Chapter 16 : Sixteen
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Toby was giving a running commentary, with enough cheeky remarks for Tara to jab her stick into the back of his knee, causing him to falter and fall spread-eagle onto the ice. Being decked out in quidditch gear, however, he merely slid several yards on his shoulder pads, rather than actually hurting himself.
“Foul!” Zen yelled.
Grace shrugged, “I’ll allow it.”
Zen rolled his eyes before skating over to snatch her up from behind and spin her around in a circle. “Belby, you’re too bloody biased to ref.”
Giggling, Grace replied, “Technically, I’m unbiased, since I’m not favouring you because you fulfil my visual interests… And other things.”
“Oh, that flirting!” Rachel rolled her eyes and moaned melodramatically, “Do I have to watch this?”
“Looks like there’ll be more to witness in a minute.” Nick muttered, noticing the three teenagers approaching the edge of the ice.
Toby, whom Tara and Kelly had taken pity on and picked up, called to his two best friends (knowing Lucy wouldn’t willingly set foot on the ice no matter how thick she thought it was), “This isn’t a spectator sport. Get your arses out here.”
Grinning, Fred and James conjured skates of their own and pulled them on, gliding out to the others. Lucy remained on terra firma, skeptical of the slippery surface.
“Come on, Lucy,” Rachel called, skating backwards across the ice. “Face your fears!”
“Why should I?” Lucy retorted, eyeing the ice with trepidation. “Fear is a legitimate thing that is there to keep us from dying.”
James rolled his eyes, “It’s only ice-skating!”
“Yeah.” Lucy scoffed. “Ice has evolved over the years to become slippery, because it doesn’t want us on its back.”
With promises of hot chocolate and marshmallows afterwards, Lucy was finally convinced to join them, and Grace joined the girl’s team to encompass the change in numbers. They played for a good hour, the boys winning two out of the three games, what with four out of the five being sportsmen, and one out of the five girls being Lucy. Zen had been using underhand tactics to distract Grace when she had the puck, however both Tara and Kelly refused to do the same to steal possession of the puck from Toby and James respectively.
After another half hour, Lucy tired of the rough and tumble aspects of the game and the freezing surface on which they played it on, and decided to leave them to it. Rachel followed her up to the castle; but it took her until Lucy was waiting for an inconvenient staircase on the second floor to catch up.
“Lucy, come on, don’t go.”
Lucy decided to take another route to Ravenclaw Tower and turned left along the corridor.
“I kept falling down. My bum hurts.”
“You should put some ice on it.” Rachel replied flatly, still following her.
Lucy ducked her head eyes closed, smiling. She’d walked right into that one. She had a habit of saying the wrong thing in front of Rachel Carter, whose only response to her snark was to absorb it, despite never saving it up for later. Lucy couldn’t understand how one could go about their business with a smile for everyone they passed whilst actually meaning it. Nobody was that genuine. And how could she have a comeback for every comment made against her without ever being mean in return? Lucy preferred to hit once and hit hard, usually below the belt, with her weapon of choice: the truth. That way they rarely retaliated. But with Rachel, nothing thrown her way ever seemed sufficient to get enough of a rise out of her to resort to being anything less than sporting. Lucy may have done an excellent job at pretending she didn’t give a damn, but Rachel genuinely didn’t care what other people thought of her.
Rachel moved around her when Lucy stopped walking, her eyebrows pulled together inquisitively. “What’s the matter?”
Her curly brown hair was unraveling from her braids, the shorter strands glowing golden in the pale winter sunshine filtering through the windows, making a halo around her crown. That was Rachel at her core, underneath all the airy-fairy-mania and the over-competitive sportsman silhouette, she was an angel. So naive to expel such unadulterated happiness when she smiled.
Lucy wondered if she could have ever turned out like Rachel, if her parents hadn’t been workaholics, if she hadn’t listened to their arguments late at night when they thought she and Molly had long since fallen asleep, if she could just learn to accept that people wanted what was best for her at face value, rather than looking for any ulterior motives. If she had been born normal, maybe she could have been happy with what she had. But she wasn’t normal, so she was going to have to get her euphoria a different way.
“Nothing.” Lucy replied, striding forward to push Rachel into an empty classroom. She kicked the door shut with her boot and closed the space between them with a kiss. “Nothing at all.”
Rachel pulled back. “What was that for?”
“Do I need a reason?”
Rachel blinked at the intensity in Lucy’s blue-eyed gaze. “No.”
She took a fistful of Rachel’s wild hair and pulled her head down to her level again, crushing her lips against hers. Heat blossomed everywhere Rachel’s hands touched, down her arms and over her hip bones and under her sweatshirt to the soft, sensitive skin of her stomach, her waist, her ribs. Lucy pulled back in a gasp of laughter. She hadn’t been touched in such a long time; she had forgotten she was ticklish at all, let alone there, at the bottom of her spine, on the waistband of her jeans.
“I’ll remember that.”
Rachel kissed her again, pushing her back against a desk. Lucy’s hands curled around her neck, lacing into her hair. Hands dipping down to the back of Lucy’s thighs, Rachel boosted her onto the desk, wrapping her legs around her. It was an aggressive kiss, tongues and teeth and lips fighting for dominance. It was hands curled around hip bones and fingers knotting in hair, it was two people trying to get closer with nothing in-between them.
It was only as Rachel went to push Lucy’s glasses to the top of her head did she realise the other girl was crying. The moisture on her fingers registered as tears and settled in as shock. She pulled away, looking at the grey tracks slipping down Lucy’s flushed cheeks, her mascara blending with the saltwater leaking from her bloodshot blue eyes.
“Hey…” Rachel pulled the sleeves of her sweater over her fingers and wiped under her eyes. She tilted Lucy’s face back up to hers, “What’s the matter?”
Lucy’s gaze flitted over Rachel’s face, her inquisitive eyebrows, her freckled nose and wide set cheekbones, her mouth — her lovely mouth — and her soulful brown eyes that should have seen right through her by now. “Nothing.”
“Lucy.” Rachel tucked a ringlet of brilliant red hair behind Lucy’s heavily pierced left ear. “Lucy, talk to me. Something is clearly wrong. Tell me.”
“That’s the thing: nothing’s wrong.” Lucy lifted a shoulder and let it drop. “Nothing’s broken and nothing is wrong, school is fine, we’re great, and life after school is sorted… But I… am falling apart. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with me except there is obviously everything wrong with me because I can’t—” She gave a shuddering sigh and curled her fingers into the folds of Rachel’s sweater. “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe anymore.”
Rachel rubbed the pad of her thumb against Lucy’s lower lip, easing her lips apart before she kissed her, hard, and open mouthed. Lucy’s hands fisted the back of Rachel’s sweater, holding her close.
Though the kiss had left her short of breath, Lucy nodded, her eyes now dry despite the dampness of her cheeks. Rachel saw the longing in her eyes and shifted to sit on the desk beside her, her bleached jeans pressing agains Lucy’s black ones. She took Lucy’s white hand in her brown one.
“It’s not enough, is it?”
Lucy leaned her head on Rachel’s shoulder and whispered. “It’s never enough.”
There was a quiet, as they sat there, connected from ankle to hip, not moving, not talking, their breaths quiet in comparison to the wind rattling the glass in the window panes. Then Rachel spoke into the silence.
“Shut up.” Rachel sighed.
Lucy did as she was told.
“I’m muggleborn. My mum’s name is Shania, she’s a nurse in Intensive Care Wards. My dad left when I was seven. My little brother, Olly, he’s twelve. He can play the saxophone and he’s the goalie on his school’s football team. He’s a lot smarter than I am, and I miss him every day. I learnt to fly on a Cleansweep Five. This scar,”—she touched the faint creamy line on her temple—“the charm wore off and I crashed into the east goal hoops. That’s when I bought my own broomstick. I used all my savings on that Comet 490, and now I work holidays in the Leaky Cauldron for some extra cash. Mum can’t keep putting money into my Gringotts’ vault, because she can’t even see Diagon Alley without me… I really need to do well this year, because I don’t have anything to go back to, and I won’t have any muggle qualifications, either. The Harpies and Puddlemere are both looking at signing me, but they still want four NEWTs at A or above… I wouldn’t be doing this well without you, you know? You are making a difference Lucy. To me, and I’m sure to others, too. You are so relevant right now, please don’t ever think that you’re not.”
Lost for words, Lucy lifted their intertwined fingers to her lips and rested the knuckle of Rachel’s thumb against her mouth. Rachel leaned her head against Lucy’s, her curls cushioning the tiny space between them.
“I’m brilliant, and I hate it when people say I get it from my father, like he gave this to me consciously — I wasn’t even a planned pregnancy for Merlin’s sake, he can’t have been all that aware… I’m smarter than he was at my age, and I know a whole lot more than he does now, because I am determined not to turn out to be a boring old bastard like he is… not to turn out anything like he is… You know, I used to pretend not to be clever? The thing is, it’s a lot harder pretending you don’t know something when you do, than it is to pretend you do know something when you don’t. Bluffing is easy, lying is hard. Plus, that made him act more hands on, and I hated that. It’s a lot easier to find yourself when you don’t have someone leading you down the path they took…
“And it’s not as if anything I ever did was ever going to compare to Molly, anyway. She’s the golden girl, she turned out just like him, professionally, anyway: prefect, top of her class, ministry internship, important office job… Personality wise she’s alright. Birthdays-and-Christmas-visiting-hours alright. Mum’s different. She’s sly and clever and charismatic — I don’t understand how she ever married him. I don’t understand how she ever got married, she doesn’t need anyone to complete her, she does that herself — she’s even more impossible to live up to… I don’t see myself in any of them, and I feel like everything I’ve ever done is in spite of them… But for what? What did they ever do that was so terrible I wanted to eviscerate their presence from my life? I don’t understand anymore. There’s nothing wrong with this picture, but there is everything wrong with me. How is that possible?”
Rachel considered this.
“Just because something isn’t wrong, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any good. And as for you… it’s like Golpalott’s Third Law. You are more than the sum of your parts.”
Lucy pulled her sleeves down over her fingers, sniffing. “Doesn’t feel like it today.”
“It will.” Rachel kissed her forehead. Her lips moved against the blonde baby hairs on Lucy’s hairline, “You were made for great things, Lucy Weasley… One day, it will.”
Lucy smiled softly, then lifted her face to Rachel’s. “A Comet 490, did you say?”
“Yeah,” She was so close she only had one eye. “Why?”
Leaning ever closer so that her lips brushed against Rachel’s as she spoke, Lucy whispered with a smile, “Take me for a ride, Carter.”
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