiever he is.

Right across from us at the head of the table, stands Miranda’s chair. It’s still empty, but attention-seeking and outrageous even in its emptiness, much like its owner. Like all other of Catchlove's things, it’s pink and shaped like a beating heart. It’s an eerie tribute to my letter and life in general and I do not appreciate the reference.

“Love your nails,” Scorpius gushes, instantly making me feel better.

“Thanks.” I had them done yesterday with small sunflowers covering each long smooth surface. Now they’re nervously tapping against the smooth surface of the oak.

The room slowly fills as our crew takes their seat, each chattering loudly and carrying bucketful of coffee. Mostly women work here, delivering the juiciest gossip to the world. Scorpius is the only man working for Witch Weekly, an accomplishment he's sure to mention frequently.

At last, Miranda Catchlove enters the room, followed closely by her ever-faithful Quick-Quotes Quill. Immediately, the entire room of journalists falls silent at the telltale clickity-click of Miranda’s impossibly high shoes.

“Enchanted, enchanted as always,” Miranda peeps in her shrill voice, the door slamming closed behind her.

She is not big, nor loud, but there is something about a woman who’s both beautiful and ambitious, which beckons people to listen to her.

“So.” Miranda's smile is wide, her signature burgundy lips, puckering delicately. “I’ve called you here as an announcement was made this morning.”

Scorpius is practically jumping up and down in his seat with excitement, his Quick-Quote Quill skipping across the page along with him. “I knew it –“ he hisses in my ear. “It’s the wedding!”

Catchlove’s yellow eyes find mine across the wide stretch of the table. “Ted Lupin, Godson of Harry Potter, announced his upcoming wedding today.”

An excited murmur passes through the crowd, buzzing like a hive of bees. I shift in my seat. Miranda silences the room with one manicured hand.

“We all know how – ahem – secretive the Potters are. However, that does not mean that we will not deliver juicy details about this wedding.” Her smile stretches wickedly. “We are, after all, Witch Weekly, are we not?”  

Every single head in the room is lifted in excitement. The Potters have always been considered front-news, and with a guy like Teddy, who’s practically Harry’s son, the profit of such news would be enough to pay our rent for a year.

“As an encouragement, I’ve decided to hold a teeny competition.” Miranda’s gaze sweeps the room, pausing for a second on me. “And with a competition, naturally, a prize must come.”

You can practically slice the tension in the room. Scorpius is leaning closer and closer to Miranda, practically lying across the table, his quill scribbling furiously behind him in jerky movements.

“The prize to whoever brings me the scoop, is a feature of your own choosing as well as a raise.”

There is a collective intake of air as the words leave her mouth. Like the word-hungry journalists that we are, we are all dreaming of larger paychecks and greater recognition. Even Scorpius, who’s practically running the largest and most popular column in Witch Weekly, is hanging by her every word, his eyes glinting.

“So.” Miranda’s lips curl as she straightens. “Before we begin, I’d like to hear if anyone’s got anything?”

All hell breaks loose.

People are yelling at the top of their lungs, competing for attention.

“I have the number of Ted Lupin’s old classmate…”

“His ex-girlfriend, Victoire…”

“… his Auror mentor…”

“Ted’s dog-sitter –“

I shrink further and further into my chair, watching with horror as my co-workers spit out name after name, one more useless than the next.

“Well, you certainly have ideas…” Miranda rubs her face with her hands. “Do we even know the bride’s name?”

Immediately, the room falls silent. Miranda’s gaze follows me, her mouth soft. She does not call my name, but I reach forward nonetheless, involuntarily holding my breath.

“So unprepared, so unprepared, really dreadful indeed… Disap-“

“Pippa Montjoy.”

Every single head turns to look at me. I bite my lip, waiting. A smirk filters across Miranda’s mouth, so briefly that I almost think I’ve imagined it.

“Good.” She appraises me with the slightest nod. “It seems that at least Weasley has brought her a-game today.”

I can feel Scorpius’s gaze turned on me, gaping. I look straight ahead, meeting the hard stare of my boss.

“And how, may I ask, do you know this?” She presses her quill against the corner of her mouth, one perfectly shaped eyebrow raised quizzically. “Who are your sources?”

“A-anonymous – I don’t know – i-it’s hard to explain.“

I mumble the last bit, flustered and embarrassed as Miranda continues to study me.

“You’ll have to do better than that.” It comes off properly, stiff. “Journalists can’t just know –“

I nod, looking up for a bit of effort. “I – I –“

“She’s invited to the wedding,” Scorpius chimes in beside me. “I saw the invite.” I stare at him and we catch each other in a moment, my eyes narrowed at his betrayal. He looks away first.   

Miranda sets her eyes on me. “Is this true, Weasley?”

I hesitate before nodding. Every single face in the room is now glaring at me.

“Just got the invite.” My ears feel about ready to pop off with the heat.

“Perfect.” A slow smile spreads across her lips. “You’ll be our eyes and ears on location. This wedding will not go uncovered. Not this time.”

The entire room is sizzling with envy at this point. I smile softly, ignoring the glares.

“She has a Plus One,” Scorpius pipes up. My smile stiffens and I begin to wonder how long he has been spying at me. I thought I had muffled the song quite splendidly. Obviously, I was wrong.

“Malfoy, you’ll be Weasley’s Plus One, then.” Miranda nods. “I expect great moving stuff, guys. That means tear-jerking fluffiness. You know our readers; housewives, housewives and more housewives.”

She nails me with her yellow eyes. I nod and try to push some sort of smile. I’ve never really liked Miranda. Beside me, I can feel Scorpius’s smile radiating.

“Always, Miranda love!”

--

 
The meeting is adjourned and everyone files out of the office in a symphony of clicking heels. I stay behind, pretending to look through some papers. Miranda is idly flipping through our latest edition, obvious to my presence. I dry my sweaty palms on my skirt, clearing my throat.

“Um, Miranda?”

“Yes, Weasley?” She does not glance up from the magazine and I step forward, the soft patter of my heels urging me on.

“Well – um. I – I wasn’t really planning on going to that wedding, see?”

Finally, Miranda stops flipping through her magazine and looks at me, her cat-like eyes scrutinizing.

“And why would you do something as stupid as that?”

I shrink, reddening slightly. “I… personal reasons?”

Miranda stares at me in silence for a long time. Finally she packs away her stuff and gets to her feet. Standing, she barely reaches my shoulder, yet I feel like an ant being squashed slowly but surely underneath her feet.   

“Weasley,” she sighs. “Do you want to rate the best dressed celebrities at the Snitches for the rest of your life?”

“N-n-no –“

“Then go to the wedding.”

She squeezes my shoulder. “Write a beautiful piece about the blushing bride with all the juicy details of the drama inside the Wizarding World’s golden family. I’ll give you all you want afterwards.”

She walks to the door, pausing half-way out. “Oh, and Wesley?” She smiles sweetly. “Don't bother coming back without a story.”

--

 
She leaves me standing in the pink room with my scream still lodged in a silent surrender in my throat.

I stand there for some time, reeling at the development, trying to master the clock, the seconds, the soft ticker of my life rolling back into place. I feel like I’m on a train, slowly returning to a place I had deemed ended; considered concluded.

When I finally exit the room, Scorpius is waiting for me by my desk, excitement jumping in his eyes. I make my way slowly to the pathetic excuse of a cubicle, avoiding his eyes. I’m just… not in the fucking mood.

Scorpius wasn't always like this. Just like I wasn't always a journalist writing Do's and Don't's on page 9. But he's constant, just like I am - because really, who else do we have?

“So, everyone hates you,” he tells me with ill-disguised glee when I get close enough.

“That’s hardly a cause for excitement.”

He laughs then, softly and I can see my best friend in there again. The one who spent nights of crying in the bathrooms with me, trained me to become a proper capital woman and not the old Northerner I used to be, with my flat vowels, mumbled ‘ain’t’s and churned down nails.

Luce –“ He grins. “we’re getting it! We’re getting the promotion. Us!”  

He says it like we’re a team, the two of us, and I feel guilty about being such a twat. Because we are. A team, that is. The two runaways in London, writing shitty, mindless gossipy stuff to see it to the next day. In some way I guess we have always been running; running from expectations and our predetermined destiny.

“Um, Scorpius?” I reach forward and touch his arm, allowing a smile to play along my lips. “We need to actually write the damn thing –“

His smile is radiant as he senses the shift. He’s always been good at things like these. Silent understandings. Gentle touches that say more than a thousand words. It’s a trade taught through generations of Malfoy dinners spent wordlessly, much like being academically brilliant and ambitious is a trade from my family. But whereas Scorpius excels at his family trait, I have sadly never lived up to the legacy of my name. I remain the black sheep of the Weasley family, and now Scorpius is going to notice, too. It’s hard not to. With the Merlin’s Degrees and fame that resides in my hometown of overachievers.

“Details, details.” He waves me off with a hand. “Honey, I can find drama in a monastery.”

That’s actually true. I think about it and figure that he is the best man to help me with this, seeing as there’s no way I’m escaping this madness. Scorpius squeezes me tightly to his chest, his large form enveloping me completely. 

“I’m going to be the best date ever, Lucy.”

--


5 years ago, Lucy aged 20


”Un moment!”

I press the button again, longer this time, tripping in my too large overcoat. In my hurry, I’ve grabbed the wrong one, so not only does the chill from the moist sea air inch itself closer to my body, burying me in the smell of fish and dirt, but I am also buried in the smell of him whenever I shrink closer into the folds.

It was his favourite jacket.

Now all I can grasp at is the smell of spearmint chewing gum and sweet cologne, and I begin to question my reasons for coming here. I’d never imagined that spearmint would be my undoing.

It’s beautiful here on the outskirts of town by the French lake, with the wide expands of French land, with the wind inking unuttered confessions onto my skin. Green stretches far out, further, until the edge between sky and ground is erased. People find themselves here; fall in love.

Finally, the door opens and reveals my beautiful cousin with her long hair flying everywhere around her head in a red-burnt halo of gold. She looks like an angel caught in the midst of a storm. My storm.

“Pardon pour le – Lucy -” Her cheery voice falters as she takes in my form. ”What are you doing here?”

”Hi Dom,” I sink.

We stand there on her porch for a while, eyeing each other. It’s been months since the last time we met, and I begin to doubt my choice of coming here. Dom is wearing a baby blue dress, girly like always and I feel completely inadequate in my jeans and hoodie. It seems that those differences between us will always stand out blaringly against the confines of our friendship. I can still see the ghost of her, filmy and hazy around the edges, as the memory of her past warnings run through my mind. The irony is cold and unforgiving like the wind pressing against my back.

Her eyes travel my form, ending at my face. ”What happened?”

Her voice is soft and it’s not even a real question. She already knows.

”Can I come in?” I ask instead. ”It’s a bit nippy outside, see,”

”Of course, sorry –“ Dom opens the door further and steps aside. “I’ve been living in France for too long – French manners are getting to me.”

Entering her house is like stepping into a foreigner’s life. It’s the first time I’ve been here, despite our lifelong friendship. A wall decorated with photographs of our family at the end of the hallway greets me upon entering. I run my fingertips along the gilded frames, circling faces, caressing the slippery planes of glass.

“Beautiful.” I breathe to them, drawing maps across our youthful memories.

”I’ve missed you.” Her voice calls out from behind me, gentle as the breeze in here.

I turn to look at her, fingers falling from our faces. It’s the first real thing I’ve heard all day. A smile spreads slowly across her face. It’s like rediscovering a long lost gift, finding her again. The joy doesn’t leave me right away and it’s the first emotion that has lingered inside my body for all I care to remember. Like a mirror, my smile must greet hers in a widespread grin, teeth upon teeth.

“Tea?” She hovers in the doorway to the kitchen.

“Please.”

I take a seat in the living room. Thankfully, there are no more photographs of family members in here. Only a large painting covers the wall, the harsh strokes and soft curves recognized immediately. It’s a lake with a house in the background.

“You kept it.” I smile at her when she returns with the tea.

“It’s a masterpiece,” is her only answer.

We are silent for a while. I tug into the couch, hands enveloping the mug in the hopes of robbing it of some of its heat. I feel cold to the core. It’s a coldness that won’t be erased no matter how much I try. I can feel her staring but I refuse to raise my gaze.

Dom sets down her cup, regarding me carefully. ”What happened?”

Her voice is still as soft as daisies on a field, a summer’s day and melted butter. It’s the voice that has conquered hundreds of men’s hearts, melted the frowns off professors’ faces and rendered even the toughest nuts speechless. It’s tantalizing and I feel myself sinking into the lull of her oceanic tenor.

”Something horrible.”

The conclusion seems inevitable, even to her.

”So you ran?”

I finger a thread in my hoodie, refusing to meet those sky-blue eyes. ”It seemed -” I sigh. “It seemed like the least dramatic action.”

Her bell like laughter rings out into the room, spreading across the space between us. It’s deafening against the blanket of sadness that has enveloped us.

“Lucy Weasley.” Dom giggles, ”Since when have you been anything but dramatic?”

”Since now, hopefully.”

The mirth stiffens on her face. She casts a quick, searching glance at me, one that does not go unnoticed.

”Maman told me - ” she says finally in a much easier voice, a sadder one, seduction aborted. ”I’m so sorry, Luce.”

I stare at my painting for what seems like forever. I can see the brown of those eyes gleaming back at me in the depths of the whirling colours. It’s the same with all of my paintings. I could never rid myself of him and thus he followed me everywhere, even into the worlds I crafted upon white canvases. I can still recall the day I painted this one. All my paintings stick like glue to my fingers, forever merged to my skin from the first lick of paint until my very last breath. They are souls embedded into roaring shades, collecting dripping sorrow to form opuses.

”Could I stay here for a bit?”

”Here?” She arches one perfect eyebrow at me, her pink mouth puckering in worry, ”But Teddy –”

”Ted is where he should be.”

”Luce -”

”Can I stay?”

She stares at me for a long time. Outside it has begun raining. The rain hits its raging fist against the windows as the ocean roars behind it. I eye the tears rolling down the mirror-surface, those teardrops gathering like waterfalls, poetic in their beauty. I could live here. Merge myself into the sea; reinvent myself in-between patters of rain.

Dom is still unleashing her all too blue eyes on me. I force myself to meet them. She sighs, the telltale sign that I am winning,

”Sure. Yes. Okay.” Her bell-laughter rings out again, the well-worn lines around her eyes familiar, almost comforting. “It gets so lonely here in the cottage, and Maman keeps on saying I should get myself a husband, and what’s the difference, really?”

I don’t answer since there isn’t really much to say. It’s not about being here.

It’s not about the painting that’s tearing into my heart, or the small cottage or the loneliness. I am back at staring at Dom again, waiting for something to step back into making sense. It doesn’t come, not here.

“I meant to, you know.” She looks down for a second, studies her hands, the mug clasped between them, silent for a beat. “I meant to find a man.”

There are words I could say, twenty years old, we have time, youth, beauty – but the words remain lodged in my throat because even I have trouble believing those inside this house with his eyes burning into my neck from the corner.

“Ever since – ever since Darren – ” Her voice falters. ”It’s just not the same.”

My hands find her face, pressing into the crevices there. Her breath shudders against the back of my hand and she feels fragile underneath my fingertips, ready to be washed away with the rain, one whimsical tale of beauty swallowed whole by the sea. I rest my cheek against hers. There is wetness gathering there and I press my fingertips harder against her softness, closing my eyes.

”Nothing is,” I tell her and the words end there.

--

 
“You really need to take that Apparation test.”

Scorpius eyes the cracked yellow paint dismally when I lead him to the car. I ignore him and unlock it swiftly. Inside, the air is hot and stale, with the smell of old lunchboxes and dirty socks. Scorpius rolls down his window immediately upon entering, huffing dramatically. I roll my eyes.

“It’s not that bad.”

“Oh no, it so is. I don’t even know why I let you drive me in this Muggle contraption.” He juts the miniature motorbike hanging from the rear-view mirror idly, watching as it jitters from its place. “This is just an accident waiting to happen.”

The car sputters to life, hiccoughing and screeching loudly as I reverse out. “Betty’s served me well,” I snap. “So shut up.” 

“My, my,” he laughs. “We are in a mood today…”

--

 
During the fifteen-minute car-ride to my place, I tell Scorpius everything.

The sturdy stubbornness of my mother. Molly’s indifference. Inane talks over dinner. Hollow smiles. Ted, my best friend, soft and gentle like the wind. Gone. I tell him of ferries, of Grimsby and of the forest.

And for the first time in five years, I can still see Him lying in the middle of the field of sunflowers, his smile endless and ancient in its familiarity. Ready for me. Only that I’m not there, I’m back in London, stuck in-between traffic-jams and tall buildings that touch the sky.

Afterwards, Scorpius is silent for a while. I don’t try to break the silence and when we pass the Palace Theatre with its blinking lights and sea of people, signalling our arrival, it’s a relief. The chaos and blaring sounds fill some hole in me, comforting in their massiveness.

“It’ll be alright, Luce.”

Scorpius touch is gentle on my hand. I smile and focus on parking the car. Soon, the touchy moment is over, and he’s back at grumbling about Muggle-contraptions. That’s the great thing about Scorpius. He never dwells on emotions for long.

I follow him slowly to my front door on Gerrard Street. Like all houses in Soho, the front door is painted in a bright colour. Mine is purple, situated right next to the Indian Deli. Right now, the sweet aroma of onions and duck is carried through the air. Scorpius hums, sniffing the air.

“That smells so good… I could use some Indian right about now.”

“I’ll order some when we get up, yeah?”

Grumpily, he agrees and we make it the 176 steps (yes, I’ve counted) up to my apartment before getting in. My next-door neighbour, Mr Gupta, peeks through a small crack in the door as I unlock the door, breathing hard. I’ve never seen him actually leave the apartment. He lives alone. I think.

“Wotcher Amar!”

Amar Gupta’s eyes widen comically and the door closes with a snap. Scorpius huffs beside me. “Don’t know why you bother, eh.”

With that he marches straight in and throws himself on my couch with a moan. My one and only love; my cat, Mr Gobbles, whisks across the room immediately, rubbing itself against my leg. I lift him into my arms and he purrs loudly in my ear. At least someone’s happy to see me.

“I’m never drinking again,” Scorpius mutters into his hand from my sofa.

We were both out clubbing yesterday and both are feeling under the weather. Scorpius is still watching me closely. So closely that I know he's waiting for a breakdown; for a sign. He notices things about me. Just like I notice that he drinks a lot, and that he hasn't had a boyfriend all the time I've known him. And that sometimes, when he thinks I'm not looking, he'll browse the Famous Wizard Families column, searching out names. Sometimes he finds a familiar one. I'll watch him, holding my breath as every emotion thinkable crosses his face. He puts it down quickly after that. I always pretend not to notice, too afraid to approach the subject. Or maybe I'm too scared that we'll delve into my story, too.

“Yeah, that’s likely,” I snigger, dialing the number to our Indian takeout. "What happened with that bloke, anyways?"

"Which one?" he smirks.

"Funny." I shake my head at him, righting myself as the line clears on the phone. Mr Gobbles head-butts my face, purring loudly, as I place our order.

Soon, we are munching on onion rings, Chicken Tikka Masala and fajitas. It's our thing. Scorpius can't cook to save his life and he refuses to eat my organic cooking, so we order Indian every other night. Scorpius is moaning through every bite.

“This is so good, man.”

A silence passes. The words Miranda said are still echoing, sticky and heavy in my mind. Dread fills me, its weight so astute it fills my chest and I find it hard to breathe. I don’t know how I’ll manage this. The fear in the room feels corporeal to me, as human and real as me.

“I’m not going.”

Scorpius lifts his head and stares at me.

“Lucy,” he says with a gruffness belied by a certain amount of tenderness and exasperation.

---

 
6 years ago, Lucy aged 19

 
“Luce,” he murmurs with a tenderness only he has ever accomplished perfecting.

“Luce,” he says again, and then once more, for effort. “Lucy –“

“Huh?” I hum in between strokes of wonder. The paintbrush stretches across the white canvas, marring the innocence with swirls of colour. I can feel him watching me. His warm gaze envelopes me in a warmth I have yet to associate with someone new.

“You’re forgetting yourself.”

The bristly fibres prick and spiral rainbows upwards in endless stretches. My hand is no longer my own as I paint the dear chocolate of his eyes. My fingers are tinged with blues, crimsons and yellows, but most of all sweet chocolate brown.

He places a series of fluttery kisses on the back of my neck, murmuring my name, while my paintbrush continues to kiss pieces of love in acrylic caresses.

“I’m busy.” We stand together, a tangle of limbs. I can feel the firm stutter of his heart against my back. It’s almost as if we’re one, exhaling in beats of music.

“Busy doing what?”

“Painting.” The brush skitters across valleys and hills of green, encircling the russet colour. I stretch further, reaching into the corners to smear spins of dye, drawing rainbows in the crevices of his eyes.

“Painting who?” His mouth slides across the small stretch of my shoulder and my breath is caught in the back of my throat. I steal a glance at him. His eyes are a pale blue today, but I know better.

“Painting you.”

His lips brush the shell of my ear.

“Then paint me.”

He steals a kiss, woefully squeezing in underneath my outstretched arm. I gasp, smearing gold across the soft expand of his chin. His mouth gapes open in mock horror. His eyes are incredibly wide. He’s kind of precious like this.

His laugh rings out, full and heartfelt. I turn my brush on him instead. Laying brush strokes across limbs and smiles. He nibbles at my bottom lip and I gasp breathlessly into his mouth, smearing the side of his face in oceanic blue with my palm. This is us, stretching into forever with kaleidoscope bodies.

We sit cross-legged in our apartment, face to face. I run the bristly fibres across the smooth expand of his back and acres of skin, a loving caress to last a lifetime. At last, he coats his hand in burgundy, too. Smears it across the wide expand of my chest. He pushes away clothes, careful and gentle. Then he paints a sun on the corner of my hip.

We roll across paint, woven together in a mash. We fall onto the floor, tainting our bedroom a whirl of kaleidoscopic shades. We paint it with love.

Chocolate-brown tainted love.

--

 

“No.”

“Please, I need you there – I can’t -”

Scorpius stares at me for a long time.

“This is a bad, bad idea,” I tell him.

“Mr Gobbles is coming too, though,” he tells me and lifts my beloved cat in the air. “Isn’t that right?” He meows softly as if to agree.

“I’ve trained her to go potty!” He says, “Look! Mr Gobbles, go potty in your tray, please.”

Mr Gobbles just blinks at him with his large grey eyes.

“Mr Gobbles…”

He begins licking his paw, ignoring Scorpius completely.

“NOW!”

Finally, he lifts his fat bottom grudgingly and saunters to his tray before sitting down in it. Triumphantly Scorpius turns at me, grinning wickedly.

I don’t bother saying anything. We both know I’ll go. Scorpius is too much of a pushover to let me stay here and I need the money too much.

--

 
When night falls Scorpius leaves me, disapparating to his own place just down the street and I am left to my thoughts again. We’ll be leaving in the morning and Scorpius needs his sleep in order to be bearable during the ride to Grimsby. We're taking Betty, seeing as I don't apparate and it's way easier getting around this way.

I stand by the door after he leaves, my smile frozen in place as I stare blankly into the air. Mr Gobbles rubs his face against my leg in an attempt to get some loving, complaining loudly. I puff him aside, having not quite forgiven his betrayal from earlier.

The city lights can almost be mistaken for the moon out here. All the fog here in the city hides the moon, but I can still recall the exact shape and form of it from years of practice. The image has been drawn on the back of my skull, so familiar that I find it to be a piece missing from me. The tall buildings seem to reach up endlessly, stretching towards the skyline, much like the dreamers of this city, touching the stars. I find myself envious of their length. It’s like a stairwell to heaven, lighting the way to the clouds.

My feet carry me too easily forward until I’m at the window, resting a tired hand against the slippery surface of the window. The cold feels good against my palm. It’s the most real thing I’ve felt all day. The moon finally shows itself, slipping out of clouds, and my thoughts end up straying him like they’ve had a habit of doing these past five years. Wondering what he’s doing. If he’s happy. I do as always and push the thought down, reciting grocery lists in my mind until the soft sonata of his voice fades away to the beat of the city.

I sit there in the window sealing, staring at the city as it breathes. Mr Gobbles falls asleep draped across my feet, grumbling slightly as he tries to find a proper spot. I don’t sleep at night; instead I stare at the moon for hours, storing each curve and crater in my mind. London’s been my home for over half a decade, yet it still feels foreign at nights like these, like a shoe that’s a size too big. You’ll still be able to walk, but it never sits well with you. Not quite, anyways.

My mother told me London was too much of a city to me. That it would swallow me whole. It will kill her to know I am a journalist on a gossip magazine She believes in courage and in logistics. So does all of my family really. They believe in progress and in saving the world. My father fears it. Loathes it. He believes in solving crosswords and English breakfasts with nice sausages.

And then there's Ted.

Ted believed I could save the world all by myself. That I would stand a chance against the universe.

But sometimes, people are mistaken.

--


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