Look Me in the Eyes
Part Four: Resolution
Three days later …
It was eerily quiet given the number of people present, the silence interrupted only by the sound of the gentle rainfall and the occasional pop of Apparition as the mourners arrived outside the gates.
Teddy's fingers gripped his umbrella tightly as he escorted his grandmother onto Hogwarts' grounds, his steps cautious as his boots caught in the sodden ground. Slowly, they approached the lake and the grouping of chairs that had been set up along the banks, protected from the rain by a large white tent. As they made their way across the grounds, Teddy frowned at his grandmother's unusually quiet demeanour. He knew the day would be difficult for her, not only due to the loss of a family friend, but because it was a reminder of a summer over two decades past when she had attended the funerals of loved one after loved one after loved one.
They continued to walk towards the assemblage of witches and wizards who had already been seated. It was a relatively small group; the Headmistress had not wanted a large memorial service but instead had requested a more intimate affair, with only close friends and their families present. Her health had been failing over the past several years, and so her passing had not been unexpected but upsetting nonetheless.
Teddy and his grandmother took their seats at the far end of a row, leaving empty the chairs to Teddy's left. He sighed and bowed his head, staring at the bit of earth beneath the chair in front of him. It had been three long days since his epiphany regarding Abigail, and he hadn't had a chance to do anything about it. He had been preparing to Apparate to her parents' house to see her when the owl had arrived with the news of the Headmistress' passing. While his heart had ached with the need to go to Abigail and hopefully make things right between them again, he had known that, once again, the timing was all wrong.
Would it ever be right? Or were they destined to tiptoe around each other for the rest of their lives? The thought sent a spasm of pain through his body, spreading from its centre of origin, the space that resided over his heart, to the ends of his fingers and toes.
Suddenly, as if he were metal drawn to a magnet, he lifted his head, turned to look over his shoulder … and there she was, walking alongside her grandmother as they walked behind her parents across the grounds. He only saw her for an instant before they turned to walk towards the tent, her position behind her father hiding her from his view. Teddy had been concerned about the family that had always welcomed him into their home. While he and Abigail had known Minerva McGonagall as headmistress and a family friend, to Severus and Hermione Snape, she had been much more: a teacher, a colleague … a friend. Their grief had to be profound.
He watched as they slowly approached and frowned as he noticed his Aunt Hermione clinging to Severus' arm like a lifeline, her lips pursed tightly in an effort to maintain her composure. Her ever-present warm smile and sparkling eyes were noticeably absent; Teddy had never seen her so upset. Even more troubling was Severus' visible dependence on his hated walking stick; he was leaning on it heavily, a clear indication of his own distress. This was particularly disconcerting to Teddy, as Severus rarely displayed an excess of emotion.
Finally, Abigail moved into his line of sight. Teddy sucked in a gulp of air; he hadn't realised he'd been holding his breath. His eyes greedily raked over her, taking in the way her lower lip trembled as she observed her parents with worried eyes. He wanted to rush to her, to pull her into his arms and offer comfort.
And then, as if she sensed his gaze, she turned her head, and their eyes met.
If they had been characters in a novel, the rest of the world would have fallen away, leaving only the two of them as they stared into each other's eyes, wordlessly seeking and offering forgiveness, until finally the heroine would race to the open arms of the hero. He would clasp her to him tightly, then his lips would meet hers, and all would be well.
But this wasn't a novel; this was reality.
Instead of rushing into his waiting arms, Abigail's step faltered, and her brow furrowed as her eyes remained locked with his. Teddy's heartbeat echoed in his ears as she and her parents approached with painstaking slowness.
"Shall we sit with Andromeda and Teddy?" he heard Hermione ask Severus quietly as she paused at the end of the row in which he and his grandmother were seated.
Teddy's heart was in his throat as he awaited Abigail's reaction, silently pleading with her to sit with him, to have forgiven him. He had no reason to expect that she had changed her mind since their last meeting, but if she had ... if she was willing to give him another chance …. He had never wished so hard for anything in his life as he did in that moment, hoping against hope that Abigail would extend an olive branch by taking the vacant seat next to him.
"No," Abigail murmured as she tore her eyes from his and stared resolutely at the middle of her father's back. "Let's sit somewhere else."
Eileen frowned and arched an eyebrow; Teddy had the insane thought that she was looking at her granddaughter in disapproval. Severus and Hermione cast each other a concerned glance and then turned questioning looks to Abigail, but she simply shook her head. Hermione looked as if she might protest, but then she nodded and allowed Severus to lead them to the opposite side of the aisle.
Teddy felt the rejection as a physical blow. He fought against the roiling in his stomach, willing himself to not to be sick and reminding his lungs take in air. He knew Abigail Snape better than he knew anyone—if she were ever going to forgive him, she would have already come to that conclusion. It was clear to him now that he had damaged their friendship beyond repair and with it, the hope of something more. Grief overtook him, and his mind chanted in an endless refrain, It's over, it's over, it's over.
Damn it all.
It was over.
Abigail had followed her grandmother and parents into the empty row and then taken the aisle seat next to her mother. Her back was ramrod straight, and she resolutely faced forwards, her eyes on the Ministry official who had begun the funeral service. When her hands began to shake, she curled her fingers into her palms, her nails carving half-moons into her skin.
Her heart had dropped to her shoes when her mother had asked if they should sit with Teddy and his grandmother. There had been a time when Abigail would have leapt at the opportunity to sit with him, to allow him to hold her hand or wrap an arm around her shoulders so that she could draw strength from his comfort—but once again, the timing was all wrong.
She hoped that the right time would present itself soon, because despite everything, she had missed their friendship terribly, and she was desperate to attempt to salvage even the smallest part of their relationship. A part of her wanted nothing more than to drag Teddy off to somewhere private where they could talk things through. It was taking all of her strength to remain seated and not rush to his side that very moment. But this wasn't the proper place or time for such things—she needed to be with her family, and sitting next to Teddy would have automatically shifted her focus to him.
Oh, who was she kidding? She might as well have been sitting in his lap, her thoughts were so centred on him. She could easily imagine his pained expression when she had refused to sit with him. All she had accomplished was to hurt Teddy even more than she had already done—and it was killing her.
She bit the inside of her cheek and fought the compulsion to look in his direction, but she was helpless against the temptation. He was so near, and she had not seen him in so long ….
She moved only her eyes until she could just barely catch of a glimpse of him, and then she immediately stifled a gasp, quickly returning her gaze to the Ministry official. When she had seen him when they had first arrived, she had been so caught up in his gaze that she hadn't noticed anything other than the fact that he was actually there. Now however, she couldn't help but see the disturbing changes to his appearance. What on earth had happened to Teddy? Unable to resist another peek, she glanced at him from the corners of her eyes for as long as she dared.
Teddy's vibrant hair, which had always entranced her, was the same dull brown it had been when she had last seen him in the Weasleys' garden, and his usual open, friendly expression appeared to be as lifeless as his hair. His eyes, which had always been filled with good-humour, were downcast, seemingly focussed on the ground under the chair in front of him, and his mouth was set in a frown. It felt wrong that Teddy should look so unlike himself. He looked … defeated.
Abigail was so busy taking stock of the changes in Teddy's appearance that she allowed her gaze to linger a few moments too long; the next thing she knew, she was staring directly into his tortured eyes.
She looked away, unable to withstand the sorrow and grief that emanated from Teddy in waves. His expression had been so bleak, so empty. And yet he had seemed resigned, as if accepting his fate.
Her heart broke for him, and the desire to go to him gripped at her chest, becoming almost as vital to her as breathing. She shook her head; this wasn't the time to be thinking of Teddy. Her family needed her, and she was supposed to be there to honour her former headmistress. What sort of person was she, to be mooning over Teddy Lupin, when she ought to be thinking of her parents and remembering the tenacious and powerful witch whom she had known since infancy?
A warm hand found hers and squeezed, and Abigail looked up into her mother's tear-streaked face. Hermione tilted her head to the side and then reached out with her free hand to tuck an errant curl behind Abigail's ear. "Go to him."
Hermione nodded and whispered, "When the service is over, go to him … before it's too late."
It was a sunny afternoon near Ottery St Catchpole, the warmth a welcome change from the gloomy, rainy morning they had spent in Scotland. The former Order members and their families had been invited to lunch at the Burrow after the funeral service. The small house was now filled to bursting, and the back garden was teeming with children and young witches and wizards. Their laughter as they enjoyed the sunny afternoon echoed through the countryside.
Inside the Burrow, however, the atmosphere was unusually sombre. Teddy was accustomed to the loud and boisterous household; he'd spent as much time in the Weasley home when he was growing up as he had at the Snapes'. The quiet murmurs and subdued faces seemed unnatural, and it was making Teddy more uneasy than he already was.
Wishing to be alone, he had ensconced himself in a dark corner of the sitting room where he could watch and listen to the others with ease.
All right, so he was hiding, but he had no desire to talk to anyone at the moment. He would much rather have gone home and wallowed in solitude, but his grandmother had insisted he escort her to lunch at the Weasleys' and had refused to take no for an answer. And so it was that he sat in the corner, hidden away from view, as he attempted to keep his mind off a certain dark-haired witch.
He almost smiled as he heard the familiar sound of Molly Weasley bustling about the kitchen, fussing at her daughter and four daughters-in-law as they attempted to help her with the final touches for the afternoon meal. After a few minutes, the younger witches streamed from the kitchen, shaking their heads at Molly's insistence that she finish things up herself.
Teddy's hiding spot, unfortunately, didn't go unnoticed, and before long, the five women had Summoned chairs and encircled him—there would be no escape. The women didn't appear to be put off in the slightest by his disinterest in their attempts at conversation, even though his responses to their queries bordered on rude.
"Are you home for good, Teddy?" asked Aunt Ginny.
Teddy shrugged. He didn't want to think about that right now.
"Are you seeing anyone?" asked Aunt Mandy.
I wish. "No."
"What a 'andsome boy you 'ave become," commented Aunt Fleur.
He shifted in his seat. "Erm … thank you."
"Did you enjoy working with the dragons?" asked Aunt Penny.
"Yes." He truly had enjoyed his work—when he hadn't been missing Abigail.
"Have you come across any Capellorks recently?"
Everyone turned to stare at Luna Lovegood Weasley, but her protuberant grey eyes were directed solely at Teddy; her typical dreamy expression was conspicuously absent, replaced by a seriousness he had never before seen in the eccentric witch.
"I … I don't know."
She nodded and then tilted her head to one side. "I see. I think if you had encountered one, you would know it—they're quite large and intimidating. I only asked because of your hair. I thought a Capellork might have frightened the colour right out … but perhaps you're merely sad."
And with that pronouncement, she stood to her feet. "I think I'll go find George and Freddy and make sure they aren't up to too much mischief." She walked away to look for her husband and son, happily humming off-tune.
The resulting silence was uncomfortable, and soon, the remaining witches decided they had best check on their children, as well. Teddy breathed a sigh of relief at having been left alone … finally.
He closed his eyes and rested his head on the wall behind him, hoping that his grandmother would not wish to spend the entire day at the Burrow. He felt guilty even before he finished the thought. His grandmother was mourning the loss of her friend, and he selfishly wanted her to "hurry up" so he could go home and sulk. He was certainly turning into quite the prat.
Disgusted by his own behaviour, he left his hiding place with newfound determination and walked over to the grouping of men on the far side of the room. He took a seat next to his godfather and spent the next half hour listening attentively as the wizards shared their memories of the late headmistress.
He had finally relaxed enough to enjoy listening to men's reminiscences when he felt a warm, familiar hand upon his shoulder. Every muscle in his body tensed when Abigail's hair brushed against his cheek as she leant down to whisper in his ear.
"May I speak with you in private, please?"
Teddy closed his eyes. What more could there possibly be to say? She was never going to forgive him—she had made that perfectly clear earlier that morning—so what was the point?
Suddenly, he heard his grandmother's words clearly in his mind: "If your father were here today, he would tell you to stop being such an arse. He would tell you that time is too precious, life too short. He would tell you that when you find love, you must grab it with both hands and never let go. Don't waste a single moment."
So much time had already been lost between them, and Teddy knew he could not allow this moment to be wasted, as well. He would apologise once again—for the right things this time—and hope for the best. He didn't expect her to forgive him or to return his feelings any longer, but perhaps some part of their friendship could be salvaged—and it would be enough. It would have to be enough.
He nodded and rose to his feet, only to suck in a breath when Abigail slipped her hand into his and silently led him from the room. Like a love struck puppy, he followed her out of the house and onto the familiar path that led to Molly Weasley's flower garden.
From the kitchen window, three witches stood and watched as Abigail led Teddy away from the house.
"Those two could have taught Shakespeare a lesson on how bumpy the course of true love is," muttered Andromeda, craning her head to catch the last glimpse of the young couple.
Eileen laughed, her dark eyes sparkling with triumph. "They've been dancing around each other for years. About time they did something about it. Speaking of which, I do believe you owe me ten Galleons, Andromeda—Abigail made the first move."
Andromeda huffed even as she waved her wand to Summon her bag. "Teddy was well on his way. He would have beaten her to the punch if Minnie would have held on a few more days."
Hermione gasped, her eyes widening in shock. "Andromeda!"
"Well it's true." She sniffed. "She would have been the first to say it, too—she had twenty Galleons on Teddy."
Hermione shook her head and turned back to face the window, but Teddy and Abigail were already out of sight. "Thank Merlin this is finally over."
"What's finally over?"
The three witches jumped in unison at the sound of Severus' voice and then spun around, presenting a trio of innocent faces to the wizard who had entered the kitchen. His arms were crossed over his chest, an expectant gleam in eyes. "I believe I asked a simple question. I do not wish to repeat it."
"Speak up, darling," Eileen quipped. "I'm an old witch—my hearing isn't what it once was."
"Oh, really?" Severus replied stoically. "I'll remember that the next time you come to visit. Hermione and I won't feel the need to curb our regular nocturnal activities."
"Severus!" Hermione gasped, her cheeks turning bright red.
He waved a dismissive hand. "We do have two children, my dear. Only one of them was conceived the old fashioned way. The other was a direct result of 'nocturnal activities.' I believe you can rest assured that she, and the rest of the world for that matter, is entirely aware that we engage in—."
"Severus!" Hermione repeated, but now her tone was stern. "I do believe that is quite enough on that subject."
He smirked. "Yes, dear. Now answer my question. What is finally over?"
Hermione stepped forward and placed a hand on her husband's forearm. "You may not be pleased about this, but try to remember that this is what Abigail wants, and you want to her to be happy. All right?"
Severus' eyes narrowed. "Why do I suddenly have the feeling I am not going to be pleased with the answer to my query?"
"Because you're a very observant wizard," Andromeda offered helpfully, her expression utterly guileless.
He pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. "She cracked, didn't she?"
"Yes." The three witches answered in unison.
Sighing, Severus reached into his robes and pulled out a small pouch. He opened it up and then pulled out several coins before stepping forward. "Fifty for you," he said to his mother, placing the Galleons into her palm.
Eileen nodded as her fingers curled around the heavy coins. "Thank you."
Andromeda's expression was smug as she held out her hand. "And Fifty for you," Severus muttered, pressing the coins into her hand.
"Wait a minute," Hermione said, simultaneously irate and puzzled. "You bet on our daughter's love life? And why on earth are you paying both of them?" She pointed in the general direction of the older witches.
Severus grimaced. "Isn't it obvious? I lost a bet."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Yes, I get that. But Andromeda thought Teddy would give in first, while Eileen had her money on Abigail."
Severus grumbled under his breath and then strode out of the room.
Hermione blinked and then looked to the other two women. "What was that all about?"
Eileen grinned. "Last year, he overheard us discussing the situation. He informed us, and I quote, "Abigail has more sense than to tie herself to that blue-haired Casanova.' We told him he was wrong, he disagreed, so we asked him to put his money where his mouth is."
"It worked quite well for us. You see no matter which of our 'star-crossed lovers' came to their senses first, Eileen and I came out ahead in the end," Andromeda added with a satisfied smile as she pocketed her fifty Galleons.
And then the room exploded in laughter.
Abigail fervently hoped that Teddy did not notice the dampness coating her palm or feel the pounding of her blood through her veins as she pulled him toward their destination. It seemed fitting that they have this conversation—the one that would determine if their futures lay together or apart—in this particular garden. Whilst their previous encounters in the garden had ended poorly, Abigail could only hope that this one would be different.
Swallowing her nervousness, she continued down the path until finally they arrived and came to a stop deep in the flower garden, in the midst of the colourful blooms. Reluctantly, she dropped Teddy's hand, her fingers lingering as she released him, and then she turned, slowly lifting her eyes to his.
Her brow furrowed in concern as she once again took in his appearance. "You look dreadful," she whispered before she could stop herself. Her cheeks flushed pink and her eyes closed in mortification at her blunder. "I'm sorry—"
"Don't be," Teddy interjected wearily as he raked a hand through his hair, ruffling it even more. "I look like something the Kneazle dragged in, and I know it. It's … ah … it's been a long month."
Abigail nodded and released a slow breath from between her lips. "Yes, it has."
Teddy turned his body away from her and rubbed the back of his neck with a palm. "Yeah."
They stood in uncomfortable silence for several minutes, neither able to look at the other. Now that they were alone, Abigail didn't know what to say. She needed to apologise as well as forgive, but she was at a loss as to where to begin. She took a deep breath to steady her nerves and prepared to say whatever came to mind, just as Teddy moved to face her.
"I need to—"
One corner of her mouth lifted in a small smile. Curious as to what he had to say—and still unsure of her own words—she said, "Please, go ahead."
He nodded and looked at the ground, his head lowered. After a few moments, he raised his gaze to hers and held out his hands, palms up. "I need to apologise, Abby," he said in a strangled voice. "I was wrong to leave the way I did. After all the years of friendship we shared, you deserved more than that. But I'm not just sorry for that—I feel horrible for how I approached you at Ben and Victoire's wedding. It was stupid and egotistical of me to expect you to welcome me back with open arms. I've made a lot of mistakes. A lot of them. And to be honest, I don't know what to do to even begin to make things up to you. When I think of all the years of pain I've caused you, it kills me." His voice broke, and his eyes closed briefly, as he visibly struggled to maintain his composure.
Abigail couldn't stand to seem him so distressed. "Stop blaming yourself for that, Teddy. You couldn't have done anything," she whispered. "You didn't know that I loved you."
He winced and looked away.
"I—I deserve that. I do. I just … I'd hoped that maybe we could … Maybe we can't. But I have to try."
Abigail was utterly confused; he was talking in circles, and she was having a difficult time making sense of his train of thought. "What are you talking about?"
Slowly, he turned to face her again, his expression bleak but earnest. "I can think of a million reasons why I want you with me, but I can also think of a million reasons of why you should never forgive me. I know it's too little, too late, but you're my best friend, and I miss you. Abby, please. If there's anything, anything at all, that will make you love me again or … or at least forgive me … if there's anything I can do to salvage our friendship, I'll do it. Whatever it is, I swear I'll do it. Just … I know I've been a terrible friend to you the last year or so. Maybe I've always been a bad friend, I don't know. I'm …"
He was still rambling, but Abigail was hanging on his every word, hope beginning to unfurl in her heart like a sail in the wind.
"… I'm lost without you, Abby. You're everything … everything to me. I just didn't realise it until I pushed you away. I told you the truth the last time we were here. I love you. I've probably always loved you. I'm just an idiot, and I'm not making any sense, I know. But you have to know. You have to know."
His hands were clenched into fists at his sides, and he held himself so rigidly, Abigail marvelled that he remained upright.
"I don't deserve you—you deserve better than me—but if there is anything the last few weeks have taught me, it's that I'm a selfish bastard. I love you, Abby, and if you can give me another chance, I swear I'll make it up to you somehow. Please. I know you don't love me anymore, and I'm okay with that … sort of … but I need you even if it's only as a friend. Can't we start over? That would work, wouldn't it? If we just started over and—"
"No," Abigail interrupted. For once, she didn't mind the tears that filled her eyes.
Teddy's face fell, and he nodded. "That's nothing less than what I deserve. I won't bother you again—"
"I don't want to start over, you git," she interrupted. A smile slowly began to emerge. "I want to move forward … with you."
Teddy remained still for a moment, staring at her as if she had grown a second head, and then in the blink of an eye, his hair turned to the brightest turquoise she had ever seen, and his entire face seemed to light up.
"Abby!" he breathed as he stepped toward her, his arms outstretched.
She launched herself at him, her arms wrapping around his neck as he caught her about the waist, lifting her up until her toes no longer touched the ground. She wept against his neck, tears of relief and joy, and revelled in the feel of him beneath her hands. He gripped her tightly to him, one hand moving up until he threaded his fingers in her hair. Fervent kisses were pressed to the top of her head, and she could hear him whispering over and over, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry."
"Oh, Teddy," she choked. "I'm sorry, too."
He pulled back slightly so that he could see her face, the corners of his mouth turning downward into a frown. "What do you have to be sorry for?"
"I was terrible to you the last time we spoke," she explained sorrowfully. "I was so angry at you for not loving me back the way I wanted, and that was unfair of me. Watching you with Victoire for so long, only for you to leave just when it seemed there might be a chance for us …." She closed her eyes, and a tear slipped down her cheek at the remembered pain. "I wanted to hurt you, and so I did. It was awful of me. So you see, I must ask your forgiveness, as well. Not only did I hurt you purposefully, I kept my true feelings from you for years, and it was that decision which led to all of this. I'm so sorry, Teddy. So very, very sorry."
He pulled her back into his arms. "There's nothing to forgive. It doesn't matter now, because I do love you. I love you so much."
Abigail couldn't help it; she began to laugh in unrestrained joy.
Teddy began to laugh, as well, releasing her so that he could grasp her face between his palms. He looked at her intently, his eyes sparkling with happiness and a few tears of his own.
She felt her breath catch in her throat, her laughter immediately quieting as she saw the look in his eyes—love, adoration, devotion, passion. All of it was right there … and it was all for her.
"Abby. My Abby," he murmured, and then he lowered his head until his mouth was a whispered breath away from hers. "I love you."
And then he closed the distance.
They stood, kissing in Molly Weasley's garden, the air heavy with jasmine and lavender, and Abigail had never felt anything so right in her entire life. She had dreamed of this moment for years, had lain in her bed at night and wondered how it would feel to be kissed by Teddy. Her imagination had not even come close. It was amazing, wonderful, all-consuming. The air she breathed was permeated with his familiar scent, but now it was mixed with desire and pleasure and love and all those secret things that had been discussed in whispered tones in the girls' dormitories at Hogwarts that Abigail had yearned to know but had never experienced.
Greedily, she clutched the front of his robes, then delved inside, memorising the feel of him beneath her fingers. He had held her in his arms countless times, and she had relished every moment, committing them to memory, but this … this was more than just comfort or friendship or silliness: this was a lovers' embrace.
His tongue slipped between her lips to tangle with her own, and her knees buckled at the sheer intensity of her emotions. Teddy smiled against her mouth and then rested his forehead against her own, his breath mingling with hers as they gazed into each other's eyes.
There was still much to be said, and trust to rebuild, but she knew they could do it. Against all odds, they had found their way back to each other, and there was nothing on earth that would part them now.
She'd seen it in his eyes.
A/N: Thank you, as always, to DeeMichelle and Subversa for beta reading and to LettyBird for Brit picking. I adore you all!
I hope you enjoyed the conclusion!