these stars belong to you now
and all those tragic love stories; well, they've got a point to make.
(~for Ela – never-ending nights with you – and Amy – FollowThisRhythm – and Anna – Bree-utiful – because they encouraged, bullied and inspired me in roughly equal measures.)
A/N: Don't read this before still we are navigating by the stars. Or at least, you can, but you'll be weirded out and enormously confused. Also many references to like how superheroes need their capes, which just helped give me a little structure.
Her knees are wet from the grass. She doesn't notice. She stopped noticing a long time ago. Her eyes are closed because the world is darker when they're open and her tired fingertips are resting gently, ohsodelicately, on the grooves in the grainy grey stone. Her middle finger is resting on the 'a' of his name, her other fingers splayed out carelessly.
"I miss you," she says quietly, and her empty blue eyes in her old, exhausted face flash open and study the line of words on the cold granite. "Which is stupid, because I never had that much time with you before anyway."
Don't miss me, his voice warns in her head as his smile dances through her mind on broken stilts, his blonde hair flopping into his laughing face. Live your life fully without me.
And as she stares at the little dash between the dates suddenly it is too much, far too much, and she finds herself with her forehead resting against the grooved letters of his name and she isn't crying, not properly. There are tears and they flood into the maze of wrinkles on her cheeks but there is no sobbing, no wailing.
There never had been, with them. It had always been calm and quiet and stolen because they were loving on borrowed time and it should never have been right.
But he had loved her, loved her so very dearly, that it was all worthwhile.
"Roxanne?" a voice says very quietly from behind her. She recognises it – he has cadences of his father in him that threaten to disarm her even further. "Rose is so worried about you," Scorpius tells her, and she hears the rustle of the grass as he crouches down next to her, starkly handsome in his old age, and she doesn't take her forehead away, just opens her eyes and stares at his name. His name. His name that never could have been her name too.
"What do you want?" she asks bluntly, her hand curling over the top of the rough gravestone. "I don't want to talk to anyone."
"I just came to give you these," he tells her, and tries to hand her a bundle of envelopes. She makes no move to take them, and he sighs and puts them down on the grass next to her. "Read them, Roxie. And then stop pining, it's not fair on your family."
And with that he is gone, and she laughs bitterly to herself because like father, like son right?
With trembling, forlorn hands she reaches for the pile of letters, messily bound with an old piece of string, and her heart contorts at the sight of the achingly familiar handwriting that has painted her name onto the blankness of the parchment in emerald green, creating beauty out of just her name and nothing else.
Oh, god, Draco, she thinks wildly, running a hand through her hair and pulling the first one from the pile, leaning against his gravestone and feeling a little foolish but still a little closer to him, and she tears open the envelope and pulls out the letter inside.
I realised I couldn't live without you that day.
I realised I couldn't live without you that day.
The wedding has consumed the thoughts and emotions of everyone around her for months, weeks, days. Mothers and grandmothers are rushing around and shrieking and bridesmaids too and Roxanne sits on the edge of the bed and swings her feet as she watches Dominique put the final, finishing touches to Lucy's hair.
"What's today for you?" Lily asks as she stretches herself out next to her cousin, and Roxanne thinks hard for a moment, and then holds her silver-and-grey mask over the top half of her face and grins broadly at the younger girl.
"An opportunity," she says brightly, blinking through the barrier, and Lily laughs and shoves her in a sisterly fashion as Roxanne clutches onto her pretty mask and smiles. "What about you?"
Lily's face falls suddenly and she holds her mask over her own face, and Roxanne suddenly sees something in her cousin's eyes that have been floating in her own for two years now – a blazing, terrible type of missing someone that should be illegal because it hurts so much.
"Teddy?" she asks softly, and Lily's big green eyes close behind the mask and Roxanne glides her fingers along the other girl's cheek briefly before moving around her to bind the dark green ribbon into her carefully-fixed hairstyle, leaning in to whisper in her ear. "He loves you, Lils. He'll figure it out soon enough."
Lily sighs and her eyes flash open behind the green-and-silver mask, full of a sadness that doesn't belong with someone so young. She kneels up on the bed and pulls the smoky ribbons to Roxanne's mask around and begins tying a bow into her perfectly-arranged curls.
"It's one of the Malfoys for you, isn't it?" Lily asks as she knots, reaching round to adjust Roxanne's mask. "James and Al think it's Scorpius."
"And you?" Roxanne asks, blinking to get used to this limited view of the world as she turns to stare at her pretty-faced cousin in the silver-white dress. "Who do you think?"
"Well," Lily says, and spins Roxanne around to look in the mirror. "I think it's Draco."
Two red-haired beauties stare back at them, green and blue eyes sultry and mysterious behind the all-concealing masks – the only visible difference. They match height-for-height, smile-for-smile, fake-for-fake. Roxanne recognises a fellow concealer when she meets one, and Lily is hiding something that is tearing her apart.
"He'll come back for you, Lily," she promises her cousin's reflection, eyes wide and sincere. "I know he loves you."
"I wish I could promise you the same," Lily says quietly, turning to face her fully, her smile fading below the mask. "But I don't even know how you started liking him."
"It's so much more than liking, Lils," Roxanne informs her gravely, sadly, but then Lucy suddenly loops her arms around their necks and grins at them all in the mirror wildly, flicking the edges of their masks.
"You two look incredible," she announces happily, and they, with the air of practised pretending, force smiles back onto their cheeks. "Like two little china dolls. If I didn't know better I'd say Lily was your twin instead of Fred, Roxie."
Roxanne laughs in a somewhat forced manner and turns to hug Lucy fiercely.
"I hope today is perfect for you," she says, and Lucy beams at her.
"Thank you, Rox. I hope so too."
You looked at me and my whole world shone.
She glides up the aisle in exactly the way they practised. Molly is walking ahead of her in that way she has where every step is a dance, and behind her Dom is clumping inelegantly in the boots she insisted on wearing to make up for the mask.
The cloying scent of the little smoke-coloured flowers in her bouquet reaches up to toy with her nostrils, and she holds back a smile as memories of summer days with his head in her lap suddenly shove their way to the forefront of her mind.
She keeps her face schooled carefully, remembering the rule of mystery, but her heart squeezes painfully when Molly moves aside and she sees Lorcan standing there, impossibly handsome, a smile so bright lighting up his face it is as though his whole life has all been stepping stones to this one, incandescent moment.
He used to look at her like that, with the sun behind him and his grey eyes dark and his face full of love and magic.
She moves to the right and takes her place on the step, watching Lily move up to flank her, while Lorcan and Lucy beam at each other and subtly twine their fingers and turn to the minister and Roxanne suddenly finds everything just a little too much.
She averts her eyes and scans the audience leisurely. She sees Al and James near the front, heads together, whispering furiously and directing piercing gazes at each bridesmaid in turn, probably taking bets on who's who. Her gaze probes further backwards, and a shock of white-and-brown-and-blue hair greets her eyes and her heart sings for her cousin.
She reaches back subtly and squeezes Lily's hand gently and directs a small smile at the other girl, winking back at her.
And then she freezes because he's right there, next to his handsome son and his beautiful wife and his eyes are fixed on her and his face is lit up with joy for seeing her and it makes her want to laugh and scream and cry all at the same time.
Lily squeezes her hand back, jolting her into reality, and she quickly looks back at Lucy and Lorcan and laughs faithfully with the rest of them when little Ela kicks up a fuss in the front row.
"I do," Lorcan says in a deep voice stained with emotion, and Roxanne darts another glance at Draco from under her lashes. The corner of his mouth lifts, just barely, and she discovers that his clear direct gaze still has the ability to stain her cheeks with colour and make warmth flood all through her, even though it's been two and twenty two years and he's too old.
The congregation suddenly surge to their feet as one, and Roxanne realises it's done, they're married, they've got their happy ever after.
And she wants to cry so instead she flings her bouquet down and she and Lily almost knock the couple over as they swarm them, hugging them tightly and shrieking "congratulations!" over the roar of everybody else.
He fights his way through the crowd towards her as she backs away from the pair, and his hand just barely grazes hers as he reaches out.
"Promise me a dance," he says in a low voice, his eyes shining, and she beams back and draws an X over her heart.
Cross my heart and hope to die.
"I promise," she murmurs back and suddenly there is no room for any emotions other than love and excitement and anticipation in her chest so she screams with the rest of the crowd and spills out into the reception area.
You danced with me and I found out my rhythm matches yours perfectly, heartbeat for heartbeat.
She watches Lily slip away with an envious eye because Teddy is right behind her, but Roxanne just can't find it within herself to be anything but overjoyed for her cousin.
"So how about that dance?" he suggests into her ear in a smoky voice, and she thinks for a wild moment how her mask matches his voice the way she matches him.
"It would be my honour," she replies with a grin the size of Africa stretched across her face and her eyes sparkling happily behind the mask. She sees Fred staring at her in confusion as her hand slides into Draco's and he leads her out onto the dance floor.
"I missed you," she says softly, and his arms slide around her waist in a way that invokes all sorts of blissfully toxic memories that puddle in her brain, dripping down into her hands and feet so they know just what to do. One hand up around his neck, the other into his hair, and right now it's okay because she just doesn't care who sees them.
"I saw you at the station," he murmurs into her hair, then he draws back and his fingers trace the edges of her mask, following the little spirals of silver. "You looked so fragile. It killed me, because I knew it was all my fault."
"Don't be silly," she reprimands him sharply, a smile taking away the sting in the words. "It's my fault. I forgot to keep track of lunchtimes over the holidays, I was too busy with my family."
"Well I'm glad to see you're not just skin and bone any more," he says with a slow grin, his smoke-eyes glinting down at her. "You're much more comfortable to dance with this way."
"You fit me," she says nonsensically, and leans her head on his chest and listens to his heart and one of her hands strays to the lapels on his dress robes. "I can't stand to not see you again."
"Roxanne?!" someone says behind her, and she pulls her head back hurriedly, her hand flying up to check her mask is still in place, and tries for a puzzled shake of the head.
"Oh, come off it," James says with a roll of his eyes, marching up to her and tugging her away from Draco. "What are you doing? You know that's Draco Malfoy?"
"He has ears, James," she hisses furiously, curls flying as she wrenches herself away and takes a step back to slide against Draco. His hands settle on her hips, firm and warm, and behind the mask her gaze is as cold as ice as she directs it at James. "Go away."
James, with a last disbelieving look at the pair, turns into the crowd and flees.
"Come on," she says, turning around and reaching down to take Draco's hand. "He'll be back with reinforcements any second. I know somewhere we can go."
And really he should protest that people will talk and his wife will wonder and Roxanne's reputation will be tarnished but he doesn't and she smiles and leads him out into the wildness of the garden.
You talked to me with my head in your lap and I fell in love with you a million times all over again.
"This is a nice place," he says, playing with her fingers, his head pillowed in her lap on her pretty silvery dress and she beams down at him, her fingers running delicately through his hair.
"I love this garden," she tells him, sighing mightily as memories of eighteen years of family and laughter bounce around her head. "There's something so very timeless about it."
He tears up some grass and laughs and reaches one finger up, very gently, to caress her cheek. "So do I get to see under the mask today or am I too old?"
She giggles and suddenly lurches to her feet, leaving his head to thump down onto the ground, and darts away.
"Only if you catch me!"
He scrambles to his feet and feels impossibly like a teenager again as he chases after her, her laughter floating on the afternoon air like a summer song. She sprints into the yew maze at the end of the garden, and he pauses before plunging bravely in, using magic to track her as she takes memorised turns and avoids dead-ends and finally he corners her in the middle of the maze.
"There's no escape," he says to her, standing in the entrance, looking over to where she is standing by a sprawling fountain with goldfish swimming in it. "You're mine now."
"Silly," she says, half-turning so her masked face is smiling over her shoulder at him, her hair spilling down her back. "I've always been yours."
And in that moment, with her looking like a picture and the whole scene blurring like an impressionist's canvas, he comes to realise that he can't keep doing this, can't keep living without her.
But he has to anyway.
He crosses the ground between them, long strides sure, and captures her up into his arms. He feels only wonder as she gazes up at him through her mask, her eyes showing no hint of revulsion for a man old enough to be her father, just a fiery kind of certainty.
"I love you, Roxanne," he says, and then he kisses her. She arches into the kiss and he realises he's had longer to miss her but that doesn't mean she misses him any less and the hot sun beats down on her copper curls as his hands loosen the ties on the ribbon and he parts from her, aching already at leaving her, and gently pulls it from her face.
"No more masquerading," she whispers with an almost drunken giggle, intoxicated by him and the sunshine and the scent of wild places in the air. "Just you and me, for the rest of today."
He takes a moment to love her even more passionately because she has never asked him to leave his wife, not once, and she is so noble and so selfless and so Roxanne that his whole body hurts at the dread of leaving her.
He is beyond words, which is an embarrassing thing for the head of the Malfoy family to admit, so he just slides his hand around the back of her head, into her hair, crushing her lips against his as he lets her mask fall to the ground and be trampled underfoot.
I think saying goodbye that day was the hardest thing I've ever done.
Goodbye is agony. He turns away from her as she carefully ties the mask back on, her china doll features just as closed as any toy, and she reaches out to slip her hand into his as they leave the maze, stars in their eyes that will soon throw down their spears and flow like a river to the ground and grass in their hair and rips in their clothes.
"I wish this was easier," she says softly, letting her head fall onto his upper arm as they stride along side-by-side, heading back to the big marquee where all the family are still singing and laughing and dancing. "I wish it didn't have to be like this."
"We would never have worked," he replies gently with a hint of a smile colouring his voice, and brushes his lips against the top of her head. "I'm too old for you."
"You weren't once," she counters and laughs, the sound remarkably unforced, and he carefully lets go of her hand and they walk into the marquee with a hand's distance between them, still feeling the heat off each other's bodies. Without a word, she smiles radiantly up at him, the grass in her hair a vivid contrast with the red of her curls, and then she winks from behind the mask and slips away into the crowd.
Later, as he's leaving, a boy corners him and he thinks it is Potter for a very brief moment before remembering that his old rival is all grown up now, like him (unlike Roxanne), and so the boy must be Albus.
"I don't know what it is with you and Roxanne," the boy says awkwardly but firmly, his gaze strong and clear. "But she obviously cares about you so I'm going to make an effort to like you for her. I'm the only one in my family who ever will."
Draco half-smiles, studying the boy for a moment. "You're friends with Scorpius."
"Yeah," Al says a little uncomfortably. "My dad's really mad about that."
Draco smirks and glances over at where Potter is dancing with his tempestuous little wife. "What did you want? I can't imagine you came over here just to tell me that you were making an effort to like me."
Al straightens his back and pulls a photo out of his pocket, looking a little rumpled around the edges.
"I took it just now," the boy says self-consciously, handing it over. "I thought you might want it."
Draco accepts the photo with interest and doesn't even notice as Albus slips away into the crowd. Roxanne is staring at him from the picture, turned to look over her shoulder just like before, her mask a little crooked, grass and flower petals in her fiery waterfall of hair, and her eyes are shining with tears and creased with goodbyes but she is still smiling in that way that has come to mean the world to him – as though nothing can go wrong now. He assumes it's forced but he doesn't care because she is beautiful.
And it's his fault she's sad, his fault she's crying, his fault her heart is lying scattered in pieces on the floor.
I'm sorry I ran away from everyone. Let them know it wasn't their fault. Tell them I just wanted to travel. I'm telling you it was because I loved you far too much, and I always, always, promised to tell you the truth.
The letter falls from her trembling fingers as she darts for the next one, tears flooding down her cheeks as the memories finally burst free from their tight bonds and spill out and dance a wild tango in her brain.
That day with all the sunshine promises of forever had been a stolen blip in the agony of loneliness, and she wipes her tears away with her sleeve like she's a teenager again as she tears open the next envelope. His writing is messier and there is a coffee-ring stain at the bottom of the piece of parchment.
I'm just writing in the hope you find these after I am dead and gone. I want you to know that I will remember that afternoon in the bookshop in Australia until the bitter end. That afternoon was everything.
That afternoon was everything.
She finally finished unpacking her last moving box yesterday, and she dashes into the shop to tell her friends.
"Hey!" she shouts, triumphantly waving the balled-up piece of packaging tape. "Guess what I did?"
"I don't know, England," Emma says with a laugh, appearing from behind a shelf of books and grinning at Roxanne in the doorway. "What did you do?"
Roxanne marches forward and brandishes the tape. "I finally finished unpacking!"
"Well it's about time," David-from-behind-the-counter chips in, laughing as Roxanne sticks her tongue out at him. "You have been living here in Oz for nearly six months now."
"Your point being?" Roxanne retorts, neatly throwing the ball of tape towards the bin and getting it in first try, to her delight.
"So you want to go out and get a cup of coffee to celebrate?" David asks bravely, and Roxanne's face falls.
"I wish you'd stop asking me," she says sadly, and Emma wisely disappears back behind her shelf. "You know I won't say yes, and I hate hurting you."
"Come on, England," Emma pipes up, her grinning face appearing round the side of the shelf. "Do you have a secret boyfriend you're not telling us about or something?"
"Something like that," Roxanne mutters, scuffing her shoe along the ground and remembering the photo of Draco she'd taken out of the box the previous afternoon – along with a silver-and-grey mask, pretty white dress and an old jumper she'd stolen off him that last afternoon by the stream when his breathing harsh in her ear and the scent of the summer breeze in her nostrils had convinced her she was in heaven already.
"There is?!" Emma crows delightedly, and David looks crestfallen behind the computer at the desk. "Tell us more!"
Roxanne bites her lip hard and holds back the tears because, god, she cried enough over him yesterday and his sudden disappearance to 'travel' and how she can't ever have him anyway so it shouldn't matter. Only it does – it really, really does.
"It's very complicated," she ventures eventually. "I knew him when I was young. He was my best friend in the whole world."
"So?" Emma asks, abandoning her shelving in favour of Roxanne, leaning on a desk and regarding her co-worker intently with her uncannily piercing brown eyes. "What's the issue with that?"
"He's married," Roxanne says shortly, turning and picking up a box of new books, wondering for the thousandth time why she'd chosen to work a muggle job instead of one where she could just do everything though magic. "And I made him be married, so I can't complain."
"You made him be married?" David repeats, interested despite himself. "Jesus, England, you're confusing."
"I wish you'd stop calling me England," she protests, laughing to dull the jab. "I do have a name, you know."
"Well," Emma says, coming over to help Roxanne with the other side of the box, "your name is really pretty and unusual and all but it always reminds me of that song from Moulin Rouge which depresses me, so I don't like to call you that."
"You're so weird," David tells her in slight astonishment, clicking absently at his computer. "Who doesn't call someone by their name on the basis that El Tango de Roxanne depresses them?"
"I do," she replies, making a 'nyah' face at him and leading Roxanne into the back storeroom.
Roxanne laughs at their bickering as the two girls efficiently stack the box on top of a pile of others and wipe their brows.
"You should go for it, you know," Emma says, unusually serious. "I can tell you really love this guy. Does he feel the same way?"
Roxanne nods and closes her eyes briefly. "But you don't understand. There's no way it could ever work."
"Roxanne," Emma insists, clutching her friend's arm, "go for it. There's not much magic in the world, we have to take it where we find it."
And suddenly Roxanne remembers why she'd taken the job and come to live here in Australia among muggles – because even though they deny its existence, they believe in magic far more strongly than any witches or wizards she knows, and she just needs some restoration of faith right now.
"I wish I could," Roxanne replies, suddenly both grateful and infuriated that she has the true excuse to fall back on. "He's away travelling."
"Hey, England," David calls through from the front of the shop as the bell over the door tinkles and a customer enters. "Man the station?" he asks hopefully as she appears in the doorway to the storeroom. "I need to go get caffeine."
"Double-soy latte with extra cream," Emma shouts at his retreating back, and then turns to the man who's just walked in. "Good afternoon, sir. Can I help you find anything in particular?"
"No, thank you," he says a little stiffly, and from the doorway Roxanne's eyebrows shoot up and her mouth drops open in disbelief. No, no. It's just someone who sounds like him, that's all. "I'm just browsing."
"Okay," Emma says brightly as Roxanne sinks down against the doorframe, her head in her hands. I'm going crazy. The other girl rounds a bookcase to find her friend with her forehead pressed into her palms.
"What's up with you?"
"It's him," Roxanne says simply, and Emma's mouth drops open.
"Way," Roxanne confirms grimly, and stays frozen with indecision and dithering until he rounds the corner, three years older and a whole lot more worn, a question formed on his lips until he sees her.
I thought I was dreaming at first. There was no way it could be you. But it was, it was, and I have never thanked any gods for anything as hard as I thanked them for you in that moment.
"Oh, god," she chokes out, suddenly awash with fury and a terrible type of loneliness that is only intensified by him standing there. He stares at her in astonishment for a couple of moments longer, and then suddenly he is there, right next to her, and he's pulling her up into his arms and for reasons she cannot fathom she's crying and wriggling and punching any part of him she can reach.
"What's the matter?" he asks in astonishment as she wrestles her way free, backing off with a heaving chest and her curls in disarray, face utterly torn between love and hatred.
"You just left," she forces out, trying her best to glare at him. "Do you have any idea how much that screwed us all up? Astoria cried for days. And Rose and Al say Scorpius was impossible for weeks! And me … you just left, after that afternoon … you left as though I was nothing and I … I just can't …" she trails off, gulping back tears, and he suddenly wraps his arms around her and pulls her snugly against his chest where she fits the contours of her body against his so naturally it's just like breathing.
"It's because I realised I couldn't do any of it any more. Any of the pretending."
"What do you mean, 'any of the pretending'?" she asks, her face buried against his chest in the linen muggle shirt and breathing in his sweet, strong scent that has always meant happiness and memories like rays of sunlight and the knowledge that any second he will be gone and she will be as lonely as ever.
"I couldn't keep lying to everyone, Roxanne – I couldn't stand to lie to Astoria but I couldn't stand to hurt her by telling her the truth. You know what would happen if I ever admitted about us to anyone!"
"Us?" she repeats in bewilderment, and Emma is backing away rapidly as she recognises the warning signs. "There is no us, Draco! You're acting like we're some kind of star-crossed lovers in a fairy tale where the Prince Charming rides in and saves his damsel in distress!"
"But – " he tries to interrupt, and she heaves out a sob and stops him mid-tracks.
"But we're not star-crossed lovers because we can't even be lovers and I'm not distressing and you are about the furthest thing from a Prince Charming I could ever imagine," she informs him heavily, traitorous tears spilling over like a dam bursting, and because it is her natural reaction to sadness she turns her head into his chest for comfort and curses herself for doing so.
"I'm so sorry," he whispers, his hand straying up to cup the back of her head, his fingers meshing in her long hair. "I don't know how to make this all right without hurting anybody." His other hand slides round to her waist and he just stands and feels her against him, her tears soaking his shirt and her grief staining his heart.
"How long do you have today?" she asks quietly, her voice muffled against his chest.
"Long enough," he says, and he encircles her waist with his arm and tugs her out of the shop, ignoring Emma's half-hearted protests, leading her down into an alley near the shop.
"Where are we going?" she asks as he pulls his wand out, and he grins and holds out his hand for her to take.
"My second favourite place in the whole world," he tells her, and then they slam into blackness.
So I took you to that beach and I wasn't lying, it is my second-favourite place in the whole world. And I'm so, so glad I got to share it with you, even if it was only for such a short time.
"This is beautiful," she gasps out, staring around in delight once she's regained her balance after apparating. "This is exactly how I imagine paradise to look!"
He grins at her disarming, childlike joy at the sight of the white beach and vibrant palm-trees and pristine waves, rolling up onto the beach like they're utterly relieved to have finished their lives in such a perfect place.
"It look a million times more beautiful with you in it," he says softly, reaching out and running a gently thumb across her cheek. "I'm so sorry, Roxanne. I wish there was a way we could work this out."
She shrugs a little and settles herself down on the sand, abandoning her cardigan and shoes nearby. "I knew we would never work out. It's okay."
"No, it's not," he protests, throwing himself down next to her and grabbing her hands fervently. "It's not. I've made your life impossible and I'm so, so sorry."
She kisses him then, just to shut him up, and he sighs into the kiss and pulls her to lie on top of him, the sunshine glimmering across their bodies.
"Stop being sorry," she whispers once they part for breath, propping herself up against his chest and gently brushing her fingers across his cheek, feeling the stubble rough under her fingertips. "And spend more time shaving instead."
He laughs and pulls her hand away, absently feeling his own chin and then chuckling as he agrees with her command.
"Yes, ma'am. I can't be looking scruffy now, can I?"
"Of course not!" she exclaims, rolling off him and bounding to her feet. "You're the head of the Malfoy family – you have to always be looking perfect. In fact, I think you need a wash!"
She grabs his hand and tugs him down towards the clear turquoise water, ignoring his protests until they are standing up to their knees.
"Thanks," he complains, absently jumping a wave. "Now my trousers are ruined. I only bought these two days ago."
"Lighten up," she teases, and then pushes him over and dunks him firmly under. His hand wraps around her ankle and he pulls her under too, saltwater rushing in around her and flooding her eyes.
They both surface, coughing and spluttering and laughing and splashing each other.
When they finally crawl out they are completely soaked and they stretch out on the warm sand, her head pillowed on his arm as the sun descends lower into the sky, sand encrusted in their hair and clothes, and they feel so utterly happily it's like they're going to burst.
"Hey," she says, suddenly breaking the tranquil silence, rolling over to look him in the eye.
"What is it?" he asks softly, winding a strand of her sandy hair around his finger delicately, gazing up into her smiling face.
"You said this was your second favourite place," she reminds him, her fingertips tracing a pattern on his bare chest. "Where's your first favourite?"
He smiles and reaches up to kiss her, hard, and when he eventually draws back her mind is completely discombobulated.
"My first favourite place is wherever you are," he tells her, and she can't bite back the tears at the thought of losing him again so she leans down to kiss him with an air of desperation, her tears mingling with the salt-stains from the ocean.
I promised to myself, after that afternoon, that I would never see you again. That I would never write or drop in or anything. I couldn't stand to keep hurting you.
The sky falls into darkness and she knows that any second now she'll have to return to reality and she sighs and turns to face him, their wand-tips the only point of light in the blackness.
"I love you," she tells him, and he smiles sadly and smoothes a tear away.
"Why did you run away?" he inquires, distracting her, and she half-grins.
"I suppose I was following your example," she replies thoughtfully. "I was so entirely miserable and my family got very impatient with me because I wouldn't tell them why – so I just decided to leave. And here is perfect because no-one has ever heard of either of us so I can pine and nobody will say a word."
"Don't pine," he orders firmly, smiling down at her as best he can with the knowledge that he will have to leave her any second now. "Don't miss me. Live your life fully without me."
"I'll try," she tells him, grinning a little, his face sharp and angular in the wand-light, the stars little pinpricks of romance way above them. "And you need to go home. Let your poor family have some time with you."
"I'll promise if you will," he bargains, and he laughs and his fingers slide into her hair, the leafy headdress he spent part of the afternoon working on for her sitting on her vibrant curls like it has always been there.
"I promise that I will return to my family," he announces, kissing her briefly before lifting her palm up to rest over his heart. "Cross my heart and hope to die."
"And I promise not to pine away for missing you," she replies, laughing, digging her fingertips in very slightly. "And maybe I'll go home too."
"You should," he agrees, drawing her so close they are touching up every inch of their bodies, and then suddenly his lips crash down onto hers and he claims every inch of her in their last, blazing moments of togetherness until the tears are sparkling on her cheeks from joy and love and loss and she can barely breathe with the enormity of it all.
"Goodbye, Draco," she says softly, tracing his cheek one final time. "I love you."
"And I, you, Roxanne," he responds, her name tumbling like a prayer from his lonely lips. "So, so much."
And then he is gone, suddenly and completely, the space where he stood full of mocking emptiness, and she falls down onto the sand and sobs into the earth.
I kept my promise well, wouldn't you agree? I thought about sending these letters. But I didn't because I made a promise, and Malfoys keep their word. I went home and Astoria was so glad to see me, and Scorpius – well, he's a Malfoy, he's not very good at emotion – but he was so glad to see me. He told me about him and Rose. I should have probably killed him – but I didn't. I realised that he was doing what I had never had the courage to do. He was brave enough to pursue his love, no matter the cost.
The tears have stopped now. The young woman slumbering inside Roxanne has woken, slightly, and she is trying desperately to find that detachment again.
"Merlin, Draco," she sighs, tipping her head back to lean against his gravestone. "You're such an idiot."
She discards the letter, reaching for one at the bottom of the pile, suddenly ohsounprepared to read any more of this elegy – because she has neverever stopped loving him. Not even for one single moment.
Her old fingers scrabble at the envelope, ripping it open, and she takes a deep breath to steel herself as the words come into focus, his handwriting a jagged scrawl across the expanse of blankness.
So I think maybe I'll die soon. It'll be horrible for Astoria and I would be terrified for Scorpius if he didn't have Rose – and, you know, Roxanne, I don't think I'm as scared as I should be. About the whole dying thing. I'm almost looking forward to it.
Rose tells me about you when I go round to dinner at her and Scorpius' house. She seems to sense how eager I am for news of you, although she never says anything directly. She just converses freely about how you've never married and you seem lonely and sometimes I have to get up and pretend to be going to the bathroom just so I can get a hold of myself. It's pathetic, I'm aware.
So here's the deal. When I die, you have to get married. I kept my promise to not see you again, to make life easier for you – and I guess it didn't work. But I tried, at least. So you have to promise to try too. Get married. Be happy and not lonely. Or I promise to come back and haunt you forever.
Goodbye, Roxanne. Merlin, I could write your name forever. Roxanne Roxanne Roxanne Roxanne Roxanne … you made my life worth living, darling.
The letter falls from her paralysed hand. She cannot feel. No tears, no sadness, no anger. Just a terrible, agonising sort of numbness. She just sits and is, feeling the autumn breeze on her skin, playing with her grey hair and white shirt, and just for a moment considers how empty the world is without him in it.
There is no direction for her to turn to in order to be facing him, no knowledge that he is out there in the world, maybe turned in her direction, thinking of her.
She presses her face into her hands and heaves out a sob, finally able to feel again, and then jumps when a big hand descends onto her shoulder.
She glances up and finds Lysander Scamander leaning over with concern on his wrinkled face, a huge bunch of pink lilies held in one hand and a handkerchief in the other.
"Lysander," she acknowledges, accepting the proffered hanky. "What are you doing here?"
He answers by wandering over to a grave several rows away and leaving the flowers in front of the headstone, pulling one out of the bunch.
"Molly Audrey Weasley," Roxanne reads aloud, and her face falls. "I'd meant to come and give her flowers. Merlin, I'm such an idiot."
"No," Lysander corrects, a sad smile staining his lips. "You're distracted. I think I sort of understand you and Draco Malfoy."
"You – you know about that?" she replies with astonishment, and Lysander smiles a little more broadly and pulls something out of his pocket.
"Well, Al heard I was coming down here today to see Molls so he asked me to give you this. Scorpius found it in his dad's things when he was … sorting stuff out."
Roxanne takes the photograph daintily, blushing slightly as Lysander tucks the lily behind her ear, and studies the face in the photo.
"Merlin, I was so young," she exclaims, watching as the her-in-the-picture grins at the camera, grass clashing with her hair, the mask a little wonky and the smile a little hollow. "So unaware of what was going to happen."
"It must have been hard," Lysander says, taking her hand quite naturally and beginning to lead her away from the graveyard, stooping to pick up the bundle of letters as her gaze remains fixed on the photograph. "You know, living without him all that time. I don't know what I'm going to do without Molly. She was so … so not ready to die. I still can't believe the cancer won. She was always so strong."
Roxanne turns and nestles into his arms, sympathetic as his tears splash onto her hair, the photo almost crushed in his hand. And, as his lips move down to seek hers, she understands.
A contract between them. An agreement to be with each other so as not to be lonely any more. She has been alone all her life, and he has never had a moment without someone to share it with. They need each other. And it's as simple as that.
Get married. Be happy and not lonely.
They are married in a tiny registry office. Lily and Teddy, and Lorcan and Lucy are their witnesses. The other two couples' grandchildren play around their feet as the old people sit and toast each other and long life and prosperity and, that night, as Lysander turns to her with his eyes dark and trusting in the candlelight, she thinks that maybe she needed to be alone and heartbroken for so long simply so that she could appreciate this even more.
And for fifteen years they are happy and, okay, so maybe every other minute they're busy loving the ones they've lost, but they are content and most of all they are not lonely.
Then, one morning late in August, Roxanne awakes and turns sleepily, expecting to find Lysander still fast asleep next to her. But the bed is empty and the sheets are floatier than she remembers and she sits up suddenly, a strand of red falling into her face.
"What the …?" she exclaims, snatching at her hair which is, for unfathomable reasons, as red as it was the day she was born. And the hand she raises is smooth and unwrinkled, the skin flawless.
"Good morning," a familiar voice says next to her, and she whirls to find an achingly familiar young man grinning at her. She rockets into his arms with barely a second's pause.
"I'm dead, aren't I?" she murmurs in between kisses, and he laughs and slides his hands up her thighs.
"That depends. This could just be the beginning."
He stands up and leads her over to the window, sunlight streaming through, and she stares out at paradise.
"I hope it is," she replies, turning back to him in all his seventeen-year-old glory. "I wish I'd known sooner. I would have died quicker."
"It was for the best," he chuckles, his hands sliding to rest on her hips. "You would never have got your happiness with Lysander otherwise."
"Oh, shit," she exclaims, leaning back against him easily, as though she has been doing it every morning for a million years. "Lysander will kill me."
"Or not," Draco says with a laugh, the sunlight illuminating his features as she turns round to face him. "Look who's just arrived."
Roxanne whirls to see Lysander striding past the white picket fence, arm-in-arm with a red-haired beauty who beams and rushes to hug Roxanne.
"Thank Merlin you're finally here," Molly cries, crushing her cousin. "Now this grumpy bastard can smile once in a while. C'mon, cousin," she adds, tugging Roxanne's arm. "There are all sorts of people who want to meet you!"
Roxanne allows herself to be led away, but her hand wraps itself in Draco's and he smiles, his face suffused with love as she glances back at him, her whole being a song as he follows her willingly, Molly's laugh floating on the celestial air.
A/N: Please don't favourite without reviewing, thank you.
To everyone who read this: I hope I gave them the ending you thought they deserved. I'm sorry if I didn't and if you hated it.