Chapter 5 : friday: part one
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The air is cold and dense and it’s winter. I feel this looking out into the stars. I wonder, at times, with a throbbing consciousness of what danger I’m in, and you are--what we’re in together when we’re here together, not for the first time since you found me perched on the edge of this very battlement. I stand here and feel dissolved, I feel dispersed into air, into whatever it is you think of me now. I feel sucked into the stars, I feel their pulsing, deep, white heat, and the vast cold between them. I haven’t felt as cold in days.
Whatever vacuum holds the stars has gripped my heart, and is pulling you away. But this tower is small, and close, and you cannot look up without your gaze skimming my person, or my hair, or elbows, or any of these creaking joints. Perhaps my knuckle glows in the moonlight, perhaps my lips alight.
“Telescopes out, if you please.” The no-nonsense voice of Mathilde Arrowhead spikes through the blackness. I am startled out of a near-dream. In it I was looking at your face last June, perched at the top of a battlement, note in my pocket. Your eyes were wide and you were looking at a ghost, but there has always been a small twinge I remember most--the small movement you made backwards before moving to me, slowly, and I know now it’s because you were afraid yourself. Perhaps that’s what ruined us: you, you in fear for your safety, and me, me in scaring you.
Your breathing was hard and labored and my hand hurt while you dragged me to the infirmary. Even in my state of half-life, I knew the steps well, even from the Astronomy tower. You were muttering to yourself and to me in turns, but I heard everything, and I heard more than what you said. It was pulsing out from you, your worry, your disbelief, and the sound of the wound I’d scratched into your heart squirming in desperately half-hearted throws.
You asked me why, you wondered what to do. You were deciding. I have at times underestimated you, even since this moment, but you understood what this meant for you, what it said about you from me. And it didn’t hurt then. I didn’t feel it. I felt only the inside things, and by then, I’d frozen you out.
“Poppy,” you said, because we were on first-name terms, “Poppy, please, give her something, put her to sleep, give her a dreamless. What do I do? Put her to sleep, put me to sleep.”
Professor Arrowhead is a woman without humor. She is also without scorn. She has felt for us and has the grace to take pains never to pair us, since word got out that we’d broken it off. Tonight, I’m grinning into the cold, green-scented wind. I turn when I hear the pattern bouncing toward me of footsteps, and I think my heart stops when it’s you, and you’re watching me, and you’re hiding something on your face and it’s set instead into determination and dread but your eyes are wide open, and in the starlight, in the absence of the moon I see your freckles, I see your cheekbones, and I feel as though I’ll cry, and Addae Jordan steps in front of you, he walks towards me, and we all see Professor Arrowhead mark me into that pair.
We sat next each other, you creaking lightly in the plastic chair. I? I was numb, I was a mouth without a home, I was eating up and never sated, I was in a constant state of I can make it better and I was moving out of whatever space collided with me. I was moving so much and so quietly that I never covered any ground, or air, or space or vacuum. And I forgot many things.
“Today--” and Dad’s voice is timorous, and for a moment I’m outside of my body and I forget that it hurts, because this is Dad sounding as though he’s never addressed a crowd, as if he never--
“Today, I can’t say what I’d written. There’s not a way to remember a person at a public funeral that can do her, or him, justice. If it’s justice we want, at all. What I would present to you, if I could, if I could be selfless enough in the present to provide a future of memories for people who have never known Hermione or Hugo Weasley, would I do it? I think I would do it--”
Dad swallows noisily and glances at Uncle Harry in the front row, who braces himself and gives a brave nod. Three-chamber’d-heart!
I am outside of my body.
“It isn’t--it’s not--we don’t want justice. Justice says that we can recover some of what we’ve lost through some ability of ours, or of somebody else. And I think--I think you all know--we can’t get it back. We’ve lost a wife--a mother--”
And do I have a body? Are these mine, these hands, wringing themselves out of shape? And are you truly here, are you near to me, am I leaching out of you? There is a warmth. And a terrible ache, a collapsing hole there, right between the lungs.
“A daughter, a friend, an aunt. We’ve lost a brother, a son, a cousin, a friend--a jolly good Quidditch player.”
Laughter rises like heat around us, half-hearted. We are lifting our faces and sun is straggling through clouds. We are on the Hogwarts lawn. I smell bread baking in the kitchens beneath us.
“And what world isn’t sad when it’s short one for the team? What world doesn’t feel a bit empty less one Keeper?”
You reach over and I am aware of the cold skin of your palm, of your fingertips, when you wipe tears from my legs, one from my chin. I have been crying. Have I been sad? Have I felt anything? And what is getting out, what is breaking off?
“I can’t say what Hermione and Hugo were to life. I can’t say what the world thought of them. But to me and Rose, to the rest of us who knew them not only as names but as people who were arses sometimes and who never remembered to make their beds, who got poor marks in most classes, but who were really, really--alive, and who liked to live, and who even at the end of it were planning for a future--I can say that there isn’t anything--we will just always love them. And I think, in time, we’ll learn to put our souls back together.”
Leave it to Dad, I think through a watery smile, and I’m choking on tears and the stone in my throat, to end on the least eloquent, the most overused--
And there is applause, and it doesn’t matter what he’s said, everyone can see it, that he’s overwhelmed with love and loss, that his soul, for now, is incomplete. Will it ever heal? Will we ever replace? Or will we find, again, what now we feel we’ve lost? Or what has been taken? Do we want to?
You stand beside me. Your applause, I can’t tell if it’s more for me, more for my dad, or if it’s for you. It is all suddenly bizarre--it is only because, either, Dad is famous, Mum is famous, or that everyone like you needs to do this for themselves. Needs to get it out, like poison.
I am not defeated enough not to look over his shoulder at your face, at the slope of your shoulders. You are stunned and frozen, and I feel the air has gone out of me.
“Fucking hell, Addae,” I whisper as you close your eyes hard and sit down where you are.
“We need to talk,” he whispers back, grabbing my arm.
“Professor Arrowhead!” I call. “I request a new pair.” I feel Addae tense and he lets go of my wrist.
But I’ve caught Professor Arrowhead’s attention. She looks at me critically, her eyes narrowed. For a moment fear washes over me and I’m left weak--I’m wondering, does she know what precipice I have crossed on this tower? What danger it presents?
“Weasley, pair with Weasley,” she says after a moment, crossing something out on her class chart and looking up to the sky. “Gemini is looking particularly bright, today.”
Dom catches my eye past your shoulder. I do not see her; just the aura of your heat, and what it does to me.
I open my eyes, pulling through a layer of crusted salt. I smile; I must have been crying in my sleep. The last time I woke up through sparkling lashes, it was just before everything fell apart. Once--on one of these days after the funeral, I stumbled across you sleeping in Uncle Harry’s living room, and when I leaned toward your face to watch you sleep, your mouth hanging open, your cheek squished against the damask of the sofa, I saw these same, small, spiked crystals near your eyes, around your nose, on your chin, stuck in the half-mustache you were growing, then.
There is light streaming in the window, gleaming on the dark, glossy floors. I suspect Molly has opened my hangings; I can hear her singing in the shower.
Dominique and I spent Astronomy in an ironic silence. Neither of us particularly liked being referenced as the twin constellation, though with so many Weasley members running about the place it was almost inevitable to have happened. And it felt nearly scripted. I couldn’t tell her, which was the irony, the reasons, here, especially, she should have been ill to have been called my twin; and would I have told her, would everyone have known?
I spent the early hour wondering whether or not what I’d gotten on this lie was worth it at all--more than Percy’s good standing in the political clouds, which I’ve somehow used as an excuse to keep my own truths hidden--more than that--but the friends I still have, would they be here, would they pair with me, would they pursue me if they knew I’d wanted to die, and almost done it? That I was perhaps the weakest Weasley, that the ice around me was cracking surely, ominously close to melting under the pressure of the last few days?
Would I want them, would I want anyone, if they knew?
Dominique took down our star charts as I gazed through the lens and chanted out coordinates. Professor Arrowhead took leave of us and for a moment all the air rushed out of me and I was alone, considering the sky, considering the cold, distant stars.
And when she returned, and I fell out of orbit, and the warmth of human contact ascended to me again, it was only you, and I think I’d want them still, I think perhaps maybe, if people knew, I’d even need them.
I hear the rustle of a robe sloping around the legs of someone moving quickly. My stomach drops and my right hand is pulsing again. I lift my fingers to my lip and probe the healing skin there.
“Are you still in bed?”
I think so infrequently of the others in this dormitory that I often forget they exist. This is Adeline O’Hara, tall, blond, and well-built from years on the Quidditch pitch. She’s been recruited by the Harpies, and we’ve all made fun of her for doing the “thing” to do, what’s expected of any female who’s done well at sport in Hogwarts, better than her male peers. Wouldn’t it be much more daring, we have trilled under our voices, to join in with Puddlemere, or the Bats?
“Listen,” I croak, my hand flying to my throat. I am losing it, I am falling apart, my seams are probably long since frayed. “I’m sorry about Levicorpus the other day--”
“Shut up, Weasley, and get your ass out of bed,” Adeline shouts, lobbing a pillow at my face. For a moment, my nostrils are pulling on the fabric, but I twist under the sheets and push it off, where it falls to the floor with a thump. It’s full of buckwheat hull, ones they throw to each other in the Ravenclaw changing room to promote upper-arm strength. It’s heavy and uncomfortable and I’m sure it’s bruised my face, already marred with freckles and acne.
“Too bad it didn’t knock those forests off her face.” This is Kitty Spec, Australian transfer, and I gather by her tone she’s the real victim of my enraged spell-work. She refers to my eyebrows, for which I’ve often been targeted--even by the Prophet. Oddly enough, they were also the topic of one of our first conversations--on our second, perhaps our third date. Your own are thin and refined, good for arching in derision, but I don’t think you have an ounce of this in you.
“Mm,” I grunt. “What’d you want me up for?”
“You look too comfortable,” Adeline shouts after a moment from inside her cupboard. “What should I wear, today?” she asks Kitty, turning to her, her voice lowering to an almost pleasant pitch. “Black robe, black robe, or black robe?”
“Hm,” Kitty says. I bury my face in my own pillow without getting up. “I reckon you’re good with ‘black robe.’”
“Do you,” I mutter, but nobody hears me. In a moment, Molly’s shower stops and I hear a small scuffle by the door to the wash cabinet, ending in a yowl; being best mates with Adeline O’Hara has its occupational hazards.
“Up, up, up!” And this is Molly’s voice, and she’s sent a stream of cold water into my hair with her wand, and the sounds I make are hardly human as I propel my body towards her, hands missing her neck by an inch, half of that.
“Really,” Molly says, nursing a bruised elbow in one palm, because Ice is hard upon contact, “you’re glad I got you up or you should have missed this.” With her free hand she gestures around her to the tired N.E.W.T.-level students bent over steaming cauldrons--steaming N.E.W.T.-level students bent over tired cauldrons. Mine contains water but I’m passing it off as Veritaserum until somebody notices, and it’s too early, nobody will notice, nobody will take notice. The events--to come--though it sounds so dramatic, though it sounds so separate to reality, to whatever reality is mine and still resembles sense at all--have so consumed me as to be at odds with what has already happened. And what--has happened? It is death, I suppose, in all its forms: Death, where has your sense of honour gone? Or, no; you have never had it, I think wryly, recalling the Three Brothers.
And I am three parts: spirit, flesh, angst. I laugh out loud and push my hand accidentally into the side of Molly’s cauldron. It wobbles dangerously close to the edge of the table but we each catch it, me cupping a hand over the ridge of it and dipping my fingers into too-light Felix Felicis, Molly cradling the belly in a palm. She pushes it back onto her burner as I pull my hand toward my body. I hold it in front of me. Her hand is unharmed, gloved.
We look at each other.
“What does this mean?” Molly asks in almost a whisper. I inspect the substance, pearly-white and iridescent. Two things: we’re meant to wear gloves (they will not, ironically, fit over my bandages!), and the potion isn’t proper.
After a moment, making a show of hesitation, I croak: “Well, we’ll see, won’t we?”
Molly does not appear to be appeased, but I am wiping the potion off my hand. It has soaked into the bandage there, over the first knuckle of the first finger, one to the left of my deepest wound. Does this mean healing?
When I imagine tomorrow and how we’re going to pass it off and what people think they’re doing--participating in history, creating a legend--and, perhaps it is, breaking into another house’s common room for the first time in Hogwarts’ recorded history, the seventh-year prank exploded, made inappropriate by context--when I imagine it, I can’t help feeling we will need this luck, however diluted, and however muddled with what has come out of my skin.
I look at Molly: is it--? No, it is not right. It will hurt her. It will hurt.
We shuffle into Charms, Gryffindors behind us muttering about how if somebody didn’t know this Flitwick apart from Headmaster Flitwick the possibilities for humour “reached into the stars.”
“I suppose they’d have to stack one on top of the other for ages to do that, and have good balance to boot, plus an unending supply of oxygen--” I say over my shoulder to Willow Azucar, but her eyes roll up to her hairline and she pushes past me, utterly my superior. I turn to Albus and we shrug to each other. Molly punches my arm.
“You should be nicer to people,” she says. Al catches my eye and we shrug to Molly simultaneously, splaying our things over our desk tables dramatically and sitting royally, shooting ill looks to Willow at her seat across the room.
I’ve arranged myself so that from the place Addae might see me, looking over, I am all angles. Is it not obvious, I attempt to broadcast to him mentally, that Hogsmeade is utterly out of the question? That my curiosity has taken up arms? Why, I think, sighing, resting my chin in my hands as Flitwick--nephew of the headmaster--paces the front of the classroom idly, did I ever think this attention was flattering? And what is it he knows, is the true thing, and I cannot know, I cannot think--what I fear he knows is impossible to know, because as much as I have destroyed us, you will never not be good to me, and for your own reasons you cannot say--and Percy--isn’t all I do to cover it up for Percy? For hope of his ascension?
And I think about, as Flitwick tells us to pair up--grabbing Al’s arm intently with my bandaged hand--how much of what I do is for Percy. Is it really--or do I need the letters back, too? Does he need them more than me? Is my secret truly more dangerous to him? Could it be? Or is what I did hell enough, and am I breaking into your dormitory, while the others convert your common room to Ravenclaw colours, to take from you the last permanent, forever thing of our relationship--the last tangible thing--for Percy’s political standing? Is it really because this could ruin him?
And when I get the letters, I can never imagine giving them over to him. I see myself hunched over near your chest of drawers, reading them, perhaps crying, with your things strewn everywhere, though it’s so simple to retrieve the things I want--you won’t have Charmed them, I’ll be able to use Accio--just because I’ve had to muck through it, because maybe I’ve had to bury my hands in your things. I see myself surrounded by your underthings, by your socks and ties and gold and red and the things that matter to you, posters of your father’s political campaigns, dried flower from your mother, the locket my mother gave you on your seventeenth birthday hanging from one of the posts on your bed.
I never see myself parting with what I’ve found there, those letters, which know my pain, which know your hesitance, which have witnessed our failed reconstruction. And how much it hurt, both of us; in all the ways it did; like a knife to the heart, through the flesh, through the bone.
We were more than politics, I think, and then wonder--but it was true. It is true, it is true.
Over lunch, I’m hovering above my plate, squinting into my reflection, which wavers, my forehead blending into the swamp of my hair. I reach up with my free left hand to tuck an errant curl back into the mass of dark red and my fingers have just dived into the hill of scales when a loud crackle and pop distributed across the room by the castle’s barely-used public announcement system distracts me, and I crane my neck up and back, watching the sound waves ripple across the enchanted ceiling, disrupting views of a white, misty sky, and dark clouds.
“Ahem,” a small voice declares. I hear the sound of backs straightening where they sit. It is highly unusual for anyone to utilize Hogwarts’ announcement system, even, now, at Quidditch Matches, when the use of Sonorous is much less complicated and allows for more than one commentator simultaneously.
But the voice doesn’t say anything else. The muffled click of the microphone being set down emanates throughout the Great Hall. For a moment that seems to stretch to the outer walls the Hall is silent; there are no scrapes and shuffles of cutlery over gold, the thumps of goblets and pitchers set down onto the fabric table runners. There is no undulating murmur of idle gossip. This moment passes. I feel my body inhabit this transition even while it’s drifting out--of wherever moments leave. There has been a move away from Magical Theory and Theoretical study as a whole since the war; but I often wonder--should anyone make it through a war without an understanding of it?
As someone says softly, and audibly to the whole of the congregation: “who was that?” and we settle in our seats, I look across the backs of heads, foreheads, of forks lifting to mouths, to your face. The hollows around your eyes are black, and I look down at my plate again, feeling a small pain.
“How do you see them?”
“What?” I ask, spinning around. I am almost startled by the harshness of my voice until I see Addae standing by my shoulder.
“I’m not going to ask you to go into Hogsmeade with me,” he says after a tense moment in which I’m deciding which hand to use to clock the side of his head. My shoulders relax.
“Good,” I say after a moment, my voice cracking over the single syllable. I turn away and pretend that he isn’t still wondering anything. For a small moment I believe he will leave me alone; he seems half-resigned. The hairs on the backs of my arms raise in the cold and I tilt my head. I am curious despite myself. This is an invitation to clarify.
“The Thestrals,” Addae whispers, and clears his throat. “How do you see the Thestrals?”
I breathe out deeply. This is off-topic; he and everyone, everyone knows. This is out-of-order, unallowed, off-limits for a Weasley. We are legend for the death we have sustained and seen. And yet the posture of Addae’s shoulders, slumped in the low light of late afternoon streaming through a stained-glass window on this third-floor corridor where I have hunched, skiving Herbology, suggests a gentle curiosity. I have not, though, gotten so far with so many faux pas under my belt--as it were--following intuition. I smooth my face, settling into a hard stare.
“It’s only--your Mum--sorry--” he stutters. I know what he wants to say. It’s only your Mum was killed in the middle of Muggle London unexpectedly, so that’s two reasons you couldn’t have seen it, two very good reasons, Rose.
Uncle Percy has said the words to me and I, falteringly, have replied, but the note, I told you about the note, and you know of my, well, my curiosity but inability to do anything, and I too late, because I am always too late, I am the eye looking down as the other looks toward, I am the one too late to the party, who has missed the hors d’oeuvres--I at the last second Apparate, at the second, and--
And I--call--to Mum--to Hugo--they look to me, and--from--the other way--
But Addae falters. His question hangs in the air between us and I feel that, almost, I could touch it if I reached out. I do not reach. I remain quiet, I turn my face to the light, and Addae turns around, walking back the way he came.
Would it be too easy? This matters to me. I pause, my quill hovering over the thin parchment. A drop of ink mars the surface, bleeding into the hide. To ask what I mean to--and why didn’t it occur to me earlier?--is to ask for trust. After all of what I have told Percy, I am unsure of whether trust is too much to ask.
My shoulder dips toward the window pane, my hand hovers over the parchment still, and I move my fingers side to side. I question myself. I wonder, not for the first time, if all of this--deceit, lies, dramatics--is worth it. But perhaps we are beyond that now.
Looking out the window to the snow, the sore on my right hand under the bandages smarting, I push my quill to the parchment.
Can’t I just burn them?
I am starting to regret skiving Herbology. Professor Longbottom is the one of all of them who would come to me to inquire and I do not have time for distractions. I am only considering this now, after I’ve done the damage. I have spent the hour standing at the window and now I trip on my robes as I jog to Transfiguration. Molly and Albus turn towards me as I enter the classroom two minutes late, their faces quivering in half-shadow, half-light, as if they have been waiting, turning at every noise, but I do not walk towards them and instead sit at the corner of the classroom in the dark by the damp walls.
Shoes scuff on the ground beside me and I look up, startled, to see Albus standing close to my face. I look closely at the sheen on his spectacles and try to stare through to his eyes but he is squinting largely and pointing away from me. I turn slowly, following his accusation, and know before I see you that he means you. You have your Potions goggles hanging around your neck and your wavy hair is stuck up in the back, a few strands plastered down to your forehead.
“He made up the work you missed in Herbology,” Albus whispers. You almost look at me, but I turn away.
“I’m sure he knows he didn’t have to do that,” I say, but my heart hurts, and Professor Professor has entered the classroom, black robes billowing behind her, cutting out the light coming in through the doorway.
Things are turning quickly to ruin at my hand. I consider going to Defence with Albus and Molly, who are now each hanging on to my bag, as though that can stop me skiving off. Things are quickly turning to ruin. My hand at my side pulses hotly in its dirty wrappings.
“I’m to see Madam Pomfrey,” I mumble, and Albus makes a face before letting go of my bag, reluctantly, his face obscured in dark hair. His shoulders slump and his eyes sit above dark circles. I know that my infidelity to our break-in has caused him stress but we will never get these years back, we will never get the time shed back into our lives. It is beyond recovery. I do not feel sad for him. I do not regret all the wrong things I have done with regards to our break-in. I have started to feel--perhaps--the answer is much simpler--
But this is not how politics work. Sensing something of my determination Molly lets go of my bag, her red hair swirling around her face as we pass an open window. I look up and see Peeves hanging from the end of a flying buttress outside. It begins to snow. I lost sight of you after class ended, and the thought of the look in your eyes as you considered your transfiguration text--wrinkles and a dark circle under the left, and not the right, eye--puts me in a strange mood. I am light, and I feel as though I trip upon the flagstone. I feel as though things could crawl up out of the cracks in the ground.
Once, before we knew each other well, I used to will myself to feel for you. I considered your profile one day realising your presence procured no reaction in me, and wished fervently for the strange visceral twisting I knew to accompany obsession, and wished for them at every thought of you.
I leave Albus and Molly with the crowd of students headed toward Defence. I walk the other way, and pass a stained-glass window and look over my shoulder at the colours it casts on the dark ground. The sun is bright and the snow illuminates the air outside. The ground now is a pattern of blues and reds and deep purples. I look up, further along the passage, and wonder for a moment if that is not the back of your head, the hair sticking up at angles.
My stomach contracts.
Let’s imagine I went to the infirmary as I said I would. I should have shown ancient, creaking Madame Pomfrey my hand without shame, and she, glittering small eyes, should have wished me to show some. It would be a matter of seconds, perhaps; the amount of time it takes to pull a wand out of a pocket, wave it with meaning. The wound, gone, healed, no scar.
I diverge philosophically with the magical healing of wounds. Let’s imagine that I didn’t, and things could be easy. I shed these scars like a skin, and it’s easy, and I float off, to normal life, to a healthy heart, but I wonder, what would happen to you and the scars I have given you, would we be happy.
After I’d convinced myself that loving you was good, at work, James began to watch me out of the corner of his eye while I flipped through and cut out editorials from Muggle fashion magazines, sticking them in books before handing them to the intern for reshelfing.
“Rose,” he’d say, and I’d bolt from the desk, returning minutes later without explaining myself. I knew he knew. I knew he saw me watching the back of your round head in quiet moments, I knew he could tell my quietness was of a different colour when you paid attention to it. I knew he knew I shrank before you in humour and self-importance, that you made me want to be good, that I thought, for you, I would try at something, at anything, to be good, to be somebody you could--
I knew he saw me watch you. That is what I knew.
“Rose,” he said, once, and then grabbed my arm before I could flee the scene.
“Guilty as charged,” I muttered, and he, smiling, let go, and looked smug for the rest of the day.
“James Potter,” I hissed, leaning over the desk toward him after a Wizard wearing a blue Muggle ball gown departed from the store, “I could sock you.”
“Well, Scorpius could k-i-s-s you,” he said quietly, and I was so surprised that I fell quiet. I tried not to look behind me; I could see you anyway in the dusty light, the back of your stupid head. I felt ashamed for wanting to ask, James, is there any substance to your prodding, what do you know, do I want to know it too--or, no, I thought. Things will continue this way. Things are good. I think of you; you are angelic, you are transcendent, a complete. The world works like this: I move closer, and you dissipate, or change. No; I will stay, think of you often, smile at your smiles behind you, out of sight. I will not even look you in the eyes. There is something sacred about a true connection. I will not sully you. This is a promise I made to myself.
But I could not keep away. You moved, ten feet off, even the smallest inch, and I mirrored you, and felt near to you. I despaired at our differences and delighted in them: there is always hope that one could complete the other. In my particular case it was the hope that you could complete me. I could tell things about you, that you were good. You were straight-faced to customers but tender and smiling in your private moments. Yes, I intruded. And I was not penitent. I savoured intrusion for what it lent me; I savoured quiet information. I considered the idea that what I learnt was false, that you were impervious to my admiring inquisition. But I did not yield to this and persisted in my efforts. To myself and then, all of a sudden, to Molly, I considered you a project and a challenge. Can a human being perceive the angel? The fairy, the daylight legend?
“Imagine him with wings,” Molly tittered at the Hogs Head over an illegal firewhisky. Her father’s absence from her life since he had begun an intentionally polite and firm touting-trip across Wizarding Britain for his nomination to M.F.M. candidate had touched her deeply. She “took to drink” because it was the thing to do. I supported her efforts to be glad.
“Iridescent,” I said, and quieted as James walked into the pub, the door closing loudly behind him. An old warlock in a turban turned and scowled at the noise, holding a hand to his left ear. James paid him no attention and bee-lined to our table.
“What’s up, bitches,” he said, and Molly, fingering the edge of her tumbler, stared into the whisky at her reflection dourly, her mood taking a turn.
“Dude-bitch,” I said to him. He winced. The term offended his sensibilities.
“Try to guess who just talked to me,” he said, grinning brightly, but with a small look at my face that suggested you were involved, and his motive for visiting at all. In the summer, Weasley Wednesday dwindles to a weekly binge-fest at a rotating roster of pubs and bars, but the Hogs Head is our choicest watering hole. Here Molly can buy three rounds of F.W. for a mere seven sickles. Which is, she tells me, a bangin’ bargain.
“Great Great Aunt Muriel,” Molly said, looking severe. Light lit up one of her hazel eyes and shadow obscured the other side of her face. I stared at James, who refused to confirm. My heart began to beat quickly. I brushed hair out of my face for something to do with my hands.
This was mid-July. My obsession had reached a fever-pitch. Obsession is truth. It is not an attempt to augment your understanding, it is simple truth. I was obsessed with you. I sometimes wonder--though it might be best not to say. Or is it still obvious?
“Mister Draco Malfoy,” James whispered. Molly appeared not to hear. She stared at me quietly, her face softening gently, not for James’s words, but for something in my face, something I could feel nearing desperate worry, tears pushing up at my throat. My lips quivered. I attempted to smooth my face.
“And--” I began, but this was a game for James--who has never learnt, there is a sacredness to the heart’s affections, something unapproachable to the white light of obsessive love--and so I stopped mid-crescendo.
The next week, when I returned to work, James was quiet. He knew he had hurt me. We had said nothing more. He did not understand and it hurt him, too, my sensitivity where in his mind, sensitivity had no place. This was simple to him: feelings are a catalyst for action. He did not know that to me feelings were the it and end, the culmination of any wandering notions of attractiveness. This was the end, this was how far it had only ever gone. This was the standard.
“Rosebud,” he said quietly, a day you did not show up to work due to sickness and I, too, sick with worry and grief for the day’s ruined imaginings in your presence, lingered near your desk. I admit, I leaned towards the chair you sat in nearly daily and inspected it for signs of your presence--or were you all a dream? Had I made you up? I knew I could have not made you up because in me there was no such goodness from whence you could have come. This was the excuse to look for hair, or other marks. I do not know what I wanted to find.
“Rosebud, what are you doing,” James said again. I was startled by his sadness, and turned from your desk. James, tentatively, held out a hand to me and I impulsively reached back to him. A childhood game, meaningless but ingrained. He stretched his fingers out, like the cat’s paw when it yawns or is pet across the back lying down. I put my palm on his.
“I’m sorry,” he said and I knew he did not know what he was sorry for, so I smiled.
“I’m sorry, too,” I said, and I did not know if it was for him or for me.
“Listen,” James said, and without wanting to I turned away, showed him my profile, how little I cared. “Malfoy was only saying that he thought Scorpius might benefit from friendship in other departments. And, you know, there’s only you and me and Stewart--” there was a rustle and crash as books fell down in the protected collection, where Stewart Davies was shelving the fanged volumes. A small squawk floated up to our desk. James looked at me critically. I shrugged my shoulders and smiled, grateful for Stewart’s misfortune.
“How would we arrange it?” I asked, relenting under my cousin’s gaze, melting just a little. My shoulders slumped into dramatic arch, and I nearly sighed. “Hello, want to be friends?”
“A bit plain, but it’s a start,” James said. Light filtered in through the windows and landed on his face, lighting his dark eyes, crinkled at the edges. I let him see my surprise.
a/n: "sacredness to the heart's affections" is a permutation of a line from the love letters of John Keats. He reports a holiness instead of sacredness.
p.s. "Professor Professor" was originally a typo but TenthWeasley dared me to keep it so I did. I'll change it later tho, yo.
Thank you eternally to peppersweet and GubraithianFire for their support on this fic. Also thank you to my ever-constant friends and mentors justonemorefic, Toujours Padfoot, and TenthWeasley, for putting up with my angst and moodiness as I work my way through planning and writing and real-life FEELS. ♥
also, I haven't edited this yet for spelling or punctuation. I think after I post all the chapters I'll go through and really cleanse it out and work it into something vaguely cohesive. PLEASE let me know if there is confusion with questions I've raised and have yet to answer. I've got this huge word document full of words and it's hard to figure out what I've said and what I haven't yet...which is a failure on my part, so reviews help mucho. Thank you!!
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