Chapter 1 : Smoke In Your Lungs
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And yes, Sam, this is the answer to your elusive question ten! (As well as the reason I responded with an evil cackling emoticon when you asked if Hugo/Jeremiah would ever happen but I'll shut up now because spoilers.) I just wanted to say thank you for being such a lovely friend for most of this past year; you've supported me so much in writing Bite Club and I still smile when I re-read the review about you flying to the prologue at the mention of vampires. You've listened when I rant about such nonsensical things that I can't even think of right now; supported me with endless word races and made me laugh so much in our late-night chats. I hope that you enjoy this one-shot, and once again, thank you ♥
The cigarette rolls gently between your fingers as you exhale, allowing the smoke to escape from between your lips. You are standing against a wall, waiting for your sister to arrive. In other circumstances, your attire would not consist of jeans much too large for you or a jumper emblazoned with a photograph of her ex-boyfriend’s successful band, but you feel sure that your sister will understand. It’s special circumstances, you will remind her, and she will concede. It is the only thing that you are sure of these days; something certain, something fixed into reality, now that Alexis Longbottom has walked into your life and turned everything upside down with an announcement you had never thought she would make.
You can still remember your family’s laughter when you repeated her news to them; confirmed that the rumours were true and that you are the father of her unborn child. They all thought that you were joking at first, and in all honesty, you cannot blame them. The name Hugo Weasley was once synonymous with trouble, irresponsibility, even petty crime, and although this period was so brief that your family put it down to a rebellious teenage phase, it still gives them cause for concern whenever you are tasked with responsibility. And now, when you see your sister walking up the pavement, you bring the cigarette to your lips once more and inhale deeply, revelling in the sensation of smoke in your lungs.
“Hugo,” your sister complains, letting out a small huff of frustration, but you ignore her.
While Rose is absolutely convinced that you smoke to die like the Alaska girl in that book she’s always reading, you are equally adamant that you do not. Nor do you smoke for fun, or because you are in the lethal grip of an addiction. It is the smoke in your lungs that you crave; desperate to succumb to the constricting organs as they rebel against your wishes. It is the smoke in your lungs that make you feel human, and consequently, remind you that you are human. After all, your humanity is the reason that you ended your relationship with your ex-boyfriend to pursue your fling with Ally, because he is not human and she is.
Sometimes, you regret that choice. And other times, you don’t.
Rose may be two years older than you, but she is very much like your mother. Without showing any sign of hesitation, she reaches forward and grabs your cigarette from your hand before throwing it aside onto the dirty concrete ground.
“If you want to kill yourself, Hugo,” she says in a harsh tone, “then I can’t stop you, but don’t do it in front of me.”
Your sister must see something in your expression because she softens almost immediately, regretting her words. You want to tell her not to worry, that her words have simply been said already by someone else who used the exact same phrase, but you cannot because you know that she will ask who it was, and you cannot tell her.
Jeremiah is your secret.
“I did it,” you whisper, barely able to get the words out.
Rose tenses for a moment, but then retrieves her wand and points the tip at you. She gives you a questioning look, and you nod. You must do this. You have spent too long dreaming of what cannot be, and although your sister knows a small part of the story, she does not know it all. All you have told her is that you are struggling to part ways from your ex-boyfriend and have wiped his memory so that he has forgotten you completely, and now you want her to do the same for you. You have a family now; a young baby growing in Alexis’ womb, and you owe it to the both of them to be a better boyfriend and father. This is your only option.
She sighs, but obeys.
Alexis laughs, resting her head upon your shoulder, your arm wrapped around her. She’s had a haircut; the new short strands tickle your exposed skin whenever she moves her head, an unfamiliar sensation for you. And she does it again - she turns to look up at you. Her sapphire eyes are filled with love, and for a brief moment you wish that you could reciprocate her feelings, but you know that you cannot.
“What would you name our babies, one day when we have them?” For a moment, you freeze at this unexpected question, and Ally rushes to clarify. “I don’t mean right now, but like, in five or ten years when we’re married with a little cottage out in the country, with no vampires around.”
No vampires around sounds like hell for you, as if it is Satan’s burning pit concealed within Alexis’ idea of heaven, but you are careful not to mention that. Instead, you focus on the future, hoping that if you say those words enough then they will come true.
“Samuel for a boy,” you say, “and Tamara for a girl.”
Your girlfriend of a year tilts her head back and laughs. “What if we end up having another one? They could rhyme - Sammy and Tammy!”
Her choice of wording is enough to seize your attention, and you sit up straighter while backing away from her. She turns to look at you once more, and you can see that she does not appear confused or nervous like you hoped she would. After a long pause, she sighs and pulls out a crumpled piece of paper before handing it to you. You place it against your knee and use your palm to brush the creases out, your breath hitching when you realize that it is a Muggle ultrasound photograph.
“It’s too late, Hugo,” you hear her say, and you know what she means simply from the tone of her voice. It is too late to decide to abort your child; too late to salvage your relationship, after you have lied to her and she has lied to you for however long she’s known about this baby.
You look up at her, determined to meet her eyes. “You tricked me.”
Ally sighs. “I just wanted to pretend. To play happy families for a little while. And anyway, so did you.” You open your mouth to issue a retort when she speaks once more. “There’s someone else, isn’t there? I’m not the one you’re in love with; I never have been. If you had this baby with this other person, you’d be happy, wouldn’t you?”
Your silence speaks volumes.
Rose has warned you to behave; you are on a first date with one of her friends, and she is quite willing to inflict unimaginable consequences upon you if she feels that her friend has been treated negligently. You are her little brother, after all, and your gentlemanly behaviour reflects how well she has taught you how to treat a woman. As such, you are more careful than ever when you dance, determined to be a perfect gentleman to her.
As the music changes to a livelier song, Alexis twirls to the beat, giving you another glimpse of her exposed skin, visible from the backless dress she wears. The material is a glittery black more suited to a socialite, and you cannot help but wonder how this woman in front of you is in the business of killing people for a living. Your fingers loosen, releasing her for a moment, before they intertwine again and you pull her closer to you. She laughs, looking up at your face with an expression of adoration. You believe that you could eventually fall in love with her, if you tried. It will not be difficult; your sister clearly has excellent taste in friends, with the sole exception of Scorpius Malfoy.
Suddenly, a figure standing at the back door catches your attention, and you look up to see a dark-skinned man dive out of the back door, which is left open to grant access to the smokers’ designated area. You are not sure if he is the man you thought he was or a stranger, but you feel compelled to investigate, if only to issue a warning that your date tonight is a vampire slayer. You may be protected by your own humanity, but he is a cursed creature of the night and that in itself puts him in mortal peril.
“I’m going for a smoke,” you tell Ally, already beginning to retrieve your packet of cigarettes and vampire-themed lighter from your pocket.
She looks slightly disappointed, but moves toward the bar, chuckling when she notices the design of your lighter. You know that you ought to pause for a few moments to discuss it with your date in the interests of maintaining the initial spark between you, but instead you walk determinedly out of the ballroom. When you are outside, you notice several fellow smokers puffing on their cigarettes and chatting good-naturedly. Pretending to be unfazed by this, you light your cigarette and inhale the familiar nicotine.
Time passes, and the other smokers stub out their cigarettes and return to the ballroom, but you remain in the shelter, smoking a new cigarette as soon as you have finished the previous one. You’re on your fourth when you’re finally left alone - but not quite, because there he is now - the man you saw in the ballroom now standing in front of you.
“Hello, Jeremiah,” you whisper.
Jeremiah does not say anything. Instead, he surveys you closely, his chocolate eyes fixed upon your own. He takes several steps closer, and you do not move. Although the rational side of your brain is screaming for you to walk away, your instincts compel you to remain still. His hand is brought up to your face before his finger begins to stroke your cheek, the familiar sensation reminding you of happier times.
“Don’t,” you say. “Someone might see.”
It hurts you to say those words, and judging from his downcast expression as his hand falls back to his side, it hurt him to hear you say that. But you know that the reason you and Jeremiah are no longer together is because he is a vampire and you are human. He does not want you to be fallible, your life easily lost, while you have no desire to leave your family behind, knowing that becoming a vampire would be permanent. If you and Jeremiah turned out to be unsuitable in the long run, you would have thrown away your human life for nothing, and that is a risk you are afraid to take.
You and Jeremiah were in love once; you still are, except now you have learned that a vampire and a human cannot be together. You will get sick, you will grow old, you will have children and he never will. That, you think, is what hurts the most.
“It hurts to remember, Hugo,” he says, and you close your eyes. It hurts you too; that’s why you’re stealing precious moments with him when you should be moving on like you said you wanted. When you broke up with him, you said it was because you wanted a family, and someone to grow old with.
But if that is the case, then why are you still here?
When you feel hot ash land upon your shoe, you tap the cigarette with your finger before bringing it back to your lips again and inhaling. Before you can let out a breath, he leans forward and presses his lips onto yours. The sensation is reassuringly familiar, and you are aware of your blood pulsating through your veins; once, a long time ago, you used to be so afraid of Jeremiah losing control that you refused to kiss him without your wand in your pocket. Now, you are only vaguely aware of the familiar beech wood being located at your home, far away from the Muggle ballroom with such stringent security that you did not bring it lest it attract unwanted attention.
How things have changed.
Jeremiah releases your lips from his, and you look into his chocolate brown eyes to see nothing but love and compassion. You trace his features with your gaze, committing the crease of his brow and his chiselled cheeks to memory, because you know that you will not be able to again.
“Are you happy, Hugo?” he whispers.
You nod quickly - too quickly, you realize afterwards. His suspicions have been stirred, and he watches you carefully; is what you’re saying the truth or not?
“Hugo?” a familiar voice calls out, and you know without looking that it is Ally searching for where you have disappeared to.
“I have to go,” you sigh. “I’m sorry.”
The reason that you came here does not matter any more; if Alexis is anything like Rose, she will be pissed at you for abandoning her and you know that it’s time to eat humble pie. You turn, about to walk away, when Jeremiah reaches out and clasps your hand in his.
“Are you sure about this?”
“I am,” you answer before pulling your hand away. “Even if things don’t work out with Ally tonight, there are other girls.”
You did not mean to place focus upon the word girls, but the emphasis fell from your lips without stopping and now you’re watching Jeremiah’s eyes widen in pain. You know that your intention was merely to point out that with a woman, you could have a family, but you know Jeremiah well enough to be able to tell that his mind is filled with your confession long ago that he was your first boyfriend. You open your mouth to explain, to clarify, but Jeremiah does not give you the opportunity to speak. He takes several steps back and rushes in the opposite direction, and while he doesn’t use his vampire speed he’s far too fast for you to try chasing after him.
As you’re walking in the direction of the ballroom, you have a strong urge to turn around and take one last look at your former lover. The hair upon your skin prickles; your body can feel his watchful gaze upon your retreating figure, and you know that if you turn around your gaze will meet his chocolate eyes once again. But you know that you cannot; you keep your head facing forward and do your best to think of Alexis and the opportunities gained in a future without Jeremiah.
You have made your bed, and now you must lie in it.
The parchment upon your desk is skewed askance; in other circumstances, you would be aghast at this. However, tonight is an exception - a whole new set of events are occurring that the Hugo who created a no-mess rule for his bedroom would never have predicted. Tonight, it does not matter how much mess you leave in your trail, for mess can be tidied up later if necessary. An ink bottle has been knocked onto its side and is currently regurgitating red ink upon the beech wood of your desk, but you barely notice the increasingly large stain. Your gaze is fixed upon the sheet of lined paper in your hands, your eyes tracing the deep black imprints caused by a pen. His handwriting reminds you starkly of the Ye Olde Handwriting font that you’ve seen many times on your Muggle grandparents’ computer; no-one writes like that any more, except Jeremiah Daniels.
You inhale as you read his letter carefully, committing every word to memory. You can almost see the vision in your mind’s eye: Jeremiah standing in the middle of a large ballroom, clothed in elaborate dress robes with his arms spread out, waiting to engulf you into an embrace. In the background, your mother would be weeping with joy while your father grumbles about the fact she’s stolen his handkerchief instead of using her own, but his tone indicates his pride too - and then there are Rose and Lily and Molly, their long scarlet curls cascading down their backs as the guests surrounding them whisper about how beautiful they look; a trio of Weasley bridesmaids complementing the two grooms. You just wish that it could be true - but judging from Jeremiah’s enthusiasm for the future, that day may come sooner than you ever expected. Looking down at the letter again, you trace Jeremiah’s final word with your finger.
You have no idea of how he interprets that word, but before you can dwell on the matter further, you hear your mother’s voice announcing her presence as she enters through the front door of your small flat. Despite the fact that you and Rose are grown adults and are perfectly capable of taking care of yourselves, your mother insists on visiting both your flats every weekend with food and cleaning supplies, intent on cooking you enough food to last you an entire month and cleaning your flat until it sparkles. Usually, you ensure your cupboards are well-stocked and your flat is reasonably clean before she arrives, but your mind is roosting in seventh heaven as it prematurely plans a wedding before you’ve even had an official proposal - but you’re sure that that’s just a matter of time.
However, the general disrepair of your flat is enough to attract your mother’s attention. You hear her calling your name, and you walk out of your bedroom into the kitchen. She looks at you with a strange expression, and you hesitate slightly, concerned at what’s happened to cause your mother to make such a grimace.
“So, who’s the lucky person?” she asks - like Rose, your mother is one of the few people perceptive enough to know your true sexual orientation - and when you frown in confusion, she sighs. “Hugo, I’m not stupid. I can tell there’s something different about you… a glow, of sorts. You’re in love, aren’t you?”
You close your eyes and picture Jeremiah; imagining that he is present and that you are introducing him to your mother. Unlike with all of your past girlfriends, this is something that you can envisage: Jeremiah smiling as he shakes your mother’s hand and showers her with compliments, while she remarks on how polite and charming he is. If you concentrate, you can even visualize introducing him to your father; something you never thought you’d ever do because while your father is no bigot nor is he homophobic, he does have a tendency to be awkward. But if you can dream of that happening, then perhaps your mother’s maternal instincts are correct as always?
You open your eyes and give your mother an excited smile.
“Yes,” you say, “yes, I’m in love.”
Loud whistling piercing your ears is not what you were expecting when you stepped into the Muggle cafe with Lucy by your side, but it’s what you’re enduring now. Lucy takes one glance at the notice tacked behind the counter before asking you to place the order; she’ll just be a few minutes. As she scurries out of the cafe, you turn to look at the paper and realize that the notice explains that the card payment machine is out of order and the cafe apologize for the inconvenience, but they can only do cash transactions today. When the door is finally closed, Jeremiah speaks from the table in the far corner and you turn abruptly to look at him.
“When we planned this date, I didn’t think you’d drag your friend along.”
You shake your head. “Lucy’s my cousin, not my friend, and she invited herself - I’ve been trying to subtly mention that I want to spend time with you alone, but she doesn’t seem to get the hint. It’s not like I can tell her that you’re my boyfriend, because then we’ll get a lot of attention from journalists because I’m a Weasley. I don’t know why they don’t just find something better to report on to be honest, but what can we do?”
Jeremiah sighs. “I’m too old for this, Hugo; I’m not interested in playing games.”
“Why don’t we just go?” you blurt out, and Jeremiah looks at you in incredulence. “Come on, we both know that the nearest cash machine is a five-minute walk away and that’s assuming Lucy went to that one; she might have gone further afield and that gives us more time. She’d do the same if it was the other way round, anyway.”
“Your suggestion,” he nods, before holding out his hand.
Without needing to be prompted, you reach out and intertwine your fingers with his. He stands and you gently tug him in the direction of the doorway, before the both of you stumble down the front step and quickly disappear into the crowds of London. You cannot resist quickly glancing back to check if Lucy is present or if she has seen you, but there is no sign of her.
“You can go back,” Jeremiah says. “Even if you just want to tell her where we’re going.”
You shake your head. If you did, then Lucy would pretend not to be bothered that you have chosen to spend time with someone else instead of her, just as she always does when you explain that your time with Lily is just you and her, like it always was when you were children, but Lucy’s acting talent is nonexistent and you can always tell that she’s hurting inside. Although inadvertently, she makes you feel guilty for choosing Lily, who you have been best friends with since before you were born, and you will not allow her to make you feel bad for choosing Jeremiah. She will be upset at first, but you know that you can talk to her later and persuade her to forgive you; she always does.
“I’ll talk to her later,” you answer. “Now, where are you taking me today?”
“As I said when we arranged today, Hugo,” he says, “it’s a surprise. You won’t find out until we get there.”
You roll your eyes, and he laughs before resuming the whistling that you heard earlier.
“Don’t do that,” you complain, but the upturn at the corners of your lips indicates that you don’t truly mean the words. “You sound like Granddad’s pet parrot.”
Jeremiah gasps in a mock exclaim, and you laugh. Your giggles are infectious, because before long he’s laughing too, his arm wrapped around your shoulders and yours across his back, walking through the streets of London as just another couple. No vampires - apart from Jeremiah himself, of course; no Weasleys; no paparazzi; no magic. Just two lovers enjoying a crisp spring morning, just like anyone else.
It is several hours before your thoughts drift to Lucy once more.
When she pops into your mind again, you and Jeremiah are lying upon a red-and-white chequered blanket on the ground, the remains of your picnic forgotten as you both watch the sky rapidly darkening. The stars twinkle in the twilight, illuminating the sky with small speckles of light.
“Look,” Jeremiah says, pointing towards a cluster of stars in the distance. “That’s Orion’s Belt.”
Your knowledge of Astronomy is almost nonexistent; despite the fact you took it as a class during your early years at Hogwarts, you spent most of those classes in a sleepy daze grumbling at your lack of sleep, and on the occasions when you were awake you could usually be found gossiping with Lily. Therefore, you squint to make sense of the stars, searching for a shape resembling a belt. It’s then that you wish you’d listened when Lucy taught you all of the constellations; Astronomy was one of her strongest subjects at school. Thinking about Lucy, however, leads you to thinking of how you abandoned her this morning and you’re beginning to wish that you hadn’t. You bring your cigarette to your lips and inhale the familiar nicotine before closing your eyes to chase the thoughts of your cousin away.
“Earth to Hugo,” you hear, and you turn your head to look at Jeremiah smiling at you. His chocolate eyes are warm and kind, enticing you to reveal all of your secrets, while his hand reaches over to interlock his fingers with your own.
You open your mouth to whisper a sorry, but he rolls nearer to put his other finger on your lips, silencing you. How he knows what you’re about to say, what you’re feeling, you have no idea. All you know is that when you’re around Jeremiah, you feel complete. The mundane things in life that stress you out don’t matter any more because compared to Jeremiah, they’re insignificant. You take another drag of your cigarette before he takes it out of your hand and throws it with deadly precision into the nearby lake.
“Poor fish,” you mutter absent-mindedly, although you really don’t care about the fish.
“You always seem to smoke more when you’re around me,” Jeremiah states. It is not a question, but a statement, and you can’t help but wonder how he knows that. “I counted the number of cigarettes in your packet,” he confesses sheepishly, having clearly anticipated your question.
“Maybe I do,” you sigh.
“Why?” he asks.
For a moment, you’re tempted to concoct a lie but you quickly discard the idea; your relationship has been built on foundations of trust and honesty, and it would be foolish of you to unravel that now. “When I smoke, it makes me remember all the times I’ve smoked in the past and since most of those memories are from when I’m with you, it reminds me of you. That way, when I’m lonely and I’m missing you, all I have to do is light up and it’s as if you’re there.”
Jeremiah chuckles softly. “In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t thrown that away now.”
“I agree,” you answer. “That was my last one.”
“I’ll just have to make it up to you then,” he smiles, before he leans forward into a kiss.
You kiss him back, while remembering how he makes you feel. How you’re always certain of your safety around him, now that the awkwardness of the early days is long gone. How everything he does makes you feel euphoric, even if it’s something as sweet as surprising you with a picnic by a lakeside. How, when you’re around him, you’re not Hugo Weasley any more.
You’re just Hugo, and he’s just Jeremiah, and that’s all that matters because together, you’re invincible.
Rose’s tear-stained, hysterical expression is imprinted into your memory, despite the fact that she’s now wiped the tears from her eyes and used some of your mother’s makeup to mask the redness around them. Your eyes are firmly fixed to the floor; you don’t want to constantly advertise your vampirism to your family when a simple glimpse of your crimson eyes is enough to send your sister into a fresh flood of tears.
You aren’t sure how you ended up like this; how you went from being a human twenty-two-year-old to a newborn vampire opening his eyes on Lucy’s kitchen floor. This is your life now, but you still don’t know how it ended up this way. A favour here, a favour there - is that what it took for acceptance into the coven? Are you Claudine’s boy toy now, forever indebted to her for not executing you like she’d wanted to?
Out of the corner of your eye, you see Rose walk into the room with a tray of drinks. As she brushes past Jeremiah, the vampire who looked after Lucy and is looking after you now, you hear him whisper into her ear, although it’s difficult to decipher his words because your father is asking you a question in a loud voice.
“I’m too old for Memory Charms to work on me. I still remember.”
You see your sister tense, but you don’t know why. Like everything else in your life, this doesn’t make sense and you hate that fact. You want clarity, comprehension, co-operation and yet in all honesty, you have none of those things. You don’t know what Jeremiah supposedly remembers, or how it connects to your sister, and that frustrates you beyond belief.
“I need to go,” you say, standing up abruptly. “I’m sorry - I’ll come back later for my things. I just need some space to be on my own.”
Without bidding farewell to your family, you turn on your heel and walk out of the front door. You hear your mother shout, and it feels like a wound in your heart but you continue walking, searching for a world where sense exists instead of endless questions and answers that just aren’t good enough.
“Hugo,” Jeremiah says, catching up to you with ease and placing a hand on your back. “What’s the matter?”
Immediately, you’re sure that a very long time ago, that very hand didn’t just stop at your upper back but travelled downwards and underneath your clothing - but no, that can’t be correct. You only met Jeremiah a few days ago; you don’t even know the man’s last name let alone know him well enough to be intimate in that kind of way.
“What’s the matter?” Jeremiah repeats, and you look up at him to see his chocolate eyes gazing into your crimson irises. Vaguely, you wonder how his eyes are not varying shades of fire like the other vampires you’ve met, but you store that question away in your mind for future reference when his other hand is used to tilt your chin so that you can’t look away. Somehow, you have the feeling that those dark lips were pressed against your own, but you know that that’s impossible. “Hugo,” he sighs once more, “you can trust me. I promise you, everything will be all right.”
Inexplicably, you believe him. You’re certain that what he says is true although you’re not sure why, you just know in your gut that Jeremiah is someone you can trust. You wonder if perhaps you’re mistaking him for someone else you once knew, but that doesn’t make sense either. Every time his skin brushes against yours, it feels like several million volts of electricty are coursing through you. Every time he opens his mouth, you strain your ears to hear words that he never says; you don’t know what you want him to say, either, just that you’ll know when you hear it. Against Lucy’s advice, you’re putting all of your trust into Jeremiah without a concrete reason why, except that when you’re around him, you feel like the most special person in the entire universe.
And you have no idea why.
Author's Note: "While Rose is absolutely convinced that you smoke to die like the Alaska girl in that book she’s always reading," is a reference to the book Looking For Alaska by John Green.
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