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In the Distance of Bravery by Sunflower
Chapter 6 : 6
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 3


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A/N: My eyes are going cross with the strain of finishing this and it’s late. But here it is, finally. I was getting tired of looking at a half finished chapter lying around. Alysia Harris carried me through this, like she’s done so many times before. Here’s the latest of her, which has been bugging my mind ever since I hit play. It’s my favourite writer together with one of my favourite artists. Pure magic.

Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize. The title is from the wonderful Ben Howard and his song by the very same title.


 


CHAPTER SIX
DEPTH OVER DISTANCE 
 
--
Just, just think about the depth when you remember the distance.
How 3000 miles is not longer than the moments spent between us.


Alysia Harris – Depth Over Distance


--

 

It was safe to say that things went downhill after that.

“Are you okay? You look kinda green,” Scorpius asks when I return to the table, my heart somewhere near my navel.

“I’m fine. Let’s just get this over with,” I retort tight-lipped, ordering a whisky on the rocks off a wide-eyed Daisy.

Scorpius eyes the drink in my hand. “Sweetheart, it’s three in the afternoon.”

“Oh, I know.”

I chuck the drink back and order another straight away. He places a hand on my arm and leans closer, his voice low.

“Okay, I get it. You’re upset, doll. You wanna mush your brains out. Mind telling me what’s wrong, instead of making a bigger fool of yourself?”

I meet his soft eyes slowly. I can’t believe he’s become the one source of comfort in my world. I used to have so many people close to me. Did I do that? Was it I who pushed them all away? I open my mouth, tugging at the cuff of my sleeve, suddenly wishing myself anywhere else than here.

“It’s –“

“What did we miss?”

Pippa slides breathlessly into the cubicle, bright-eyed with her hair rumbled. Ted’s top-button is still unbuttoned. I stare at it sullenly, forcing the remains of the drink down.

Scorpius looks back and forth between us, his eyes narrowed. I meet his questioning gaze slowly, nodding once in a slight acknowledgement. His eyes widen and his hand squeezes mine for a second only.  

He’s good like that. Kind. In a silent fashion that leaves me wondering how he ever came to learn how to cope with such situations so quietly, so effortlessly. I swallow the rise of bile, staring at the tablecloth, unseeingly.

“Oh, nothing exciting,” Scorpius replies, his hand grasping mine. “Just the same old relationship-stuff. Lucy being the love of my life and all that, you know, nothing new.”

“Good.” Pippa beams breathlessly. “Didn’t want to miss nothing, now did we, love?”

I just nod silently, my mind slightly hazy from the whisky.  I can still taste its remains on my tongue, a bitter sting that nails me to reality.

“Oh, I can’t wait to get married!” Pippa breathes happily, staining Ted’s cheek with her lips. “I’ve been waiting for this my entire life.”

“Yeah, me, too.” Ted meets my eyes across the table.

I order another one, on the rocks.

Scorpius’s hand closes over mine underneath the table. “I think it’s time we go home now,” he says in a soft voice. “Let’s go, sweetheart.”

He gets up, turning to Ted and Pippa. “Thank you for a lovely dinner. You’re both such a joy.”

He smiles and pulls me out of the cubicle on wobbly feet.  A silent tear slips past, sliding down my cheek as I follow him unseeingly out the pub.   

“Oh, okay!” Pippa smiles, her hand on Ted’s. “Don’t forget about the beauty-salon tomorrow!”

“Oh, we won’t,” Scorpius mutters darkly.


--

Lucy aged 17, Ted 20.


“Tell me.”

I move beneath from him, twisting, turning and darting away from his nimble fingers, giggling. The dorm room is silent, most of the students having left for Hogsmeade, and Ted’s sneaked in, huddled underneath my covers from the cold.

My grin nearly splits my face.

“I’ve already told you.”

His lips stencil aquatic love in a burning arch across my neck. “Again. Tell me again.”

“No.”

“No?” His smile is impossibly wide.

“No. It’s your turn.”

“Fine.” He rolls onto the floor, bending to one knee next to the bed. I lift myself up, leaning on an elbow. His brown eyes are sparkling and I press my lips to the place where his smirk usually is.

“I love you, Lucy Weasley.”


--


We make it past the first row of houses before I break down. Scorpius stands silently by my side, his hand rubbing soothing circles on my back as I stand bent over, hiccoughing through sobs.

“He’s over me.”

“I know, sweetheart.”

“They were going at it right next to me.”

“I know.”

The sun shades his face and I stare at the burnt edges of his silhouette, blinking rapidly.

“I didn’t know it would feel like this.”

“Like what?”

“Like my heart’s missing completely. I really… I really thought he’d stopped having this – this power over me.”

“I know.”

Scorpius’s face is too soft, too understanding. I look away. I can see our shadows on the pavement, intertwined in the sun.

 “It’s horrible.”

“I know.”

After a while, my breathing calms, their moans fading from my head. The incessant pounding in my head, fades too, leaving me with the silence of this town, this morbid, morbid town where I’ve lost all I’ve ever cared about.

I straighten, drying my cheeks. I lick my lips, the taste of whisky a bitter contrast against the saltiness of my tears.

“We’re going to Mum’s. We’re fixing this. At least just this one thing.”  


--



Sometimes I think things remain the same just to remind us, to comfort us in their constancy.

I never would have guessed that Mum’s tulips would bring me comfort, their sway an uncompromising tilt in this wicked world. I run my hands through the tight scrubs, fingertips traipsing along their curve as we enter the garden. The mist is settling like a cloak, enveloping us. As if sheltering me like old childhood dreams.  

Scorpius keeps on glancing my way, hostility in his stare. I think I’ve taken him by surprise. I suppose it’s a constant lesson: to acknowledge the fact that people are turning coats – even I, Sweet Lucy.

Inside, it’s a tight bustle, the soft patter of home greeting us in the hallway as the only thing. It’s funny how there can still be things like these that scream home to me, even after all this time. I expected it to have disappeared, leaving a hostile shell in its wake.

There’s humming coming from the kitchen and lead us there, half-heartedly. My mother is standing in front of the window with her back to us, swaying to the music on the radio. She must have seen us come in. Her shoulders are wound tightly, her posture stiff.

She doesn’t look up as we enter the kitchen.

“Your father is getting the turkey ready outside.”

My mother has flour on her sleeves, her eyes trained on the sizzling pan in her hand. She barely glances up at us as we stand in the kitchen, traipsing uncertainly.

“Do you need help?” I ask, trying to keep the uncertainty out of my voice.

Audrey shakes her head.  “I’ve got it all under control. People should start arriving soon, too.”

People. Not family. I gulp, that could mean Ted, too. Mum’s always loved hosting dinners.

“Your father might need help, though.”

“I’ll help,” Scorpius volunteers. I turn on him.

“Uhu, no, you won’t.”

“Why not?” He looks defiant. “I could be a wiz in the kitchen for all you know.”

I stare at him. "Scorpius, you burn pasta."

Scorpius looks defiant. "I can do it."

“It’s not such a good idea, really.”

“Rubbish.”

Ooo-kay.”

I shrug, walking him out the door.

“Best put on an apron, dear,” my mother calls over her shoulder. “These things tend to get a wee bit messy.”


--

Lucy aged 17, Ted 20


 
“Lucille.” Brittle fingers stroke through my hair, tucking away curls. Her breath stutters out, unevenly, against the side of my neck. “Lucille, Lucy, Lucy, Lucy.”

Quiet descends for a minute here, she’s somewhat expecting something from me, I can feel it. I lay down my paintbrush slowly, readying myself.  

“What are you doing, my sweet Lucille?” Her whisper is tender-soft, a cooed murmur inside my heart. Her nimble fingers press into my shoulders, turning me around gently. She’s always been gentle at heart, easy smiles and small nods escaping her like the very air inside her lungs.

I match her smile, allowing her hand to come to rest upon my cheek, lingering for a moment there.

“Mother.”  

She looks past me, out the window. Ted’s carving wood, the sun bakes down on his shirtless form and I feel a smile bloom on my face, involuntarily.

“Are you… sure this is a good idea?”

I look back at her. “What? Ted?”

The smallest nod is my confirmation. I sigh. “I love him, Mum. I really do. And he, he loves me.”

“He’s not right for you.” She says suddenly, violently as if it’s bursting out of her with the force of it. “He’s a troubled kid, he’s dark and twisted and broken in so many ways, that poor boy…”

I think of his brown eyes a hairbreadth from me, of his dark days and then the light days when he’ll shine brighter than the sun. I think of his laughter and how there are days I question whether he’ll ever be okay.

“He is. But he’s also the love of my life.”   

Her shoulders slump, a little, and her arms fall to her side.

I study her.

“You think I’m delusional.”

“I… I think you’re young. And in love. And that makes you inexperienced.” She looks away, fingering with a fleck of paint. “You think it’ll last forever at seventeen. But… you’ll have other loves.”

The sun is baring down on Ted and for a moment there, he looks up at the window where I’m standing and smiles so brightly it looks like his face will split whole. My matching smile hurts my face.

“I won’t have other loves.”

It comes out strong, more certain than anything else I’ve ever uttered. And as the word spread out, I recognize their truths. I hadn’t meant for them to sound so final, yet they do. And that’s okay, too.

She swallows hard. It can’t be in surprise, she had to have expected at least this.

“He’s damaged goods.”

I look away from Ted’s bright face and brush a hand against hers, squeezing it momentarily.

“Aren’t we all, Mother?”

--

 
“Ever prepared a turkey before, son?”

The expression on Scorpius’s face is tight, a tremor on his lip as he stares into my father’s eyes.

“Oh, yes, Sir.”

“Good.” Dad nods his head once, digging through the garage.

“Here you go.”

He places an axe in Scorpius’s hands, its blade rusty and dirt cracked on the dented surface.

Scorpius stares at the weapon. “I – I – “

“Go on, lad.” Percy nudges him forward. “The bird isna goin’ to die by itself, ye know. Chop, chop.”

“Literally,” Scorpius mutters.

“Look, I’ll hold it fer ye.” Percy places the screeching animal across the board. The poor bird screeches feebly, its wings flapping. Scorpius’s eyes seem glued to that delicate bend in its neck where its blood pulses.

Determinately, Scorpius takes aim, pale-faced and with wobbly knees. Just before hitting, he closes his eyes. The axe swings, his muscles flexing.

Clunk.

The axe settles into the wood, right next to the wobbling bird’s head, missing it by mere inches.

“Close, but not close enough.” Percy shakes his head. “Try again, lad.”

Taking a deep breath, muttering a few choice words to whatever force above, Scorpius takes aim again. Raising it high above his head, his arms tremble with its weight, Scorpius lets it drop to the board again. This time it hits it target straight on.

“I did it! I did it!” He jumps up and down excitedly, looking at Percy with wide eyes.  

“Good job.” Percy pats him on his back approvingly.

“Thanks, I – uh, where – where’s the turkey?”

The head is lying on the block, a pink smear of blood covering the axe’s blade, but the turkey is nowhere to be seen.

“Where is it?” Scorpius whimpers, lifting the bloody weapon as if hoping the bird will be hiding underneath it.

“Oh, Merlin, oh Merlin. It’s disappeared –“

“Er, guys…” I begin, pointing at the turkey, which is still running around the garden, batting its wings. Only now, it’s headless.

Scorpius goes white.

“Oh, dear.” He breathes out, his eyes rolling as he topples over.


--


 
“It’s quite normal, really. They always batter around like that.” My dad shrugs.

“Yeah, but not post beheading –“ Scorpius grumbles weakly from his position on the couch. He’s still ashen in his face, but colour is slowly returning to his face again.

“Dad, Scorpius lives in Soho,” I sigh, pressing a wet cloth against his forehead. “The closest we get to living turkeys is the grill down on the corner where the hygiene’s a bit dodgy.”

My dad shifts, grumbling. “But he said –“

“It was quite fine, really.” Scorpius assures from his position on the couch. “That is, until it started flapping around, spurting blood everywhere.” He finishes with a shudder, paling again.

I press the cloth against his forehead, shushing him.

“Dead things should never move on their own,” he mutters darkly from beneath the cloth.

“What happened to him?”

I look up to find Ted standing over us, a smirk playing on his lips. I look down. “Scorpius tried to behead Dad’s turkey.”

“Can be quite a task, too.”

“Ay.” Scorpius murmurs into the cloth. He looks up. “Where’s Pippa?”

“Resting,” Ted answers. “All the wedding planning is taking its toll.”

 “I bet that’s not the only thing…” I murmur.

“What was that?” Ted looks at me.

I shake my head, leaving the two boys alone. I’m just… not in the fucking mood.

Inside the dining room, Grandma is standing by the mantelpiece. She draws me into one of her amazing hugs, squeezing me tightly to her chest.

“Lucille,” she beams. “Lovely to see you, darling.”

“You too, Granny.”

“And I gather this strapping man is your new friend?” Granny’s face lights up as she looks at the shadow behind me.

I uhu-and mumble through the introductions as Scorpius swoops in beside me, kissing her cheek.

“It’s lovely finally meeting Lucy’s grandmother, Mrs. Weasley. Lovely indeed.”

Granny’s face is tight. “Well, I wish I could say the same for your family…”

“Granny –“

“Just... Stating facts, dear. We greet all our guests with the same: openness.”

She winks at Scorpius, entirely inappropriate. “That’s the difference, you know.”

“Heh.” I giggle nervously, pushing Scorpius forward. “Yeah... I’ll introduce you to my uncle Bill, now.”

--


It seems that Mum has indeed invited half the family.

I stand on the threshold to the dining room for a moment, taking it all in. Victoire’s little guys are zooming in and out between the legs of my grandparents, uncles and aunts. Lily is stuffing her face by the snack-table, wearing a red polka-dotted dress, the black polkadots stretched large across her bump. Darren and Ted are laughing at something James has said, tucked into the corner of the room. Ted’s uninhibited grin dashes me somewhat for a moment there.

The entire room seems to light up with something that’s always been missing in my apartment in London, I just didn’t realize it until now. Mr Gobbles squeezes past me, searching out Ted’s feet, rubbing his traitorous head against his legs.

A hand wraps around me, taking me across the threshold.

“Let the party begin.” Scorpius murmur is soft in my ear, his grip gentle but firm. We end up standing in front of the three guys, Ted’s shades of blue taunting me.

“Scorpius! Lucy!” Darren booms in greeting. “The lovebirds have arrived.”

I manage nothing but a feeble smile, wanting nothing but to sink into the ground. As if sensing my urge, Scorpius’s fingers dig into my shoulder, holding me steadfast with surprising strength.

“Ah, the Malfoy kid.” James sneers, tilting his cognac glass at us. "Feeling better, are you?"

I feel Scorpius’s shiver as I press into his body, hip to hip. It seems as though we’re holding each other up now, supporting.

James twirls the drink around his glass idly. As if summoned by some wicked curse, Rose slides in, her simpering smile sickly sweet. She places a hand on Scorpius arm.

“Scorpius! It's been too long. Tell me, how’s Daddy Malfoy?”  

I'll tell you, that girl has some seriously weird flirting tactics.

“Excuse me,” Ted takes his cue and leaves us, striding out the door.

“Rose –“ Darren warns, but I cut him off, smiling sweetly.

“Now, lets ease off on my lover boy, yeah? Before we start turning on the pair of you.”

“That’s right, your lover boy.” Rose raises an eyebrow, her gaze wicked wrong. “Come to think of it, I don’t think we’ve seen you guys kiss?”

I don’t answer, too angry for words as I stare at her smug face. There’s an awkward beat, the two of us in a mad staring-contest, until Scorpius swoops in, fixing it all as always, his voice tender.  

“No, I don’t suppose you have,” Scorpius takes a breath, stepping closer to me. A raised pair of eyebrows is all the warning I get, before he’s kissing me, mouth slanted hot over mine.

I gasp, shuddering unexpectedly. As if encouraged, Scorpius steps closer to me, his hand sliding along my shoulder, down to press me closer to him. It seems to go on forever, my eyes rolling in the velvety touch of his lips. Finally, he pulls back with a small peck to the side of my neck, smiling at me.

“There,” he says softly. “That should have everyone satisfied.”

The chatter in the room has stilled considerably. Rose's gaping face bears a mix of pure astonishment and jealousy. I don't think she expected her wickedness to play in that direction. Honestly, neither did I.

I wipe my mouth in my sleeve, looking around. Ted is standing in the doorway, a smile frozen on his face, his eyes wide. I smile gently at him, reeling from the moment. His answering smile is timid, somewhat strained.

I guess I’m not the only one finding it hard to see oneself discarded for a newer version.

Scorpius hand is still curled around my waist, his body pressed against me. A small tingle spreads up through my body at the feel of a male body, my body seemingly answering anything. Avoiding his gaze, I gently disentangle myself, stepping towards the table. I need to get away from all these people and emotions - especially my own.

“I’m famished," I sigh, my voice pitching terribly. "Let’s eat.”

--

Lucy aged 18, Ted 21.


Annoyed, I let the brush fall with a clatter, my fingers numb and unmoving.

“What is it?” I feel his stubble against my neck and a small giggle escapes me.

“Hey…” I turn around to kiss him, mindful to keep my dip-dyed fingers out of his clothes. “How was training?”

“Tough.” Ted presses a firm kiss against my lips, nibbling at my lower lip. “There’s no mercy with Potter as your mentor.”

“But it’ll be worth it in the end, right?. It’ll save your life.”

Ted makes a non-committable shrug, nodding at the smeared canvas. “Trouble with your muse?”

I follow his gaze to the cluster that is my canvas, shuddering. It looks more like a mud-paint, the colours bleeding together.

“It just won’t… Commit.”

He rubs his hands up and down my body. “There’s no forcing it. Just let it come to you.”

We stare at the whirl of colours for a moment, wrapped up in each other, my head tucked underneath his chin. I feel the soft expand of his chest as he breathes in and out, feeling the stress leave my body.  

I pull back to look at him. “So, my handsome Auror-trainee, you ready to face the wrath of my mother?”

Ted smiles that slow smile he always uses when he needs to get his way. “Come off it, Audrey loves me.”

I laugh. “Not when you tell her we’re moving in together, she won’t.”

Ted pales considerably. I shove his shoulder, jolting him.

“Hey. We’ll do it together. It’ll be fine.”

“Fine?” He doesn’t look convinced. "You'll be absolutely no help. You wouldn't recognize a confrontation even if it stood right in front of you, wearing nothing but one of Longbottom's hideous ties."

"Stuff it." I roll my eyes, laughing.

His wide gaze doesn't waver and I sober, squeezing his shoulder.

“Stop worrying,” I murmur, kissing the side of his mouth. "It'll be fine."

"Mhmpf," Ted sighs. I nestle my head in the crook of his arm, sighing.

“Besides, it’s Christmas. Dad will at least have the courtesy to wait until after the holidays to maim you.”

--


“So, Ted, you must be excited.”

Scorpius snatching another carrot from the bowl, ignoring my glares.

He’s been pestering everyone for information and small stories. It may seem innocent, but I saw through him the moment he started pulling out a camera, blitzing portraits and selfies with every member of my family, making sure to include Ted, Uncle Bill and the dinner table in every other frame.

“I mean,” Scorpius takes an abnormally large bite of the carrot. “This being your first wedding and all?”  

Ted freezes in the spot; his fork paused halfway to his mouth. I shift nervously. Nobody says anything for a long time.

“Um… Technically speaking, it’s Ted’s… second marriage?” James says, scratching the back of his head, avoiding my eyes.

“Second?” Scorpius slowly turns to look at me. I stare back, bread halfway to my mouth. Ted clears his throat.

“Um. Yeah.”

Scorpius looks baffled for a sliver of a second before gaining a look of impatience. “Well. Who was the other girl?”

Silence. Everyone’s looking down into their plates, refusing to meet eyes. After a moment Ted answers in a monotone.

“Some small town girl. Nothing much. It ended rather quickly, anyways. Small dreams, small ambitions, you know.”

He laughs it off with a shrug, only no one else is laughing. No one else is saying anything. I dig my fingers into my thigh, breathing. He’s still watching me and I want to do something… anything, just to stop his staring. I think he blames me. I think half the town blames me and the guilt curls violently in my stomach.

“Er… Okay.” Scorpius’s voice is uncertain for the first time ever. I stare into my plate, digging my heels into my shin to stop the words.

“I –“

And quite suddenly, the turkey begins to float.

“What the –“

Fascinated, we all watch as the turkey, which by now bears more resemblance to a football, bounces off the ceiling in the dining room. It bounces up and down for a few moments before settling somewhere underneath the chandelier.

“Well, that was that turkey…” James leans across the table and begins piling mushrooms and mash onto his plate, soaking it in gravy, seemingly wanting to secure not leaving the table hungry.

Vic turns to look at her twins. “Alright. Who was it?”

I swear, she bears a striking resemblance to Auntie Ginny whenever she does that.

The smallest of the two tries to look upset, “Mum! I –“  

Enough!” Victoire drew herself up to her full height. “Both of you are –“

“Er,” Scorpius looked around. “What’s that… sound?”

And suddenly everything seems to speed up and slow down at the same time. The Turkey suddenly starts expanding rapidly and before we know it, it’s exploded, bathing the entire living room in a spatter of bones and onions.

And amidst the chaos, Mum stands, her eyes wide and mouth gaping open and shut like a bad imitation of a fish on dry land. Quite and utterly going to pieces.

--


The night air is soothing against my skin, the prickled earthy smell greeting me more warmly than any relative inside that hostile house. I’ve brought a bottle of bourbon with me, the cork popping softly as I unscrew it.

I’m about to take a sip as the view before me somehow stops my arm from tilting. In front of me stretches our old fields long into the distance. Spots of yellow are beginning to emerge like dots of sunshine between the green. It’s beautiful.

The wind pushes against my bare legs, nudging me along, deeper into something that has been hidden far, far away.

I let the bottle drop into the soft grass, the promise of oblivion discarded in favour for remembrance.

The flowers stand tall beside me, all turned the same direction, and I get the feeling they’re watching something, waiting patiently before blooming at the perfect moment. Always waiting.

The large oak tree rises up before me, its roots gnarled and far reaching; a shadow of what used to birth the nightmares of my childhood dreams. Somehow my feet bring me to its base, my hand slipping across its rough surface.

Hello, old friend.

I slip around its large base to see if it’s still there, if it could possibly still remain, even after all this time, even after…

My feet sink slightly into the mud, the ground softer here than anywhere else. I press onwards, my heart beating irregularly in my throat as I push the lanky plants out of my way.

The greenery seems to grow denser before suddenly stopping completely. My breath held, I step into the small circle, my smile wider. A shaky laugh escapes me as I turn in the circle, somewhat not believing it. My secret place is still here.

From here, you can see the wooden house Dad built for Molly and I up in the oak tree, before Molly grew tired of it, and it became just mine. The edge of the roof of the house is barely visible, the stars shining like suns against the black opal canvas.

“I’d forgotten how bright the stars are out here.”

“Ted –“ I turn to face him, wide eyed. “You scared me.”

Ted steps out of the shadows, slowly coming into view of the moonlight. I feel his burning stare, shifting down my body, my skin blossoming into heat. His mouth spreads into an impossible smirk.

“Nice pajamas.”

The garment in question is a size or two too small, stretched tightly across the curve of my bum. I tuck my hands beneath my armpits, self-conscious.

“How did you know where to find me?”

I look at him directly and clearly, annoyance colouring my cheeks.

“This was my hide-out, too, you know.”

I stare at him, wondering how much he remembers, how he could possibly

How this could hold the same significance to him when the only obligation he’d ever felt was to send a half-hearted postcard from here, a neat little Hope you’re well, scribbled in slanted ink in between the stippled lines.

“Of course I remember, Luce. We spent most of our childhood here.” I watch his kaleidoscope eyes shift from blue to brown, like a light flickering on, urged by remembrance.

“You lost your-“

“We lost a lot of things here, Ted.” My voice is shaky. I look away, irritated with myself and this situation, feeling much too bare suddenly, shivering in the cotton blouse.

“I like you like this.” He smiles, gesturing to the pyjamas. “You look like Luce again.”

“I didn’t before?”

“Nah, you’ve changed a lot.” Ted steps closer, moving towards me, wearing a small smile. “The high heels and pretty dresses? You’re not Little Lucy anymore.”

I wonder if that means I’m no longer his Lucy, either then. The thought sends my stomach lurching.  I watch his mouth flattening with disapproval, the ferocity in his stare.

“Your smell has changed. I think that’s the worst part.”

He’s very close now, his breath fanning over my cheeks. He raises a finger to my cheekbone, brushing back my hair, making my breath hitch.

“You used to smell like the fields here; like sunflowers and paint.”

He toys with a piece of my hair, seemingly lost in thought before he lets go, stepping away from my body in a rush.

“Now you smell like a perfume factory and too much hairspray.”

I watch his face, his twisted mouth, as if partway to another sarcastic comment. He still smells the same. Of the ocean and cinnamon. I want to tell him that he’s the same and that I want to be the same, but that look in his eyes halts me. I won’t ever be the same to him.

“Why’d you stop painting, Luce?”

I’m frozen. I’m not ready for this, but I know it’s too late to hide, too late to turn away from this conversation so I opt for half-truths.

“I didn’t have anything beautiful left to paint.”

His contrite blink isn’t lost to me as he’s a second too late at masking it.

“Now whose fault it that?”

Ouch.

I try to look away, masking the hurt by tucking a strand of hair behind my ear. Crossing and uncrossing my legs, my eyes always come back to him, hurt lodged somewhere deep in my throat.

I’m not sure how I do it, how I can possibly force myself to meet his gaze. It’s like looking at bright light, my eyes tender troubled.

“Don’t do that,” Ted says, his voice low and rough.

“Do what?”

His fingers brush over my chin, then sweep across my temple, the slightest of touch. His hand drops and he sighs deeply.

“Don’t look at me like that. When you do that it’s like we’re five and nine again and I’m blowing on your boo-boo patch, trying to get you to stop crying by telling awful armless ghost-jokes.”

My smile is impossible. “They were quite bad.”

“Oh, shush, I was desperate. I would’ve done anything to stop you from being in pain.”

We both halt then, lost in a moment as the meaning of his words sink in. His wide-eyed gaze tells me, he knows the depth of them. And suddenly we’re no longer reminiscing about childhoods and scraped knees, but it’s something different, something important.

“I’ve really missed you.” My voice is rough, my eyes stinging. I look away from him, looking out towards the ocean that’s barely visible in the distant horizon.

Ted’s voice is soft. “Likewise.”

We come to sit, side by side, our shoulder pressed together at the base of the oak.

“Remember when you were afraid of the dark when we went camping and I used to lie with you until you fell asleep?”

There’s something in his voice. I can’t quite make it out, almost lonely, melancholic, too. I feel like turning to face him, saying Please, please, please. But the words die on my tongue, too bitter in hesitance and indecision.

“You were always gone when I woke up.”

His smile is wry. “I would’ve stayed if you’d asked, small stuff.”

The years spin briefly in my head and my hear surges with longing to be home, really home. I can’t remember the last time I felt like belonging anywhere. I feel him exhale, his head falling back against the tree.

"You told her I was your best friend." I can't help but blurt it out at him, my lips trembling. I can't help about the tone, either. It sounds more accusing than it did in my head.

Ted eyes me for a moment. "I did," he says finally. "It's the truth, anyways."

"Does she know?"

"About...?"

I shrug. "Everything. The apartment, the vows, the disownment. Just. All of it."

He sighs. "She knows... parts of it. Other bits I've kept quiet about."

"Oh, like the fact that you were married before?"

"What did you tell her?"

I look away from him, sinking. "Nothing. But I'm pretty sure she wouldn't be crowning me as her new bestie if she knew."

He runs a hand through his hair, agitated. "She doesn't know. I'll tell her soon. Just... Give me time, yeah?"

I nod. "Just don't wait too long, Ted. You know this town: a secret doesn't stay secret for long, here."

"Don't I know it... Don't I know it."

His eyes meet mine and I swallow thickly. "Would you stop looking at me like that?"

"Like what?" His gaze doesn't waver.

"Like you've seen me naked."

His grin is devilish. "But I have seen you naked..."

"Stuff it, Lupin."

Silence settles for some time, before Ted breaks it again, his voice faint.

“Will you be my best man?”

I stare at him.

“You’re joking.” It comes out proper, stiff. "We've barely talked since I've been back - and -"

In a sudden jerky move, he reaches out, pulling me against his side and I am overcome by the smell of him, warm and homey.

“I’m not joking.” His murmur presses against my hair, his body too, too close. I shiver sigh into him, my heart bottoming out.

“You’ll still be wearing Pippa’s bridesmaids’ dress, only… Only you’d be on my side, my right hand. Supporting me.”

I blink. Words are singing underneath my skin, my tongue burning with them. I feel like screaming with the force of it. Instead, I’m silent with horror, my heart somewhat sensing that I will not – cannot, deny my boy anything - not even this.

His fingers brush against my wrist. “Don’t make me beg, Small Stuff.”

“I-y-I… Yes… Of course, Ted. Of course I’ll do it.”

“I knew you’d do it.” Ted is sparkling, brilliance bursting out of him. “Pippa was saying it isn’t proper. But you’re my best friend, you know. No matter what.”

No matter what. I sink. Ted hums softly, the sound muffled against my ear. In a silent act, we settle back against the tree trunk, in a fashion that can only be accomplished by two people who’ve know each other since forever, perfectly in tune, even after all this time.

We’re silent for so long, watching the swaying sunflowers that Ted’s voice startles me somewhat. He strokes a soothing hand down my arm, his voice soft.

“It’s good to have you back, Lucy.”


--

Lucy 18, Ted 21


"You're not supposed to stop."

My voice is soft, a murmur pressed against his collarbone.

Ted pulls back. I watch his eyelashes flutter, press against his furry eyebrows. There's something undefinable in his eyes right here, and I press my fingers down on the back of his neck, urging him to me, closer until I can't tell where I end and he begins. That's how I prefer it.

He presses a scorching kiss to the edge of my jaw. "I like this. There's no rush."

I roll my eyes. It's been the same discussion for months on no end.

"Ted."

"Lucy." He mock glares.

I push up against him, pressing my mouth against his, demanding at last. I won't let him back away. He's contrite with me for a moment, meeting my kisses with a ferocity of his own.

Before long, though, he pulls back, smiling softly.

"This isn't the place, Small Stuff."

"Why not?" I ask, looking around us. The sunflowers have bloomed, standing like butter across the arsenic sky. "It's beautiful here. It's where you blew on my boo boo patch."

He laughs then, a light sound that lifts the corners of my own mouth, a mirror twin of his perfect grin.

"You know, I knew it back then. That it'd be you It'd always be you."

"Liar, liar. Big, fat liar." I laugh, but pull him close nonetheless, rubbing my nose against his.

"You're going all cheesy on me, Mr Lupin..."

I grip his arm with unexpected force, pulling him close and touching my temple against his. He blinks at me slowly. I can feel the blood pulsating underneath my skin, his heart hammering against my hand pressed there.

"Please." I sink in a sudden urge of seriousness. "I don't know where else would be a better place than here."

Murmuring my name, Ted brings a hand up, caressing my face. And suddenly he's gripping my face, bringing me in closer to him. His eyes are squeezed shut, but he opens them and looks at me.

"I wanted it to be special. Not in a meadow."

"It is special," I whisper, curving a hand against the slope of his chin. "This is us. It'll always be us."

He nods tightly, his forehead still pressed to mine and I feel his breath across my lips. He cradles my face, turning it up to meet his, kissing me slow and thoroughly like he's memorizing me. He presses his body against me, a pleasant heaviness. I hold onto his wrists, trying to steady my erratic breathing.

"This okay?" His voice is gruff, breathless like I feel. I nod silently, pulling at him to close the gap again. A low groan rises in his throat, his hands squeezing at my waist.

"Lucy." His eyes are scorching as his thumb rubs across the top of my cheekbone.

And just like that, he owns me. It's in those little gasps of breath as he pulls back just a little bit before kissing me again, the low sighs that seem to origin from somewhere deep in his chest. It's in his murmured words and the way his lashes flutter against the beautiful slope of his freckled cheeks. The way my skin prickles and shivers in response to his. It's the way we stir things, move the universe on this meadow underneath our oak tree.

He owns me. Just like that.

--






 


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