Chapter 1 : Prologue
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She stands upon the edge of the cliff, the wind blowing around her so violently that it causes her dark blonde hair to whip her face, as if punishing her for the mistakes she has made. Behind her stands her boyfriend; with his dark brown hair and tearful eyes, he stares at her expectantly, as if she has all the answers when she does not. She knows that he is probably worried that she might launch herself off the cliff’s edge, and even though she can guarantee that she never will, a small part of her is determined not to confess that fact. If he is emotionally tormented by her suspected suicidal tendencies, he deserves it: the grief and suffering that she is experiencing is much more substantial. It is why she finds it exhilarating being so precariously close to the edge, knowing that a particularly strong gust of wind could easily send her off balance and over the bottom of the seeming endless chasm. It is her only source of adrenaline, after all, the only thing these days that sends the blood coursing through her veins and her heart to beat frantically.
Most importantly of all, it reminds her that she is alive.
These days, she never feels like she is living and breathing, despite the fact that her body’s continued existence is proof that she is not yet a corpse. These days, her life is cold and grey and empty — and worst of all is the knowledge that she has brought it all upon herself. Her sister, still so young and innocent at only fifteen, is quick to insist that she hasn’t. Poor little sweet thing, repeating the age-old excuse of everyone makes mistakes. And yet every time she looks into her mother’s eyes, identical to her own in shape, but not the colour, she sees only disappointment and lost dreams of a wonderful future. Every time she summons enough of her Gryffindor courage to leave the house, she can see strangers whispering to each other and making snide comments about the baby bump that is now impossible for her to conceal. A few of those people — in particular, the old pure-blood families who hate the new society her parents’ generation fought to establish — laugh outright. How can her baby be a mistake, when none of those countless people conceived a child while still in school?
She is seventeen years old and pregnant. She is the daughter of people who fought in the Second Wizarding War; a descendant of a family of heroes who were held in high esteem by the rest of the world until her actions tarnished that glorious reputation with one little pink line all those months ago.
She is a Weasley, and yet she has disappointed them all.
“Victoire, please. Come back,” she hears her boyfriend say, but she doesn’t want to turn to look at him. Just looking at him reminds her of the situation that they have found themselves in; even a glimpse makes her wonder whether their child will look like her, or inherit his Metamorphagus abilities, and those are dangerous thoughts to have. He has played his part in this unfathomable destruction of her life, but unlike her, he has the ability to walk away and never look back, and she hates him for that.
Nobody has criticized his sheer idiocy for impregnating his girlfriend, even though they call her a slut for falling pregnant by accident, despite the fact he is her first and only lover to date. Employers have never taken one look at him and refused him a job because he is a father, whereas they raise their eyebrows at her and ask if she is sure her childcare costs wouldn’t exceed her potential wages.
The world does not judge Teddy for being a father, but they are willing to put all the blame on Victoire.
At first, she had sneered at her critics, convinced that her business is none of their concern. She had learned the hard way just how much of a privilege even being considered for a job is, when she is a pregnant teenager who never completed her education. She is supposed to bend over backwards — metaphorically, of course, considering that her current condition makes that physically impossible — for the things she so desperately wants and needs: a job of some sort, the opportunity to take her NEWTs at the Ministry after her child’s birth, the ability to live her life without being looked down upon by other people who consider themselves far superior to her. And Teddy? What does the world demand of him as proof of his shame, as redemption for his error?
Abso-bloody-lutely nothing at all.
Everybody loves him, and everybody hates her. She considers it unfair; like the well-known phrase that falls from so many lips without the speakers conciously realizing the meaning: it takes two to tango. Just like it takes two to make a baby, it takes two to dance and yet when they have taken their final bow, it is Teddy who receives the applause and congratulations while Victoire is left facing the harsh critics of the world, begging upon her knees for even the smallest kind word. Their mistake is theirs to share, and while she is willing to accept half of the responsibility, she cannot understand while the entire blame is being heaped upon her shoulders.
“No,” she whispers, but when the wind steals the sound of her voice away, she repeats the word in a much more determined tone. “No, Teddy.”
“Please,” Teddy sighs. “Let me take you home. You need to rest.”
It is a ironic phrase for him to use, and she cannot restrain the mocking laughter that is her instinctive response. Rest? After all that has been said and done, she is supposed to pretend that nothing has happened and go home like a meek little girl? And where even is her home? Her precious Shell Cottage just down the hill, where her parents brought all three of their children up? That isn’t her home, not any more. It is a courtroom where her mother and father are judge and jury, and her bedroom has become her prison cell. Once upon a time, the walls were plastered with posters of boybands and Celestina Warbeck, and photographs of laughing, smiling schoolgirls. Now, none of those teenage mementos remain; the posters have been replaced with articles on motherhood and the pictures have been replaced with empty photo frames, waiting for her child’s smiling face to occupy them. Her bedroom is nothing more than a painful reminder of how much her life has changed — of how her best friends no longer speak to her, of how she ought to be surrounded by books in the school library and screeching loudly about the stress of her upcoming NEWTs.
Dominique has not told her what her former schoolfriends say about her, but Victoire has sneaked glimpses at her diary and seen Dom’s tears on the subject: read the rumours that she had conceived her child while drunk at some party in the common room, or that the baby is the child of some faceless, forgettable fellow student and not Teddy’s. All untrue, of course, but it does not change the fact that her sister’s tears drench the pages of her diary — and all because of the fact that she made love.
How had it turned to hell?
Author's Note: Welcome to the revamped version of Just Seventeen, which I've expanded upon. This novella will now have fifteen chapters -- of which eight and a half have already been written -- inclusive of the prologue and epilogue, since it ended up being longer than I'd originally planned for it to be. Please do let me know what you think! :) And, as always, thank you to my beta-reader teh tarik for beta'ing J17 and for nominating it for a TGS award (thanks to all the people who voted for it too!) which it won. Nicole, you're fabulous. ♥
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