Title: Alien
Author: AudioAesthetic
Rating: T
Summary: SusanB/TheoN She danced because she had no place to run. And he ran because he didn't have to try to find the rhythm in the ground.
Author's Notes: I haven't written anything for a while, but it's been a while since I've felt anything. And anyway, there's always room for some Hufflepuff/Slytherin loveliness in my mind.
Lyrics in the beginning are from Bush's Alien.

I'm an alien,
You're an alien,
It's a beautiful rain, beautiful rain...

Susan Bones came back. She didn't know why. It wasn't as if another seventh year meant anything after the war, but she showed up for classes in the wings she had spent the summer rebuilding, sat next to Hannah and Justin, and slept in her usual bed as if nothing had changed. The stagnation drove her crazy.

Justin tried to kiss her, and sometimes, she let him. It was habit, really, to let Justin kiss her. She considered it a pattern. Hannah liked Susan and Justin together - Hannah liked patterns. She was the sort of girl who liked things to come in twos, so they paired up, and she liked that there was Justin and Susan, just like there was Ernie and Hannah.

But Susan saw the professional way that Ernie held Hannah's hand, and the frightened way Hannah always let him kiss her, and Susan knew that Hannah was not in love. Things may have paired up well, four seventh year Hufflepuffs, veterans, and friends, but patterns did nothing to make a person feel alive.

Late at night, she would wake up, well before dawn, and sneak from her bed and out to the grounds, where there was no one to pretend. She cried, sometimes, and sometimes laughed, and sometimes, off in her own little corner of Hogwarts, she would dance. She would jump and twirl and beat the earth with her feet, and sometimes she would scream or holler or shout the names of the dead while she danced. Memories were her music.

She would do anything to feel animated and raw for a while, in those few hours before dawn.

As the sun came up, she trudged back home, to catch some sleep before class, and she would see a Slytherin boy running by the lake - Nott, she thought his name was. Susan pretended not to see him, but after he noticed her the first time, he wouldn't let her sneak back into the castle without catching her eye. She was fine with this, oddly, with a near stranger knowing she was out there doing something very private, as long as she didn't have to pretend. She was so sick of acting like everything was the same.

He nodded, and she smiled. They never spoke, and indeed, only saw each other from a distance over the grounds, but it was the most connected Susan felt to another human being all day.

He began to run earlier and earlier, and by the winter she could hear his foot steps echo across the grounds while she was dancing. She moved in the rhythm of his pace. Some days he was faster than others and she kicked the ground with rage and terror. Others, he was soft and slow and she had to listen hard to hear him, and she would twirl nimbly along the grass and cry in mourning for her friends, family, and for strangers whom everyone else seemed to be trying to forget.

Sometimes, there was a ferocity in his footsteps that Susan couldn't explain, and she would know that those were days when she could yell and scream, and she would often hear an answer to her calls bounding across the vacant hills from the lakeside.

He controlled how she felt by the way he ran, but she didn't care how she felt, as long as she could feel.

In the spring, it rained in the morning, but Susan still went. Somedays, he didn't run, because it was so wet, but there were days when she knew that the rain could not keep him away from wanting to feel alive. Even if he didn't run those days, he walked across the grounds to where she was, and he would sit on the hill and watch her dance.

She had never been so exposed to another human being before, but she had never felt so free.

April was Susan's favorite month, and it seemed fitting that one morning in April, as the sun crept over the horizon, he stepped down from his perch on the hill as she danced and caught her wrist and pulled her to him, kissing her fiercely and with the same rhythm that his feet held, the same rhythm that was in the rain beating down on them.

It wasn't like Justin. It had no pattern. Rhythm was different than pattern. Patterns constricted you and tied you to them so you couldn't change. Rhythm was natural and real and could make you feel alive.

"Nice to meet you," he said with a sardonic laugh in his steel eyes, and Susan smiled.

"You, too. Theodore." It felt beautiful to say his name.

"Do you ever think somehow we're not really human?" It was a weird question to start off an acquaintance with, but the best question Susan had ever been asked in her life.

"No, we're human. It's just that it feels alien to be human when..."

When we've spent our whole lives pretending not to change.

Theodore nodded, held her hand in the rain, and even that little contact tickled her with vitality she'd never felt before. It wasn't like electricity, like everyone always said, not like the lightning in the sky. It was more grounded than that. It was like the coolness of touching metal - it was raw and shocked her, but was steadfast and sure.

"Thank you. For letting me kiss you."

This reminded her of Justin, and she didn't like it. She hadn't let him kiss her, she had begged him to, with all the remnants of her soul, but she was sure he knew that, and didn't really need to explain.

She pulled his head down to hers and kissed him again, and it was so blissfully familiar and new at the same time to feel him that close to her. The warmth of his body (which had always looked so cold to her) mixed with the chill of the rain and turned her stomach inside out.

Susan pulled her mouth away, but didn't pull herself away, and said, "Thank you for helping me dance."