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In the Distance of Bravery by Sunflower
Chapter 5 : 5
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 6


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A/N: There's only one thing I'll say before I leave you to read: I’m sorry. It’s been way too long. I've been backpacking across Africa with no internet...

I don’t know it anybody reads this anymore, but if you do, thank you.




CHAPTER FIVE
INTO THE LION'S DEN

--

IMAGE CREDITS inspector.@tda
--
And in the middle of the night I may watch you go
There'll be no value in the strength of walls that I'll have grown
There'll be no comfort in the shade of the shadows thrown.


- Mumford and Sons, Lover of the Light

--

Lucy aged 17, Ted 20.

 
The blank metal jiggles against the hardwood floor, spinning wildly in circles. My hand remains outstretched for a few seconds more, helplessly grasping at thin air like a fish on land, gasping for air. I stare at the badge, my throat bobbing up and down, off beat. The panic is slow but certain as I listen to the sounds of the garden, of my mother mingling among the guests, making inane chitchat over shortbread and coffee. My fingers tremble.

I pick up the badge. The skirt of my dress ruffles loudly as I bend over, the layers sliding against each other. Those simple words seem to glare out at me from this small, old scrap of metal, swaddling me in expectations. I never imagined that a piece of metal would be what I’d be held accounted to. It's Molly's. Not mine. The owls arrived today, none bearing the ever-important scrap of metal.

I let it drop to the floor again.  

It rolls away from me and under the desk in the far corner of my room. I’ll pick it up later. Because right now I can barely look at it for contempt.

Across the room there’s a kaleidoscope patchwork of postcards from all over the world. I try not to stare, but my eyes are inevitably drawn to his bulky scrawl. I scan the pictures of scenic landscapes with banana trees and tall buildings, dodging his smile with well-practiced ease.  

Twelve months is nothing.

I repeat the sentence again and again, willing myself to believe it. Now, with the months standing on end behind me, it seems quite plausible, yet I can barely remember what his voice sounds like anymore. It’s summer again and I haven’t seen Ted for a year.

He told me he’d come back for me.  

I try not to, but my eyes are already burning with tears.

There are moments when I hate how unconditionally I trust him. How I trust him to fix everything in my life. I wish I’d be able to erase his words from my mind and never look back. But as it is, I’m waiting for a guy who’ll probably never return.    

I wouldn’t return.

I can barely remember his voice, but the image of his face two centimeters from mine is still burnt into my mind. I can remember the soft push of his lips against mine, that tiny sliver of space he leaves between us. That tightening in his eyes when he looks at me. It makes me brave. It makes me believe that there is a future in this for us, after all.

The gleam of silver flickers in the mirror as I pass it. I let a hand rest on the oval medallion resting between my breasts. The Saint Christopher looks out of place on my body. He'd asked me to watch it for him. It hasn't left my neck since he left.

"Here."

The small chain slips easily over my head. He presses it tightly against the curve of my chest, his eyes tight. I place a hand over his.

"Ted -" I start but he cuts me off, his voice gruff.

"Keep it safe, will you? It'll get lost otherwise."

He intertwines our fingers as they rest there on my chest. I meet his soft eyes. There are words here that I could say but he just kissed me last night and now, with the sun rising, it's time for him to leave.

He's spent the entire night telling me everything. Vic, his feelings for me, what he wants for the future. Out of all the things that's real simple.

Us. Happiness.

"I keep regretting not having done this before. I should have done this ages ago. We could have had
years -"

Somehow I've missed this part of him. The soft pucker of his lips and the tinted rose along his cheeks. My chest constricts painfully as I start to understand the significance of this. His eyes soften and he brushes a finger across my lower lip.

"Don't look at me like that."

"Like what?"

"Like this is the end - it's not the end."

He presses his lips against my forehead, hard. As if he wants to leave a piece of him here, with me. I close my eyes and press my toes tightly to the ground, willing myself to remember everything. His skin, his hands and lips on mine, the dawn rising over us and the smell of the woods in the air.

I taste salty tears when I kiss him again, one last time.

He kisses the inside of my wrist, one last touch at the medallion.

"For safekeeping."


The door opens and closes behind me as I stare into the mirror.

"Lucy."

The sheer relief in seeing him doesn’t hit me right away. Instead, I’m just left to stand and stare at him through the reflection. He’s taller than I remember.

And he’s bald.

“Your hair –“

My voice breaks and I whip around, facing him, unable to bear this; to bear the change in him. It’s even worse looking straight at him.

Ted runs a hand across the smooth surface.

“A bet,” he explains, grinning.

I don’t smile, my stomach churning. His skin is brown and there are freckles spattered across his nose, arms and legs.

He is gut-wrenching beautiful.  

We stare at each other from across the room for a very long time. He’s grinning largely at me. After a while I can’t take the silence anymore and I turn back around to meddle with some stray bottles and jars. I shift them around on the cupboard, my trembling fingers slipping on the blank surfaces. Their clutter is the only sound in the room.

This wasn’t how I envisioned our meeting would go. Not at all.  

“What are you doing here?”

I chance a glance up at his face, my heart in my throat. Finally, his grin seems to falter.

“I said I’d come back for you.”

My fingers hover on the bottles for a moment, nervous. “That you did.”

“I’m here now.”

He shifts behind me and suddenly he’s stepping closer. Just like always in his presence my heart picks up again, its beat stronger than it’s been for a year. Badum badadum. I swallow thickly, turning around again to face him.

“You are.”

I’m surprised to find him centimetres from me. I involuntarily shrink back against the table, my lips parted without air. His face still looks the same this close from me, I find, and it’s impossible to breathe now.  

“Did… Did something happen while I was gone?” Ted asks slowly, looking down.

I stare at him. “Did what happen?”

And suddenly, he won’t meet my eyes. He looks abashed, a small red blush tinting his cheeks and neck.

“Did you… DidyoufindablokewhileIwasaway?”  

He says it in one breath; I barely catch a word.

“Sorry?”  

He refuses to meet my eyes. “Did you… find… someone else?”

My smile is slow, timid. “No.”  

The joy in his face is unmistakable and I watch as he smiles wide, wide, all teeth and dimples. He’s radiating. My heart stutters.

Without thinking, my hand reaches up to touch his cheek. He's quite real. He leans into my touch, his eyes fluttering closed.

My boy is beautiful.

“You came back.” My fingers tremble. He catches my hand, clasping it tightly in his grasp.

“Told you I’d come back for you.” His voice is gruff with emotions, I recognize the sadness as well as the urgency lacing his tone, feeling it reverberate in myself.  

I nod speechless, watching his face, mesmerized. He smiles that soft smile, his mouth dips and he steals a taste, lost against the arch of my shoulder and pulls me closer. The thrill tingles along my spine and I press my chin against the curve of his neck, breathing.  He smells of the woods, spice and just Ted.

He leans in for the briefest moment, staring at my lips. I have just enough time to remember how he’s the first and last person to kiss me before his lips are on mine again.

We walk downstairs hand-in-hand. I catch Andromeda's smile amidst the gaping crowd. Ted brushes his lips across the back of my hand. We catch each other's eyes.

Oh, what a story we’ll have.  

--


“Just about fried, yeah? But with that soft centre of yummy goodness.”

“Jeeesh, Scorpius. You’d think you were ordering a steak and not eggs the sunny side up.”

I empty my cup of coffee in a single drag, questioning idly why I thought this was a good idea.
“I see someone’s having a crappy morning. Who drank your magic potion, Cinderella?”

I bury my head in my arms. “Just. Shut up. You know I’m not a morning-person.”  

He tried to talk to me about Ted yesterday, even sat on my bed and tried to braid my hair. I managed to curveball him, but only barely. Now he’s eyeing me like a prey stalking its victim.  

“Fine.” Scorpius raises an eyebrow at me, placing his hands on the flowery apron he’s put on. “Eat your porridge and I swear you’ll start hearing the birds chirp.” He pauses for a second, cupping his ear. “Yup. It’s started. Today is going to be epic. ”

I bury my head further.

“There you go.” With a flourish, Scorpius sets a steaming plate in front of me. “Porridge straight from the stove, filled with yummy love. And look,” he sprinkled something over it. “We even added cinnamon! Now that’s a great breakfast. Nutritious, too.”

I pull the plate towards me silently and begin shovelling in.

The oil sizzles on the pan and the egg skirts about from side to side. Clementine’s mouth is crooked, a small hum escaping her even in her current state-of-mind. She never could resist cooking.

“That’s brilliant,” Scorpius gushes, receiving a somewhat well-earned scowl from Clem, stating that this, is all for me.  

“Thank you, Clem.” I raise my head from food.

Clem smiles somewhat strained at me before sliding the eggs onto Scorpius’s plate. The eggs have barely touched the porcelain before it’s out of her hands.

“Thanks.” Scorpius sits down at the table, picking up knife and fork for eggs on toast.  

I roll my eyes.  

“What?”

“Just. You. Eating eggs and toast with a knife and fork.”

He rolls his eyes but says nothing more. I return to my porridge. It’s soggy and just… yuck.

“It’s alright, you know.”

I glance up. “What’s alright?”

“It’s okay to not be okay about this.” He wiggles a forkful of eggs at me. “Nobody wants to be forgotten.”  

“S’fine.” I return to dig into my porridge. “Besides, it’s not like…”

“Not like what?”  

I glance at him, swallowing, suddenly finding it hard to look at him.

“I haven’t been forgotten.”

--


We eat in silence from then on. The tablecloth hasn’t been set so I watch the marks on the ancient table. There is the spot from Ted and mine attempts at making potion when I was nine, which I cannot quite look away from. Another one teases me from the corner of my eye, this time from trying to cook spaghetti. I dig my nails into the wood and it is as if I can feel it breathe, remember, remember.

I can hear Clem bustling with her plants in the other room, murmuring soothing words under her breath. It’s funny how something once familiar can feel so alien. I wish she’d walk right in and hug me and never let go, I wish she’d leave and never return, I want to seek shelter in the soft cocoon of her embrace and wait until there is nothing left but me, her and this house.

The doorbell rings.

I get up to answer the door, seeing as Scorpius is still nurturing his love affair with his eggs.

LUCILLE!”  

Oh, sweet lord in heaven.

“Er. Pippa –“

Pippa Montjoy is standing outside my haven looking way too chipper for nine o'clock in the morning. And she’s wearing mint-green spandex. And pink legwarmers.  

“Oh, jolly good.” Pippa claps her hands together. “I know it’s early, but I was just too excited to sleep, so I thought I’d pop in after meh morning-jog –“

I stop listening after "morning jog", because really, who is this woman?

Morning-jog?” I eye her flawless makeup and hair doubtfully.

“Haha! Funny! Oh, I can’t wait for us to become best friends.” Pippa laughs like I said something witty, slapping a hand on her way too skinny thigh. I swear, there's not an inch of fat there. Dammit.

“Can I come in?” She asks, trying to peek behind me. I block the doorway, unsuccessfully.

“We – um. Ahem. Well. We’re a bit busy, you see? Clem wanted us to fix the boiler…? Painting needs to be done… Plants… Weed…”

I begin listing things off the top of my head, which apparently seems to work - that is until Scorpius appears behind me like a dementor sneaks up on you, wearing his flowery apron and a pan with eggs and bacon.

“Bacon?”  

Yeah.

Pippa smile widens, if possible, even further.

Which is how I find myself sandwiched between Chip and Chap, who have now commenced on another fascinating topic... Colour schemed.

“So I was thinking coral, but then I thought who would want coral when they could have fuchsia! But then I saw this article in Witch Weekly about how Razzmatazz is the new Gamboge –“

I wrote that article!” Scorpius squeals, “and I so agree. You can never go wrong with razzmatazz…”

I stare perturbed at the pair through the thick steams of coffee emerging from the mug under my nose, not quite recognizing my friend anymore. They’ve been going on and on about the wedding ever since Pippa sat down at the table and frankly, it sounds like Troll to me.
                       
“It’s such a hard decision, though. They’re just so different.” Pippa shakes her little blonde head, distraught.

Scorpius nods sympathetically. “It’s crucial to choose the right colour-schemes early on, honey, and frankly you have a lot to figure out.”

I roll my eyes. Scorpius doesn't know a thing about decorating. His apartment consists of a bed, a raggy old couch and a painting his mother bought for him for his birthday.

Pippa nods solemnly, put out for the tenth of a second before she rights herself.

Anyways,” She turns to face me. “Since you’ve got the special honour of being one of my special little helpers -” she laughs, the sound tinkling and sugar sweet. “I am hereby inviting you to the dress fitting and of course, my last night as a single lady! Most of my friends are still in Scotland, so it really means a lot to me that you’ll come. Ted’s best friend, gosh. Here -”  

She flips through a large pink planner furiously before pulling out a large pink envelope and pushing it towards me. There are lilies on it.

“This is the invite to the hen night. The dress fitting is the day after tomorrow at ten. I’ve already called the dress fitter and she’ll have your dress ready by then. Tomorrow, we’re going to the salon and you’re so very much invited. It’ll be just jolly.

Oh, Sugar Muffin, I’d rather get my nails ripped out one by one.

Pippa reaches over and takes my hand in hers like it’s nothing. Her hand is tiny in my large one and she’s got a pink manicure and long, feminine nails. I eye them enviously, thinking of my own chapped baby nails. I bet they’re her natural ones, too.

“Oh, Lucille, I just know we’ll just be great pals – I know it! Don’t you feel it?”

Yes, dear, I feel a sudden urge to throttle you and shave off your blonde wig. But sure.   

I nod reluctantly. Pippa beams even larger and begins eating her breakfast. I turn to Scorpius.

Scorpius –“ I wheeze through my teeth, elbowing him in the side.

“What?” He looks up from the magazines, seemingly for the first time noticing my face. I gesture wildly towards Pippa who is happily munching on her bacon and eggs.

“Oh.” He shrugs and smiles wickedly, “The girl better look presentable. It’s not often a fellow Scotsman gets married off to an English bloke.”

“You’re. Not. Scottish! You’re from Southampton, you idiot.“

He waves me off. “Potato, Potaato. My great-grandfather was a Scot, so that makes me a Scot, too!”

I glare at him. This is his revenge for me not telling him anything. I just know it. I lift the envelope up, running a hand across the thick floral design. Lucille is written in swirly letters across the front with a small heart dotted above the i.

I look up. “Pippa, I…”

“I’ll see you at ten tomorrow, then.” She smiles warmly, getting up from the table. “Thanks for the breakfast, it was divine.”

So swiftly that I have no time to react, she bends down to kiss me on each cheek, before disapparating with a small pop.

I stare at the spot from where she disappeared for a long time, the invitation clutched tightly in my grip. My previous anger at her has disappeared and in its wake it’s left nothing but numbness. I count my breaths one by one, letting it pass my lips slowly.  

Scorpius leaves the table to clean up and I see that Pippa’s left something behind after all.

She’s forgotten her planner.

--



We dress in silence.  

I’m still bitter about the Pippa-incident, and Scorpius is still furious that I won’t reveal the details of Ted and I.

Damn gossip-journalist.

I pull on a tight business skirt and flatten my hair. I smile at my reflection when I put eyeliner on. I look like myself. There’s a comfort in wearing this while so far away from home. It’s as if they can’t quite touch me when I’m wearing this. I feel invincible. 

“I am a strong, independent woman,” I tell my reflection. She smiles back at me, comforting.

That feeling?

That feeling lasts about all of five minutes until we arrive at my childhood home.

Scorpius refuses to take the bikes, so we have to floo instead. He’s in one of his moods today, and I’m more than just a bit nervous about going back to the hornet’s nest. I’m taking him on a tour around town and he’s insisted on seeing my home.  

“I don’t get why you still won’t take that damn apparition-test. Can’t see why I even bother…”

He's not very appreciative about it, either.

“I’ll go first,” I tell him briskly, stepping into the flames before he has a chance to utter another word. Of course, I catch our fireplace just a second too late and stumble out of the mantelpiece, spluttering ashes and dirt.

“Easy there.” Hands steady me as I wobble out of the ashes.  

“I see the capital hasn’t changed your clumsiness, then.”

My heart stops at the sound of his voice.  

“You’re one to talk,” I force out, disentangling myself from his hands. “We can always hear you coming for miles. Good thing you passed the Auror Test with flying colours in everything else but Stealth and Tackle or they’d have chucked you out a long time ago, Ted.”

I dust myself off and finally meet his penetrating gaze. His face still shatters my heart, even when I thought there weren’t any more pieces for him to shatter.

“You always knew how to make an entrance.” He smiles and eyes my skirt, touching a hand to my short locks briefly.  

“You look… different,” he says it like it’s a bad thing, distaste clear in the curve of his frown.

“Is that bad?”

“I don’t know yet. I’ll let you know when I figure it out.”  

I look into his eyes. They’re blue today. I wonder what that means. Maybe he’s sad? Or maybe he just wants to match Pippa. He reaches out to touch my arm.

“Lucy, there's something I've got to –“

And in true Scorpius-fashion, Scorpius chooses this exact moment to floo in and emerge from the fire with a flourish. “No need to miss me already, hon. I’m here! Oh - ”  

Scorpius looks back and forth between the two of us, clearly taking measure of the situation.


- Aaand the moment’s over. Ted’s hand falls limply from my arm.  

Teddy!” Scorpius beams in an overzealous voice. Slightly late.

I cringe. Only Scorpius can manage to go from grumpy to flat-out creepy in two seconds-flat.

“Um. Hi.” Ted waves awkwardly. He turns to me again. “I’ve gotta get going. There’s work to be done.”  

He smiles apologetically. I nod silently as we stare at each other for a moment. He’s gone the next, storming out the door.

Scorpius turns to look at me. “What was that about? Angst much?”  

I ignore him. “Let’s just get on with this and get the damn information and interviews.”  

--

Lucy aged 17, Ted 20.


“Are you sure you’re ready for this?”  

No. I stare at my reflection, refusing her eyes. “Yeah. I’m… I’m good.”

Mum stands in the doorway for some time, watching me but I ignore her. She’s worried. As she should be. If I were her I’d be worried, too, yet I don’t know what to tell her or say. There doesn’t seem anything worth saying anymore.  

The black dress stands in stark contrast to my white skin and it seems to glow in the morning sun. It’s my mother’s old dress. I didn’t realize until now that not owning a black dress could somehow prove problematic. I can hear the church-bells ringing in the distance, the sound clear through the open window.

It still feels unreal.

I slip on the Turkish necklace Ted gave me for my seventeenth birthday. It’s a small blue eye crafted by hand. Somehow it brings me comfort, and I clutch it tightly, hoping it’ll anchor me today. I’ll need it.

The church-bells take on another tone, louder this time, forcing me to leave.  

*


The first thing I notice when I step downstairs is Clem.  

She’s tucked into the curve of Darren’s neck, sobbing loudly. Her sobs are the only sound in the otherwise crowded room. I didn’t think it was possible for an entire assemble to be this quiet before. Now I know better.

It’s heart-breaking to watch the old woman shred to pieces between our arms. Darren strokes her back, murmuring soothingly as tears stream down her face, but to no avail. I meet his tired eyes across her head as a silent conversation passes between us.

A hand slips into mine. I look up to see Dom smile at me reassuringly, her eyes sad. Her face is bare, no traces of make-up and her beautiful hair's been scraped back in a tight knot. She doesn’t say anything and we don’t talk, nor do we need to. I avoid her eyes, refusing to meet her sadness with my own – it’ll be my breaking point.  

“Ted?” I ask her quietly. She just shakes her head.

All around us a black mass of stony faces face us. I only recognize about half and it angers me. Why should they come now if they never even had the time to see her when she was still living? 

Dom slips her other hand into Darren’s when we press into the corner. I don’t say anything and divert my eyes from their clasped hands. I know, and have been suspecting it for a while, but like many things now is not the time.

I meet Darren’s steel gaze. He’s calm, a polar opposite to the heaving woman in his arms. Someone braided her hair and put her in a simple long-sleeved black dress. It’s probably Darren. His dad died when he was eight and he’s the oldest of a bunch of brothers, so he’s used to this. Used to sadness. Used to fixing things.

I scan the crowd again, unease churning in my stomach. Where is he?

Trying to swallow the anxiety, I crouch down to meet Clem’s red-rimmed eyes.

“Hey Clemsie-baby,” I hum, wiping a thumb across her cheeks to catch the tears. Instantly, fresh tears roll down. Clem blinks at me, sniffling, but says nothing more.   

I try to push the pain away from my mind as I look into Clem’s eyes. It doesn’t matter how I feel right now, all there is left are Clem and Ted. That’s all there is to this day. My heart clenches brutally as I remind myself of this repeatedly, staring into Clem’s broken eyes. Andromeda took care of her sister before, and now there’s no one left to take care of the disabled sister. Except for Ted.  

“Clem, baby, we need to be strong today, yeah?” I stroke a soothing finger across her cheekbone. “I need you to come with me to the service, can you do that?”

Clem shakes her head, burying her head further in Darren’s shirt. I meet Darren’s eyes. He shakes his head.

“I’ve been trying all morning.”

I stroke a few loose strands away from her face, trying to coax her out with sweet words. Clem doesn’t budge. People are beginning to file into the garden where the service is to be hold, the soft melody of a hymn spreading through the air.  

“Where is he?” I hiss.

“He’s coming,” Darren says, a false conviction lacing his tone. “He has to. It’s Andy’s funeral.” 

We’re all silent, quietly thinking of the consequences if he doesn’t show. What we’ll do. How we’ll do it. It’s never struck me until now how much we need Ted.

“Clem…” I breathe, blinking back tears. “I know it’s hard, honey, but we really need to go to the service now.”

Andromeda’s sister shakes her head viciously, her sobs rising in volume. I inch closer, a sob breaking my own voice despite my efforts. I blink rapidly, my hand wedging under hers.   

“Clem –“

“Clementine Black.”

Clem’s head whips up at the sound of his voice, her sobs halting momentarily. Ted’s standing in the doorway, looking rough for wear.

“Ted,” I breathe, the relief hot in my stomach. My legs give out for a second, and I topple onto the ground.

Ted doesn’t acknowledge us at all, but crouches in front of Clem’s face, taking my spot. She is no longer crying, but watching his face intently, her eyes calmer already. The shadow of a beard covers his jaw and neck and there are near-purple shadows underneath his eyes.  It looks like he’s been up all night. His eyes are a deep-set, never-ending brown. As he leans closer, a distinct stale smell billows through the air.

Dom wrinkles her nose. “Have you been drinking?”

He ignores her, caressing Clem’s face.

“Clementine, we need to go now.”

The two stare each other down for what seems like ages in a silent conversation. Slowly, Clem lifts her head from Darren’s chest. She sits up, wiping her nose with her sleeve despite Dom’s reprimands, (“Urgh, Clem – no, not the sleeve…”), and takes his hand,

Together, they walk to the garden, leaving the three of us behind. I try not to think of it, but a selfish thought enters my mind. He didn’t even look at me once.

I blink back the tears, finally able to let my own feelings out. They come rushing over me, nearly swallowing me whole. It’s Dom’s tugging that forces me to get up and move, my head suddenly empty and heavy. Dom and Darren say nothing as we walk in silence to Andromeda Tonk’s funeral service. Dom’s hold on my hand tightens for a fraction of a second as the first tear slips down my chin, her chin held high.  

I’ve never realized how strong Dominique is, until now.

--
 

Molly’s in the living room with her youngest. She eyes us warily as we enter the room, but does not greet us. She doesn’t look surprised to see us, though.

Lucas sees me and zooms out between his mother’s legs to run at me. I pick him up, smiling. “Hi there, little guy.” 

“You just missed Dominique,” Molly tells me indifferently.

I look up sharply. “What, were you holding a meeting here or what?”  

Her eyes don’t waver. “That’s really none of your business, Lucy. You quit this family a long time ago.”

Anger surges through me, hot and boiling. I put Lucas down again in an effort to calm myself. “Whatever. I just came here to get some clothes from my room.”
 
“Then go. You know where it is.”

We stare each other down for a long time before I look away. “Fine. Scorpius, meet Molly. Molly, Scorpius. You’re both obnoxious, self-righteous people, you should get along fine. Enjoy.”

I leave the room swiftly, trusting Scorpius to snoop around. I just... can't.

--


The yellow of my room is sharp on my eyes when I first enter it. There are flowers everywhere, stretching far up to the ceiling. They curl around windows and photographs, morphing into one as they reach towards the inked sky.

I close the door behind me. Pictures of Dom, James and Ted adorn every wall.  I brace myself against the door, breathing in deeply. The ghosts of us are running wild in here. Their voices are a dull hum in my ears as I step into the room, breathing.

I sift through clothes, trying to find something that can fit this new person. On my mirror, a small ring dangles in a chain. I stuff it between two jerseys, slamming the drawer shut. I’ve just closed it when Scorpius enters the room.

“Oh, thank Merlin, it’s you.” He sighs as he sees me.

“Was it bad?”

He falls onto my bed, groaning.

“Your family is such a joyful bunch,” he says into a pillow.  “I met your mum…  Came after me with a pair of scissors. Thought I’d look tons better without my ponytail. Your sister threatened to blind me with a spell when I spoke to Lucas, and your dad showed me his arsenal of weapons from the war. Told me about the number of great-cousins and relatives your family's killed... Lovely impressions, really.”  

I barely look up. “Told you they were a mad bunch.”

“Ah, suddenly it all makes sense!”  

I throw a pillow at him.  

The silence settles as I continue searching my closet for clothes and shoes. Like the nosy guy he is, Scorpius goes hunting in my room.

“So what was it?” Scorpius breaks the silence. “You had a fling and then he left? Or you left? I’m so confused.”

“It wasn’t a fling. And he was the first to leave. But then... Then I left.” After a while, I add as an afterthought, “ I guess we’ve always been leaving each other. Walking away in each our directions.”

--

Lucy aged 17, Ted 20.


You don’t realize how strong people are until you see them at their worst.

I watch Ted silently, as he holds a speech in front of the many people, his voice rough with emotions. With the sun rising slowly behind him, he looks older and wiser than the boy I grew up with.  He looks nothing like the boy I saw yesterday morning, plucking strawberries with me in the garden, stealing kisses in the shadows of the oak-trees.   

My boy is growing up.

And I’m not sure I’m following.  

Dom holds my hand throughout the entire service and I try to memorize each word that’s said, but find myself sinking into grief more often than not. Her thumb rubbing circles on my hand is the only thing steadying me.  I focus on that, counting the patterns. One, two, three, one, two, three -

When Ted sits down again, his eyes meet mine for the sliver of a second. The pain in his eyes makes the bottom of my stomach drop out. For the entire service it feels like my lungs have collapsed, wheezing out air through a puncture wound.

After the ceremony, Ted leaves without looking left or right. I try not to, but my eyes follow him as he makes his way through the crowd, smiling deceptively at the mourners.

I stand up. I feel my mother’s eyes on me, bidding me to stay and pay my respects. But I’ve already paid my respects and I don’t need to do any more. Ted’s disappeared but I know where he’s at.

I’d follow my boy anywhere.  

*


He’s in the middle of the sunflower field when I find him. Andromeda’s house peeks behind the trees, but he’s facing away from it, gripping a tree-bunk like it's the only thing holding him up. His shoulders are heaving in shuddering breaths and I spot his motorbike against the tree.

I recognize the tree, it's where we carved our names the summer he left for Hogwarts. It’s right by the lake where we always hang out.  

I walk towards him quietly, my mind reeling. I’ve never dealt with death before. The last time someone died, it was Ted’s turtle, Tim. Ted was ten. We buried him right by this tree and ate a bucket-full of pumpkin-pies by his gravestone as a tribute. To Tim the turtle. Somehow I doubt it’ll work this time around.

I watch his fingers twitch on the bark. He looks fragile in the shadow of the tree. There’s nothing but silence here.

I come to stand by his side, my fingers slowly intertwining with his. He doesn’t look at me, his breaths loud and desperate in our silence. We just stare out at the lake, both silent in grief. After a while, his breathing calms, I rub my thumb on the back of his hand soothingly, my heart in my throat.

I didn’t know love would mean this too. That I’d feel his pain as were it my own. A week ago he wasn't even here. A week ago, I didn't feel tied to another person like I do now. A week ago, Andromeda was still alive.  

“Let’s go for a ride,” he says it without facing me, his voice tight.

I follow.

*



“What’s this?”  

Scorpius has pulled an old, black and tattered shoebox out. He lifts it to his ear, shaking it. “Looks interesting.”

Something flickers in the back of my mind. My eyes widen.  

NO!” I jump across the bed and tear it from his hands.

“That –“ I heave, “is nothing.”

“Well, darling. Clearly, it’s not "nothing" when it caused you to pull a ninja-move like that,” Scorpius drawls, air-quoting. He flutters his eyelashes exaggeratedly at me.  

“Mind demonstrating it again? You’re so flexible –“

“Stuff it –“ I hit him with the back of my hand. I get up from the bed, discreetly pushing the box under the bed with my foot. “Let’s go to Daisy’s pub. It’s my favourite place here.”

Second-favourite, a voice whispers softly in the back of my mind.

--

Lucy aged 17, Ted 20.


We drive in silence.

He doesn’t say where we’re going and I don’t ask.

It doesn’t matter as long as we’re driving somewhere, anywhere. The silence is no longer tense, replaced by a quiet understanding. He still hasn’t let go of my hands and I refuse to be the one to break the hold. Enough people have done that.

The wind whips harshly against my face as we rumble down the highway, spraying the air with pebbles and dust. I clutch his sides tightly, burying my face in the warmth of him. His breathing’s calmed and I listen to the soft drumming of his heart, timing my own breathing to match his.

I look up as we come to a halt. We’re at the cliffs again.

Ted gets off as soon as the bike comes to a halt, striding to stand by the water’s edge. I follow, my steps muffled in the wet sand. The tide is low, leaving the bay shivering in the dawn air. I can see the first ferry of the day make its way across the waters, steam rising slowly from it.

It’s such a beautiful day.

“She wouldn’t have wanted that,” Ted says finally, his voice weaker than anything I’ve ever heard before. “She wouldn’t have wanted to be buried like that… in a cramped – in a cramped space like that.”

He spits the words out harshly, looking away from me. I slide my hand into his, silently. He doesn’t need my words right now.

I wish I could grab his face and press my forehead against his, just breathing in his air, telling him fix this. Because that’s what Ted does. He fixes things. But maybe for once, he needs me to fix this instead. And I don’t know how.

My boy is broken. Damaged beyond repair.

I turn to face him and he looks at me, wide-eyed and so lost. Tears sprinkle my eyes. My fingers find their way to his face, memorizing his features. His eyes don’t waver from mine for one second. They are endless.

“I’m so sorry, Ted,” I choke, lips brushing against the corner of his mouth.

His fingers press into my side as his breath juts out, hot against my neck. “I’m starting auror-training next month.”

He says it slowly, testing out the words, as if he’s trying to see if they fit him.

I look up at him. “Good.”

He traces a finger around the edges of my mouth, his eyes flickering up to meet my eyes. “I’ll come visit you at the school all the time. I’m getting a place in London by the academy.” He sinks, ”and then, when you finish – I was thinking that you could move in with me.”

There’s a question in his eyes, his mouth soft and vulnerable. The joy of his request overwhelms me at first, but then something else inches itself closer. We’re not even a couple yet. We haven’t even been on a date. This is all so new.

He used to be unable to plan further than the next day and now his head is full of plans. Plans with me.

And now I’m the scared one.

I’m only seventeen, I have plans. Plans that don’t involve him or this town. I have things I want to do, places I need to go.

The fear is chokingly thick in my stomach, burning. But then I see the sweet chocolate of his eyes, and I can remember when I fell off that swing and scraped my knee when I was six.

He put a Band-Aid on it and kissed it better. I thought he had the prettiest eyes in the world. I still do.

I remember my first day of school, his first day of school, my first kiss, his first girlfriend, the first time I saw him cry. Sitting outside, listening to my parents argue with his hand in mine. He’s my best friend.

And that’s all there is to it, really.

I need him.

I need him just as much as he needs me. So it doesn’t matter that he’s damaged-goods or that we’re young. Ted presses a hand to the back of my neck, his thumb stroking the curve of my jaw, his eyes a vulnerable hazel.

“So, what do you say, short stuff?”

All I need is him.

It doesn’t matter that we’re just starting out, or that all of this is so new. Because in some sense, all of this is ancient and the most familiar thing in the world.

His smile is the most familiar thing in my world.

So I smile, wide, wide, tears for joy, my lips meeting his roughly, clawing his closer, closer still.

“Yes,” I say breathlessly. “Yes, yes, yes, yes -”

His laughter is the best thing I’ve heard all day, loud and right into my ear. A thrill shoots through me and I press my body against his, tight, tight.

“You’re brilliant,” my boy murmurs in-between kisses. “Absolutely brilliant.”

--


Daisy’s pub hasn’t changed one bit throughout the course of years.

Originally, the pub had been named Heaven’s Inn, but ever since its opening there has been absolutely nothing heavenly about it. The place reeks of old beer and failed accomplishments, housing all the village-fights. Which amounts to about once a year. Grimsby is wild.

Instead it's been named after the barmaid, Daisy, a busty and loud blonde woman, who started the place after her second husband left. Now she’s on her fifth, and somehow she believes this one is the One. Sweet Daisy’s always been a romantic.
 
We step into the noisy bar, looking around for a table.

“Must say, you were slumming it, babes.” Scorpius looks around at the greasy tables and wooden chairs. “This place gives a whole new meaning to the word filthy.”  

I shrug. “It’s got heart – a real sight better than most places in London.”  

Suddenly, a familiar voice cuts through the air.

“What would you like to eat, sugar muffin?”  

Oh, no. No, no, no.

“Pippa,” I breathe.  

Scorpius whips around, and right in front of us are Ted and Pippa sitting, gazing at a menu-card. At the sound of her name, Pippa looks up.

“Lucille! Scorpius!” She beams largely and waves us over. “Come, come! Join us, please!”

Reluctantly, we make our way over to their table. Ted’s got an arm slung over the back of Pippa’s chair and her hand is on his thigh. I eye the hand murderously, wishing I knew a wandless spell that could remove it. Or better yet, chop it off.

“Scorpius.” Ted extends a hand towards Scorpius.

Scorpius smiles. “We meet again.”  

They have this masculine stare down.

Again.

Obviously, they're still not over the who's-the-biggest-man-stage.

“We were trying to find a dish without meat, but it’s a bit difficult. They’ve got so limited options for vegetarians.” Pippa explains, frowning. I stare at her face; I didn't even know her face could frown.

Vegetarian? But Pippa ate bacon this morning?  

“Who’s a vegetarian?” Scorpius asks.

“My cuddle-bug here.” Pippa squeezes Ted’s thigh.

Ted?” I splutter, laughing. “You’re running with wolves and not eating meat? Funny combination, huh?”

Ted looks up. “Who told you that?”

“Does it matter?”  

“Yeah, it does.”

We stare each other down. Finally, Pippa talks again, diffusing the tension.  

“Teddy-bear’s my little daredevil.” She kisses his cheek. “When he's finished at the blacksmith's, it's his wee hobby in the spare-time. We go together all the time. You should come!”

“I’ll pass,” I say dryly.

Scorpius on the other hand, seems interested. "You're the blacksmith in the village?"

"I am," Ted replies gruffly. "What of it?"

"You quit being an auror?" I ask, dumb-strucked. "But -"

“Now there’s a sight for sore eyes, Lucy Weasley!”

We're cut off by Daisy, who trots up to the table, a pad in her hands. “That’s one dear face I haven’t seen for a while! How have you been? Got to say, yeh been missing here, lovely.”

“Good, Daisy.” I smile distracted at the older woman. “Busy, but good.”

“You here with Lupin? No wonder, the two of you never could keep away from here. Oh, the times I had to kick you two and Darren and Dom out in order to stop you drinking all my firewhisky…”

“Really?” Pippa’s voice is tense. “Teddy doesn’t drink, do you, honey?”  

Ted clears his throat, his cheeks pinking. “Um, actually…”

“Drink?” Daisy laughs, “that wee lad used to empty barrels upon barrels. The only real competition he’s ever had is that birdie sitting over there.” She nods at me with a wink. I feel the flush fill my cheeks as Pippa glares at me, her bottom lip quivering.

“I see,” Pippa says in a clipped voice. “Well, luckily meh snuggles don’t poison his body anymore…”

She kisses his lips softly, nibbling them gently. I look away as Ted smiles down at her crookedly with my favourite smile. “That’s right, Pip. You’ve made an honest man out of me. “

Ted’s statement ends the discussion and Daisy takes our orders without further comment after that, the air tense once more. Scorpius squeezes my thigh under the table, comforting.

“Well, it was good seeing you, Lucy,” she says it with an apologetic smile before walking away.   

We begin chit-chatting again -- Well, Pippa continues while we listen. Ted begins kissing her behind her ears. I clutch the chair tightly.

That was my spot.

Pippa reaches over and grabs my hand. I really want to pull it back again, but her eyes are very blue and clear as they stare at me. I can’t really be a bitch, so I meet her eyes reluctantly.

“I’m sorry about Ted,” she tells me softly. For a second I freeze, thinking she knows about us, but then she continues. “He’s in one o' his moods, see. The papers were a bit harsh on him this morning.”

Scorpius leans forward suddenly, joining the conversation. “What did the papers say?”

“Same old lies.” Ted’s voice is sharp. When I look up, he’s watching me. “Just a bunch of crap with no foundation whatsoever.”  

Pippa places a comforting hand on his arm, and for once I appreciate her presence.

“They started this God-awful rumour about Ted, saying he’s a framer, that our marriage is a scam, and that he is a… a divorcé. And that he had, you know,” She hesitates before adding in a whisper, “lady-friends on his travels in Europe. Said that he liked his fights...”

“And that comes as a surprise, does it?” Scorpius looks non-puzzled.  

I step on his foot, hard.

Pippa nods solemnly. “Awful, i'n’t it? And then to Ted who’s such a kind soul… My teddy-bear couldn’t hurt a fly.”

“You do realize he worked as an auror for living, right?” Scorpius is dry.

Pippa ignores him, whispering nothings at Ted’s sullen face. I stab my fork into my sausage, sourly.  

“Bunch of money-gripping pricks…” Ted grumbles.

“Ay,” Scorpius nods solemnly. I shoot him a dirty look.

“Not really your place to talk, now is it?”

Scorpius pushes a strand of hair behind my ear, shushing me softly. “Hush now, tweetums.”

“Where did the two of you meet each other?” Pippa suddenly asks. We both turn to stare at her, Scorpius’s hand still on my ear.

“M-Mumbai,” I answer slowly, turning to face her. “It was during my gap-year.”  

Scorpius comes to my aid. “I was going to a friend’s wedding and there she was, shining like the sun in Mumbai’s dirty streets. Couldn’t find the Dhobi Ghat, poor thing. So I helped her. Been in love ever since.”

He then gazes at me wearing a sappy face that’s supposed to resemble love. He caresses my ear and I smile widely at Pippa, suppressing the urge to wave his hand away.

“You went to India in your gap-year?” Pippa asks, surprised.  

“Yeah,” I nod distractedly. “And France, Belgium, Greece and Turkey.”

“Did you find yourself?” Pippa giggles. Ted goes rigid. 

I shrug, avoiding his eyes. “I learnt a lot. Spent too much money. Forgot about everyone. I think finding yourself is a constant search, one you do not finish until your own ending.”

Nobody seems to acknowledge the shift in atmosphere except me. I shift nervously, trying to divert the topic in another direction. “India’s amazing. You should go there, someday.”

“I’d love to,” Pippa beams, “But Ted’s already been. Next stop is the Bahamas.”

She squeezes Ted’s hands and look up at him adoringly. “It’s going to be the best honeymoon, ever.”  

“That it will.” Ted kisses her gently on the lips. My stomach revolts.

Pippa gets up. “Well, excuse me, but I need to use the ladies’. Toddles.”

We watch her leave, an uncomfortable silence settling as our socialite leaves. A few minutes later Ted also excuses himself and heads towards the loo.
 
*

Lucy aged 17, Ted 20.


“Lucy.” A harsh whisper cuts through the darkness of my bedroom. I groan, opening my eyes. Lips slip across mine, nibbling at my lower lip.

“Lucy,” the dark shadow breathes against my lips. “Wake up, baby girl.”
 
I groggily open my eyes. Ted is leaning over me, his hot breath against the curve of my neck. I can just make out his silhouette against the window. I sit up, confused.

“What are you doing here?”

“Shh.” He presses a finger against my lips, kissing my temple. “I’ve packed your bag. Let’s go.”

He grasps my hand and makes to pull me out, but I resist. It's been a week since Andromeda's funeral and Ted has yet to sleep. His eyes are haunted and he has a full-grown beard now, the edges of him flayed.  

“Bags?” I ask confused, “What bags? Ted, where are we going?”

“Anywhere, everywhere.” Ted’s voice is excited, his hands cold. “Tell me where you want to go, and we’ll go, princess.”

He lets go of my hand and begins finding clothes for me in my drawers, throwing them onto the bed next to me.

“We haven’t got that much time,” he whispers. “We need to leave soon.”

“Why?”  

He looks up at me for a second, his eyes wild. “So that they don’t see us. I doubt your mum will be pleased about you dropping out of school.”

I must be dreaming. I pinch my skin, hard. It throbs painfully in time with my heart. Panic sets in now, making my heartbeat deafening in my ears. I get up.

“Ted –“

“The clothes are on your bed.” He doesn’t even glance up, zipping my suitcase.  

I slowly walk closer to him, watchful for the outburst. “Ted.”  

“Lucy, baby, we need to get a move on.” Hus eyes flash to the short nightshirt I wear, running along my naked legs, distracted for a second only.

He looks up at me. “You said you’d come.”

I place a hand on his shoulders, pulling him closer to me. He leans on me, heavily, his hands skimming the bottom of my shirt. A shiver washes through my body at his touch and I press my forehead against his shoulder.

“You said you’d come with me.” His whisper is broken and it breaks my heart. “I need you to come.”

I can feel his body trembling underneath my fingers. I close my eyes tightly, tears clogging my throat.  

“No.”

His body stiffens.  

“No?” He pushes away from me, his eyes wide. “You said – we – We’re leaving, Luce. Put on your clothes.”

My heart is in my throat. “No.”

His face crumbles. “But –“

“We can’t leave, Ted.” I step closer, my voice soft. “I can’t leave. I need to finish school first. You need to start at the academy. We have responsibilities -”

“I don’t care,” he spits harshly. “I don’t care! We’ll just leave and be us and no one can say anything about that. I don’t care!”  

I realize that it’s not the fact that death is so final that is cruel, but it's what it does to others. Because I swear, that look in Ted’s eyes right now, it didn’t exist a week ago
 
He’s heaving, his hands clutched tightly. I step closer again, cautiously.

“Ted –“

NO!” Ted roars, disapparating with a pop that's much too low for its significance.

I stare at the now-vacant spot where he stood for what seems like forever. Tears roll down my cheeks silently. An owl hoots in the distance, jarring me from my thoughts.

I follow him again.

He’s by the lake once more, but this time he’s crouched low, his head between his knees, rocking back and forth. His feet are bare. I can see his body trembling with sobs. He isn't quiet about it this time, either. The sound of this broken man parts me in half, breaking me slowly.  

I’m at his side in seconds.

He collapses into my arms, heaving sobs loud in the night-air. I clutch his body to me tightly, trying to hold him together – to hold us together.  

“Shh…” I press my lips against his skin, humming softly. “You’re okay, you’re okay…”

It takes hours before he’s calm enough to apparate home with me. Inside my room, I strip him of his clothes silently. My fingers tremble as they unzip his trouser, pushing them off his legs. He stands silently before me in his underwear, his sobs having turned into sniffles. Were it another time the sight of him half naked inside my room, would have mesmerized me. As it is, I hardly notice it.  

I slip my hand into his again and slide into bed with him. The duvet covers us both easily as I intertwine our legs, pulling his body flush against mine. His breathing calms as I press a palm against his chest.

He looks at me silently as I wipe away the tears on his face. His thumb brushes under my eyes, removing tears I did not know were there.  

That look in his eyes. It’s something fragile. I clutch the collar of his shirt as a piercing sadness washes through me. His lips are inches from mine, parted for the sound of my name. I press my lips against his, hard.

“I’m scared,” I confess into the darkness. His grip tightens on me, his fingers splayed across my back, feeling my chest expand with every breath I take. I suppose he needs the reassurance.

“I know,” he swallows shakily. “So am I.”

I press my lips against his, pulling his body against mine in an attempt to put the pieces of him back together again. His shoulders shudder beneath my hands and he feels breakable in my arms. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it, but it doesn’t matter right now. I’ll try, and more importantly, he’ll let me.  

And in the darkest hour when he feared loneliness more than death I told him the greatest lie.

“I’m not leaving you.”


--


As soon as Ted’s turned the corner, Scorpius leans back in his chair, his hand falling from my hair. “Well, that was awkward.”

“You think?” I snap, lifting my coffee-cup to my lips with shaking hands.  

“Well, it could have gone much worse.”

“How could it possibly have been worse?”

“Well, you could have been bawling your eyes out, for instance. You looked close for a moment, but you made it though. Gotta say, I’m proud of ya,” Scorpius pads me on the back like I’m a dog.

Great.

“I’m going to the toilet,” I mutter, getting up angrily.  

“Say hello to Pippa from me!” Scorpius yells at me from the table.

I flick him off over my shoulder.

I stand in the ladies’ sniffling at my own reflection. My hair is mussed up and my eyes are red-rimmed. After a while, I begin to notice the sounds in here.

That there are grunts coming from one of the bathroom-stalls. And that one of the doors is vibrating and someone’s moaning quietly. Baby, baby, yeah, yeah. I don’t recognize the signs until it’s too late.

Dread fills my stomach as I look down and my heart stutters to a halt.

There is only one pair of shoes visible.  

And I already know whose shoes they are right away. One, I’d recognize them anywhere. But two, stuff like this only happens to me.

But I have to see, so I step closer to the stall. It’s as if I’m drawn to this, like a car in motion, already heading for wreckage. I can’t stop.

Those shoes belong nowhere inside the ladies’ loo, yet here they are, spread slightly too far apart, squeaking rhythmically.

I stare at them, but I don’t see them. I just can’t look away. I didn’t think it was possible for me to shatter even more. My hands stretch across my chest, grasping at nothing to keep my chest from splitting wide open. I can hear my own rapid breathing mixing with theirs, coming in beats and beats, echoing against the white tiles.

They really do need washing; those battered, ten-year-old, greyish-white tennis shoes with the laces forever untied. Or maybe they just need to be thrown out. I’d like for them to be erased from my mind right away. I’d like that very much.

I don’t need to look into the cubicle to see what they’re doing in there.

It’s all quite clear.

Ted Lupin is screwing Pippa Montjoy’s brains out in the ladies’ at Daisy’s.
 

--


A/N: Ouch? Now, who wants to rip off Pippa and/or Ted's head? FYI: razzmatazz is pink and gamboge is orange.


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