A/N: so this is a long one, the longest oneshot I've ever written. I was going to split it up but I wanted to get it up because I'm leaving for Borneo on Monday (July 27th), and this is my goodbye-and-please-don't-miss-me-too-much to you all. Hope you like it!
My entry for xx-angelin-xx's Next Gen contest/challenge over on the HPFC forum, with the characters Molly Weasley II/Lysander Scamander, and the prompt: love can touch us one time/and last for a lifetime/and never let go 'til we're gone.
This was originally intended as my challenge response to the Hogwarts Online monthly challenge before it got too long, with the prompt ballet shoes, so all credit goes to the mods there for the inspiration.
Word Count: 13,174.
stagelights like parisian nights
you dance like a queen, and your
silhouette is still my reflection
- Secret Life, Thriving Ivory
She's tiny when they first meet. She's eleven, she and her twin sister Lucy cripplingly nervous, and they somehow stumble on his compartment.
He glances up, and he has to blink to reassure himself that she's real. She's just so very like a fairytale; and he, the infamous care-of-magical-creatures boy, is reminded of nothing so much of the elusive unicorns that hide away in the Forbidden Forest.
She watches them both mistrustfully, full of nerves and her face half-hidden behind her never-ending waterfall of white-blonde hair.
"Hello," his twin brother says cheerfully from behind him, distracting him from his wonder, and Lysander glances up to see Lorcan's eyes trained interestedly on the red-haired girl in front of the blonde. "Are you Percy's daughters?"
The redhead nods and they move forward into the compartment nervously, their pinky fingers just barely interlaced, taking solace from each other.
"I'm Lucy," she says, smiling tentatively up at him. "This is Molly."
Molly is almost hiding behind her hair, a couple of inches shorter than her sister, and Lysander watches her with supreme curiosity as her elderberry-dark eyes dart up and meet his almost accidentally.
"I'm Lorcan," Lorcan says good-naturedly, patting the seat next to himself. "Me and Lysander are Luna and Rolf's sons. We're in fifth year. I think we've met you before at birthdays and stuff."
Lucy hops up willingly, releasing her sister, but Molly hangs back. She watches Lucy settle easily into conversation with Lorcan, and her eyes meet Lysander's more coolly now. They say nothing to each other as she takes a seat next to him, far enough away that they won't touch if the train jolts them together, and then she leans her forehead against the window and just lets Lucy's and Lorcan's chatter wash calmingly over her.
He watches and waits patiently as Molly lines up with her sister behind the Sorting Hat. The Slytherin table is the loudest, as usual, Soleus Nott arguing ferociously with a Ravenclaw boy one table over from next to Lysander, ignoring his attempts to shut him up.
"Weasley, Lucy," Professor Chang calls, and Lysander glances over at the Gryffindor table to see his twin brother leaning eagerly forward in his seat as the girl heads up to the hat, disappearing beneath it. It doesn't take long to screech out "GRYFFINDOR!" and Lysander claps politely as Lorcan leads the storm of cheering from the red-and-gold table.
"Weasley, Molly," the professor announces next, and Lysander's attention is instantly entirely on the fairytale little girl who hurries up to the Hat, her eyes glittering with controlled excitement.
The hat slips right down to her shoulders, and stifled chuckles roll around the hall as the hat deliberates.
Everyone seems to be holding their breath – all Weasley-Potters go into Gryffindor, what on Earth could be taking so long?
And then the hat screams "SLYTHERIN!" into an absolutely astonished silence. Molly lifts the hat off, and as the Hall erupts into confusion and surprise, Lysander is the only one who catches the satisfied curve of her lips.
He finds her in the common room at four the next morning. He'd snuck out to check on the bowtruckle colony that lived near the Forest edge, and he discovers her sprawled out on a sofa, her prettybright hair pure poetry against the dark green fabric.
"Why are you down here?" he asks quietly when her dark eyes flash open, and it is only now the stars in her eyes are absent that he realises how brightly they'd blazed. "It's really late."
"Nobody wanted me in the dorm," she explains, and he crouches down next to the sofa to study her young, drawn face. "They think I'm here to spy on them."
"Well, that's stupid of them," Lysander replies, and surprises himself by reaching out to brush a messy strand of hair off her wet cheek – he's always been ragingly reluctant to have contact with other people. He prefers animals any day.
"People are stupid," she informs him with a slight shrug, not making any effort to smile even as she blinks guardedly up at him. "It's one of those things I've learnt to deal with."
Maybe it's something to do with the fact that he recognises a kindred spirit, or maybe it's because she's got that look of a creature in a fable, like she might disappear any second; whatever it is, he lifts up her legs and he sprawls down onto the sofa next to her and he stays with her until the next morning.
Their friendship is undoubtedly the strangest in the whole school. They're four years apart and they're both utterly anti-social, but they're never alone when they're not in lessons, and she accompanies him on his sojourns into the Forest, her skin moonlight pale in the halflight and her small feet dancing easily over scattered leaves and branches.
They don't talk about the fact that the other girls in Slytherin still won't talk to her or the fact that Lucy barely has time for her now she's got her Gryffindor friends or the fact that he's as devoted to her as a curator to his art gallery.
"Why are you friends with me, Ly?" she asks one afternoon from where she's seated on a fallen tree at the corner of a clearing while he moves around collecting roots and plants for Hagrid's flobberworms.
He flashes her a brightbright grin and chucks a gurdyroot at her.
"I don't know. I guess at first I felt kind of protective, 'cause you're so little."
"The size jokes are getting really old," she warns, that steel creeping into her voice as she lobs the gurdyroot back at him.
"I think it's a good thing," he informs her as he stuffs the somewhat-bruised gurdyroot into his sack and tears up a Heroga leaf absent-mindedly.
"Oh, yeah. Being tiny is a really good thing."
The sarcasm is oozing from her voice, and Lysander straightens up and crosses the clearing towards her, picking her up and spinning her round easily, setting her whirling onto her feet.
"Well, you'd make a great ballerina," he says, pulling at strings, and she tilts her head, her ponytail swinging, and considers it.
"Yeah, but how many witches do ballet?" she teases, poking him in the side. He laughs and makes a grab for her, yanking her upside-down easily with his massive strength and grinning as she fights him as ferociously as a tiger.
She stays at Hogwarts for Christmas because she doesn't want to face her family and he stays too, for the winter-living Taraners (for her).
They go skating together on the frozen lake, her tiny hands swaddled in green gloves and clasped firmly in his, and she's almost buried within all the winter clothes he's forced her into.
She sheds the layers one by one, subtly, so he doesn't really notice as he flits from here to there to examine the lake life shifting under the ice until she's down to her skirt and tights and t-shirt and he's shouting with anger for her stupidity.
"I'm not cold, Lysander," she tells him firmly, her long plait swinging and the green-and-silver ribbon sparkling in the sunlight. "I'm fine."
And when he touches his fingers to her flushed cheek he finds her warm and toasty and he is awed into silence as she glides off, executing a perfect spin effortlessly, her eyes darker than ever against the backdrop of snow and ice.
He gives her a pair of ballet shoes for Christmas, and shows her the Room of Requirement. She sits at the edge and pulls on the shoes under her pretty party dress and as she stands the room fades into mirrors, a bar running the whole way round and light shining entirely on the pretty little girl at the centre, her face full of dreams and a terrible sort of belongingness.
"This is perfect, Ly," she murmurs, and then there's music on the air and her reflections in all the mirrors are so graceful that he has to turn away because the beauty makes him ache inside for reasons he cannot fathom.
She neglects her schoolwork for her ballet, falling further and further behind, and when he picks up her sheets of parchment from lessons she's left discarded on his bed (she pretty much lives with him now, because the other girls still don't like her) they're full of lines and swirls and ballet shoes and names of positions he can't comprehend.
He makes his way to the Room of Requirement and finds her in one corner, practising tendus against the bar. Her hair is dragged messily back into a plait, the leotard he gave her already well-worn and sliding silkily over her pale skin.
"Ly!" she exclaims with delight, rocketing across the room and into his arms, hugging him tightly around the neck as he lifts her easily, over two feet taller than her. "I managed the tour en l'air. The mirror said it's a boy's step but I did it anyway because it's so much fun. D'you want to see?"
He nods and sets her down gently. She's so light he feels like he's holding thistledown, and she runs excitedly across the room to face him with that wonderful once-a-year smile almost splitting her face in two.
As she stretches and moves into a couple of steps he can't remember the names of all he can think is that listening to her drone on about ballet positions the teacher-mirror in the room has taught her is only worth it for those beautiful smiles.
And then suddenly there's an orchestra in the background and her elegance fills the whole room until he is drowning in the beauty of her sinewy grace.
And that's when he realises that he's fucked.
He writes to her every couple of days over the summer, telling her about the creatures he and his dad are studying and discovering whilst his mother and brother stay at home and fix up the garden.
She only writes back three times, and it would break his heart if he didn't know her so well.
Because the letters are vague and filled with a despair she can't hide from him with pretty words, and when the fourth letter arrives with tear-stains on it he floos straight over to her house.
Lucy is stretched out on the front lawn with several school friends, and he nods to them as they put their heads together and start giggling. He rolls his eyes and strides up the path, ringing the doorbell. Percy opens the door with a guarded expression Lysander has seen on Molly a million times, and his fingers twist absently around the letter in his hand.
"Hi, Mr Weasley. Is Molly home?"
Percy eyes him suspiciously. "Why do you want her?"
"Ly!" her delighted voice screeches down the hall, and in the next second she's pushed her way past her father and leapt into his arms, her arms and legs wrapped around him desperately as he laughs and buries his face in her hair.
"I've missed you, Ballet Shoes," he says gently, and she smiles that incredible smile and twines her hands in his hair.
"You must never leave me alone again, okay?" she commands, tapping his nose while Lucy's friends look on enviously. "It's been murder without you."
Lysander laughs and lets her down and her hand slides into his as she leads him past her protesting father.
"Dad confiscated my ballet shoes and leotard," she confesses when they're camped out in her room, Lysander sprawled across the bed. "My exam results were terrible and he thinks it's because of my dancing."
"But, Molls, it is because of your dancing," he points out legitimately, sitting up, and she throws her head back in wild laughter.
"Of course it is, Ly, but that's beside the point!"
She's free with him here now, glorious and unencumbered and as she flits around the room showing him all the things she's collected over the holidays past he stares around in contentment at the little room. It has Molly branded all over it, from the wall plastered in pictures of ballerinas to the desk absent of schoolwork and instead just loaded up with stuff and the long mirror for her to practise her pliés in front of.
"You've got that dreamland look again," she says suddenly, tapping his chin as he refocuses to find her standing right in front of him, one small hand resting lightly on the top of his head, the other against his chin.
"I like your room," he replies vaguely, and she grins and weaves into his lap, snuggling into his embrace blissfully, her head tucked under his chin.
"I don't like it at home any more," she whispers with the air of a desperate confessor in a cathedral, her fingers toying absently with his. "Dad likes Lucy better because of her grades and I feel like he doesn't want me here."
"Oh, I'm sure that's not true," Lysander protests quickly – Percy is narrow-minded and conceited, but he's not like that.
"It is," she confirms quietly, her hair streaming down to hide her face in that way that he has seen so rarely since he made friends with her. "With my dancing and everything I remind him of mum, and he can't bear it."
Lysander sort of recalls a tall, willowy woman with hair like Molly's from Christmases past, and he certainly remembers the day she died. Like an arrow through a balloon her death had burst the illusion of eternity and long-life that seemed to have descended on the survivors of the war. Lysander remembers the surprise and the horror – the first death in their giant family since the War – and how nobody could quite comprehend it.
He also remembers Lucy and Percy at the centre, Lucy in floods of tears and Percy tight-lipped and closed. But mostly he remembers the tiny little girl sitting cross-legged in a corner, pretty much ignored as an anomaly because she wasn't crying. Her mother was dead and she wasn't crying.
"Ly," she says to him now, rousing him once more. "You're doing it again."
"Sorry," he replies quickly, and then suddenly seizes her and tickles her furiously just to hear her prettypretty laughter that he has missed so much.
He stays for the whole day and in the evening he sits down for dinner with Molly, Percy, Lucy, and five of Lucy's friends who spend a great deal of the meal whispering behind their hands and directing pointed glances at him.
"Why do they keep staring at me?" he mutters to Molly, shovelling down pasta like his life depends upon it. She turns and her face creases up in a small smile and he almost chokes on a piece of tomato.
"Don't you know?"
He rolls his eyes at her as he slugs down some water, and she lets out a burst of laughter, smacking him hard on the back. Percy narrows his eyes at the pair of them from the head of the table, but Molly ignores him and Lysander follows her lead.
Percy corners him that night as he's about to floo home.
"Mr Scamander, may I speak with you for a moment?"
Lysander hesitates and catches sight of Molly's concerned face through the banisters. She makes shooing motions, and Lysander reluctantly follows Mr Weasley through into his study, where the man shuts the door and gestures for Lysander to take a seat.
"I won't beat around the bush," he says, and Lysander suddenly remembers that colony of airants living under the bush in his garden and tries to remember whether he's fed them or not yet today, which doesn't at all help him focus on the situation.
"Yes sir?" he says, folding his hands into his lap and really wishing he had his brother's concern for other people's feelings so he could pay more attention to Mr Weasley.
"I'm worried about your friendship with Molly. You're much older than she is, and you know that her schoolwork has been … suffering … because of this ballet obsession of hers. She tells me it was you who gave her the shoes and the … costume, is that right?"
"Yes sir," Lysander repeats cautiously, trying his very hardest to battle his temper and impatience down and just calmly sit out Percy's telling-off.
"Well, I would really feel more comfortable if you could let her just get on with her schoolwork this year. She really can't afford distractions, and this dancing business is just going to crash and burn for her. And, as her father, I really don't think her friendship with you is very healthy for her. I'm sure she would have some friends her own age if you could leave her alone."
Lysander's temper fails quickly, unsurprisingly, and he gives up his battle to be nice to Mr Weasley.
"With all due respect, sir, without me Molly wouldn't have anyone at school to talk to – if you could just take a moment to pay attention to her, you would notice that she's not exactly happy and surrounded by friends at the moment."
"Now, see here," Mr Weasley begins, but Lysander is getting into his stride now and he cuts him off quickly.
"And as for the dancing business – I love Molly more than anyone else in the world, right, and dancing is all she's got. Lucy gets better grades and she's far more popular, and for any other twin sister that would kill them. But Molly's got her ballet and it's her favourite thing in the whole world. If you take that away from her, I think you're going to lose her for good."
And with that he gets up and reaches over the desk, pulling Molly's confiscated ballet shoes out from Mr Weasley's desk drawer and then turning and marching from the room, ignoring Percy's splutterings.
"Here," he says, offering the shoes up to Molly, who is standing outside the door trying to pretend she hasn't had her ear pressed against the wood the whole time. "Take them quick, before he comes out to get them back."
She accepts the ballet shoes daintily, her eyes closed against him, and he tilts his head down at her curiously as she folds her hands around the shoes.
"Hey," he says gently, bending down to take her hands, "what's the matter?"
She suddenly lifts her face to his, and her eyes are filled with tears that astound him because Molly Weasley does not cry.
"Thank you," she murmurs, and then suddenly her arms are around his neck and she's squeezing him so tightly he feels like he's dying the most pleasurable death ever. "I love you the best too."
He places a kiss on the top of her head and then ohsogently disentangles her – after all, she's eleven and he's her best friend and this would be a lot easier if he kept his stupid hormones out of the equation.
"Just floo to my house if you need me, okay?" he makes her promise, and she nods and she's already pulling on the shoes as he crosses over to the fireplace. "Oh," he adds, turning back towards her, the emerald powder glittering in his palm, "and one other thing."
"What now?" she teases, hopping nimbly to her feet and wriggling her toes in something akin to bliss.
"Promise me you'll never stop dancing. Promise."
"Silly," she chides, her face full of laughter and rightness as she hurries over to plant one huge kiss on his cheek. "I don't need to promise that."
As he whirls away into the fire, his last view of her is a tour en l'air, her face stretched into that impish, monkey grin he needs like sunshine.
He's almost … scared of going back to school.
Which is ridiculous, because Lysander isn't scared of anything. After all, he practically lives in the Forbidden Forest, and he's best friends with Molly Weasley. And if you're not scared of either of those things, you're going to struggle to find anything that does scare you.
But, the thing is, he's had this beautiful month which has been MollyMollyMolly and she's been his, just his, for the whole of August and he doesn't want to share her with anything or anyone – not school or other people. He shares her with her ballet, obviously, because coming between Molly and ballet would be pure suicide; but he forgives the ballet because she is so happy and so beautiful with it.
"Stop looking like a thundercloud and come help me with my trunk," she orders when she's fought her way through the crowd towards him, pummelling her schoolmates aside to reach him.
He follows her with a smile, amused by the surprised stares from around them at the fact that Molly seems to have rather grown up. Oh, she hasn't gained much height but there's this new confidence about her that seems to come as rather a shock.
"Come on, you oaf," she complains as he lags behind, reaching back to grab his hand and tug him behind her. "Can you please not wear your grumpy face today?"
He quirks his eyebrows at her, and she rolls her eyes and bobs up onto her tiptoes to reach his mouth, which she stretches out into a grin with her fingers.
"You look like a gargoyle," a voice announces, and Lysander and Molly whirl to find Lorcan yanking a girl's trunk along the ground, Lucy riding piggyback on him. "No, wait, do it again, Molly. I want a picture."
"Oh, piss off," Lysander mutters, and Lorcan just beams, Lucy almost mirroring him.
"You love us really."
Weirdly, their friendship isn't at all talked about. It seems to be a natural progression for Lucy and Lorcan to be friends, as they are now the only members of the Potter-Weasley-and-extended-hangers-on-clan left in Gryffindor. Everyone seems to simultaneously be able to be happy about this and to ignore the fact that it is exactly the same for Lysander and Molly in Slytherin.
"You wish," Lysander retorts, and Lorcan just reaches out to punch him good-naturedly in the arm, and then the pair disappears off into the clouds of steam. Molly surfaces from the silence that always wraps itself around her when others attempt to make conversation and include her, tilting her head up consideringly at Lysander.
"What now?" he inquires with a sigh, and her face cracks into a mischievous grin.
"Do I get a piggyback?"
He just glares down at her, ignoring her hopeful expression and focusing on that wicked sparkle deep in her wide-set eyes.
"Oh, please?" she begs, her eyes wide and her lower lip trembling. "Pleasepleaseplease?"
"Even if I get down on my knees and beg?"
He can never say no, of course, so he gives her the damn piggyback up to the train and then they find an empty compartment to collapse in, his head in her lap as she giggles and knots his hair up and watches the scenery go by outside the window.
"So what are you going to do for your birthday this year?" she asks, suddenly diverting her attention from the rolling countryside to him. He frowns up at her, considering, and then shrugs.
"I don't know. I expect Lorcan has got some massive party planned that I'll have to devote all my energy to avoiding."
"I can't believe you're going to be seventeen so soon," she murmurs, pushing his messy blonde curls off his forehead and grinning down at him. "It's so weird."
"And you have to wait until next August before you're even a teenager," he teases, and she jokingly smacks his forehead and props her feet up on the seat opposite him.
"I just can't wait to get back to the Room of Requirement," she sighs, her muscles clenching with anticipation. He laughs, reaching up a hand to toy with the ballerina shaped necklace hanging around her neck – his birthday gift to her.
"So you're going to be a famous ballerina one day?" he inquires with a smile, and her face blazes with such hope and determination that he's almost shocked.
"Yes," she replies firmly, her eyes suddenly miles away. "Absolutely."
Her dedication is enviable, almost terrifying, and the year rolls by as she pretty much gives up on schoolwork and spends every spare minute practising, learning, dancing until her teachers are tearing their hair out with impatience and anger.
"That's it, Miss Weasley," her potions teacher finally snaps, a young man not long out of school himself, after she fails to hand in her homework for the twelfth week in a row. "Stay behind after class."
She does as bidden, swinging her feet as she sits on a stool while the rest of the class files out, her head full of arabesques.
"Miss Weasley, is there something troubling you? Are you finding life a little difficult at the moment?" Professor Brandon inquires, and she blinks back to the present and tilts her head sideways in confusion.
"No, sir. Why?"
"Well, Miss Weasley, I can't imagine I'm the only one of your teachers worried about you. Your work has slipped appallingly – I'm not going to tell you you're a naturally-gifted potions maker, because you're not, but when you first arrived at Hogwarts you were at least passable. Now you're a menace to have in the dungeons."
Her lips quirk upwards at that, the closest she ever gets to a smile around anyone but Lysander. He seems to be waiting for her to say something, so she just shrugs.
"I don't want to be a potions-maker when I'm older."
He sighs and sits down behind his own desk, taking off his glasses and rubbing his eyes wearily.
"And what do you want to be?"
Her eyes shine suddenly, and he is taken aback because this passionate, wild Molly is not a girl he has ever encountered before; and for a moment he wonders if anybody's ever bothered to ask her this question before.
"I want to be a dancer."
"A dancer?" he repeats, almost dumbstruck. He's heard of some weird career-hopes in the past, but this is most definitely the worst yet.
"Well, a ballerina," she clarifies, and he watches her and how she blazes when she speaks of it – and he can only ask the natural follow-up to this.
"And are you any good?"
Her cheeks stretch, and Professor Brandon becomes the first human outside of Lysander and her mother to earn one of her real smiles.
"I think so. D'you want to see?"
She's innocent and young and hopeful and, the thing is, Professor Brandon is muggle-born and his sister is on the board of a world-famous muggle ballet school – and what better way to prove to the family that's always been convinced that the magical world produces nothing of note than to introduce them to a truly bona fide young ballerina?
So he follows her up to the Room of Requirement and she retrieves her battered ballet shoes from their usual place at the bottom of her school bag, going everywhere with her, and he takes up residence at the edge of the room as she quickly and efficiently strips down to her skirt and tights and shirt, her form tiny at the centre of the huge room.
A door opens and closes next to him, and the professor finds himself standing next to Lysander, who has just hit a growth spurt and towers over the professor at six foot one.
"Professor," he acknowledges curtly, and then hurries over to Molly. Professor Brandon represses a smile as the two converse quickly, Lysander looking angry and Molly appeasing – he really does wonder about this unlikely friendship. He's never seen Molly speak to any of the others in his class apart from her sister, and never seen Lysander speak to anyone at all.
Except to each other, of course.
Finally Molly appears to win the argument, and Lysander retreats to the other corner of the room, his arms crossed and a scowl on his face. The professor guesses that he must be feeling envious or betrayed that she has brought him up here.
But then the music starts, and all his attention is riveted on her.
Because, fuck, she's good.
Lysander accompanies her when Professor Brandon takes her for an audition at the London Academy for Dance, waiting in the wings, trembling for her as she moves nervously into the centre of the stage in her tattered old leotard and worn shoes, her longlong hair pulled back into its customary plait.
He'd tried to explain to her that ballerinas wear their hair in buns, but she'd wanted to wear her lucky ribbon and it wouldn't go in a bun; and that was that.
"Move to the centre please, young lady," a woman's voice calls, and Lysander watches, unable to see her judges, as Molly shuffles a couple of feet to the left. "What's your name?"
"Molly Weasley," she says, and as Lysander watches she seems to take a deep breath and straighten her back, and she turns her head the tiniest bit towards him and their eyes meet and he pours everything he has into one long, courage-boosting gaze. Her lips curve, and when the next question comes, she answers it confidently and surely.
"Why do you want a place at this school?" a man asks this time, and Molly lifts her chin and regards him calmly, as an equal.
"Because I want to dance more than anything else in the world," she informs him, and her sincerity is plain to see.
"And why do you want to dance?" the first woman asks, and Molly's dark, wide-set eyes switch to her with a frightening candour for one so young.
"Because dancing is everything to me. If I can't dance, I don't want to live."
And they seem well pleased with that, because suddenly Molly's music is playing and, as usual, Lysander aches from watching her in her grace. She's dwarfed by the huge stage – and yet she commands it, completely and utterly and irrevocably.
"How was I?" she asks as they walk towards a safe point for apparition. For once, Lysander agrees with Professor Brandon.
"You were absolutely bloody brilliant."
She gets the place. She comes screaming into his bedroom at his house at half past six in the morning, in her white pyjamas with her hair a messy nimbus around her face and her cheeks smudged with soot from floo travel.
"I got in, Ly!" she shrieks wildly, the letter clutched tightly in one hand as she makes a flying leap onto his bed. "I got in, I got in! Can you believe it? I got in!"
It takes him a few seconds to make his brain work after being woken so abruptly, but then her words register and he lets out a yell of delight and lunges to hug her, squeezing her into his big arms with pure joy for her.
"Merlin, Molls, I'm so happyfor you."
"Thank you," she says, and her voice breaks and he pulls apart, just a little, because there's water on his bare chest and – hell, she's crying.
"Hey, hey, what's the matter?"
"Nothing," she whispers, gazing right up into his eyes, outer-space into grey. "I'm just happy."
He laughs then, wildly, and his mother appears in the doorway, radish-festooned headdress somewhat askew and feet bare under her long nightdress.
"Lysander?" she says curiously. "What – oh, hello, Molly dear. I should have known you were coming, the nargles have been particularly bothersome for the last hour or so."
Molly giggles, actually giggles, and Lysander can only sit dumbstruck as she bounds over to give a somewhat surprised Luna a hug. Luna hugs her back, and her face is full of asking when she looks at her son. Lysander grins broadly and slides out of bed, pulling his shorts up a little.
"Molly got into a famous muggle ballet school, mum," he explains, and Luna is suddenly beaming broadly and holding Molly by the upper arms.
"Oh, how lovely! I didn't know you were a dancer – you've always seemed a little quiet for a life on the stage."
Molly smiles at her, and Lysander knows from previous conversations that Molly loves his mother dearly for her honesty and directness and her completely blithe attitude to other people's opinions and thoughts of her.
"I just want to dance," Molly says firmly, her eyes shining with happiness. "I don't care where it takes me, so long as I'm dancing."
Lysander moves in then, and all three hug for a long time, Lysander towering over the other two.
"Will you stay for breakfast, or does your father want you back to celebrate?" Luna asks once they eventually disentangle themselves, and Molly's face is suddenly ohsoclosed, and Lysander remembers how shut off she can be.
"He's angry with me," she confesses in a small voice, automatically moving closer to Lysander for comfort. He presses her into his side without a thought, his arm around her to give her security. "He can't stand the fact that I went to audition without telling him."
"Oh, well, I'm sure he'll come around," Lysander reassures her quickly, and she glances up at him and their eyes do that connecting-thing again.
"Or maybe not," Luna interrupts thoughtfully, and when they turn to her she gives them an apologetic look. "Well, you've always said he's never liked you dancing – that's why you've spent so much time with us this summer."
Without a word, Molly turns her face into Lysander's side, and he can feel her tears wetting his skin – closed and incommunicative instantly.
"It's okay, mum," he says gently, gesturing towards the door. "We'll be down for breakfast soon."
His mother leaves with a small smile, shutting the door behind her, and Lysander drags Molly over to the bed and settles down with her pulled into his lap like a small child.
"He loves you, Moll," he tells her softly, his rough thumb wiping the tears off her cheeks. "He'll forgive you."
"He won't," she says into his side, her voice muffled. "He said he never would, and he's not letting me go."
"That's bullshit!" he responds instantly. "Like hell you're not going. I'll fight him myself if – "
"S'okay, Ly," she breaks in, pulling her face back so she can look up at him and put her fingers on his lips and, jokingly, stretch his face up into a smile. "We've got a year to break him down. I can't enter 'til I'm fourteen."
"A year," Lysander muses ponderingly, gently pulling her fingers away from his mouth and wrapping his hands around them. "We can do it in a year."
They can't do it.
Percy refuses point blank, threatening Molly every which way that if she dares to even consider it he'll kill her, then disown her and throw her out. Lysander has constant fights with him, and Molly's aunts and uncles get involved too – although they've all sworn up and down not to reveal anything to their children about it.
"I always knew you were a prick, Percy," he walks in on Charlie saying one day at Christmas, "but I never knew how much of one."
He hears various variations of this (the best being from George –"you, Percy, are a dream-killing douche bag who deserves to be kebab-ed with that stick you've got up so far up your arse it's a miracle you can walk–) all year, every time he's around the sprawling Weasley-Potter family. With the seeming exceptions of Ginny, George and Charlie, they all seem to agree with Percy.
Hermione: "How will you get your OWLs if you go to a muggle ballet school?"
Harry: "You'll miss out on life at Hogwarts, and I promise you you'll regret it when you're older."
Bill: "Ballet's not very wizarding. If it was crime, okay, maybe we could deal with it. But ballet?"
Ron: "What sort of a witch wants to be a ballerina?"
Fleur: "You 'ave not zee temperament for a ballerina. You are not… zee word is charismatic, oui? You are not charismatic enough."
Angelina: "A wizarding education is far more important than learning to dance."
And he argues with them all, every single one, but they unite behind Percy – impossiblyimpossibly – and Molly isn't allowed to attend.
She's written to accept the place, of course, and there's no way she's backing down.
"I'm going to run away," she confesses to him the night of her birthday in the middle of August. A huge party is going on downstairs, supposedly for both girls, but Molly hates the spotlight as much as her sister loves it so she's more than happy to be up in a tree at the bottom of the garden with Lysander rather than at the party. "I'm going to run away and go to the ballet school."
"Are you sure?" he asks, leaning lazily back against the tree trunk and letting the moonlight wash over his body, watching her carefully. "Because there'll be no going back."
"I'm sure," she says, and he doesn't think he's ever seen anyone look so determined as she does in that moment, with the moonlight making her look more like a fable than ever. "I just need to find somewhere to live and I'll be fine."
He thinks for a moment, and then grins over at her.
"Live with me."
"Live with me. I've left Hogwarts now so I'll need to get a job. I'll move down to London and get a flat and a job somewhere and you can come live with me and dance."
Her eyes are terribly full of hope as she gazes at him, and then she's throwing herself into his arms and burying her face in the juncture of his neck and shoulder.
"Oh, thank you, thank you," she whispers into his skin, her breath hot against his pulse point, and he thinks he's never loved her more than right here with the moonlight and the calmness and the promises of the future.
It takes him a couple of weeks to find a suitable flat, and he finds it in a muggle area roughly halfway between her Academy and the wizarding zoo where he's got a job as a researcher.
They sneak away in the middle of the night, Lysander levitating Molly's suitcase down the stairs as Percy and Lucy slumber unknowingly above them.
"Shh!" Molly hisses as Lysander bangs his head on the sloping ceiling above the stairs in the exact place he always does, and swears in irritation.
"Oh, sorry, I'll just hide all my pain and die silently, shall I?" he whispers back sarcastically, and she just smacks him on the arm and leads him out into the front garden.
"Hurry up," she commands nervously as he gets out his wand, thinking she sees movement in an upstairs window.
"Did you remember to leave the letter for your father?" he inquires, and she rolls her eyes and recites from memory.
"Dear dad, I need to dance. I'm sorry. I'm going to the ballet school and I'm going to learn to be a professional ballerina. Don't try to find me because I'm going to be the happiest I've ever been. Love Molly."
"That's great, Moll," Lysander replies, "but did you remember to put it on the kitchen table for him?"
She swears suddenly and rockets back inside the house, appearing several moments later breathlessly and sprinting over to him.
"Okay," she says, stealing one last glance at her house, "let's get out of here."
He wrenches them both into blackness and pretends that he doesn't see her wipe away a tear. For all she pretends, she really does love her father, and Lysander better than anyone knows how much she'd love his support in this.
They arrive at the front door of his flat, and as Molly does her usual customary two-step stagger as a response to apparating, Lysander digs out his key and lets her in.
She hurries straight over to her bedroom door, ignoring the large sitting room and kitchen (it hadn't taken Lysander long to enlarge the whole place from the inside) and pushing her door open with a whoosh of expectation.
Her gasp of delight makes Lysander's heart swell, and he abandons her trunk in the middle of the living room to go over to her.
"Oh, Ly," she says in awe, "it's beautiful."
He beams as she throws her arms around his neck and presses a kiss to his cheek before bounding into her brand new bedroom and moving around to examine stuff and smile. He'd refused to allow her to see it as he did it up, so now she's exclaiming with delight at the dark green walls swirled with silver; at the board with so many photos of famous ballerinas dancing she can barely believe it; at the huge bed with the dark green sheets and bedding; at the white wardrobe; at… everything.
Then she halts at Lysander's favourite feature in the room – three large photos of herself in her pretty party dress and her ballet shoes from Lysander's seventeenth when they'd abandoned the party to sneak up to the Room of Requirement, mounted on big canvases and staring down at the bed.
Her hair is swishing out behind her, her eyes shining as she stares at the camera – totally still in all three.
"Why don't they move, Ly?" she asks as she wonderingly traces a finger over the middle picture.
"They're muggle ones," he explains, "I wanted to have them put up like this, but you have to have that done by muggles and I couldn't exactly hand them a moving photograph, could I?"
She turns then, and he's earned himself one of those rare, blazing smiles as she hurries towards him and throws herself at him, her arms so tightly around his neck he can barely breathe.
"It's going to be perfect here, Ly," she promises, and as he holds her tightly and presses his face into her long hair, he has absolutely no trouble in believing that.
They have one argument several days before her first term at the ballet school starts, over the fact that he's found her a wizarding tutor.
"I don't need to learn to be a witch now, Ly," she tells him furiously, pacing backwards and forwards in her anger, hair swishing irritably. "It's completely pointless."
"Well, you're learning, and that's that," he says calmly and matter-of-factly. "I'm effectively your guardian now, and you need to have magic in case something goes wrong when you're older. You know they'll take your wand. And, besides, it's only a couple of hours four nights a week – it's not like it'll tax you."
"I won't do it," she cries, full of rage, and he shrugs.
"In that case, you've got three days to move out and go back to your father with an apology."
"Argh, I hate you!" she screams, storming into her bedroom and slamming the door loudly behind herself.
Lysander leaves her to stew for a few hours, moving around his sitting room to prepare himself for his first day at work in a week's time and then making dinner.
"Hey, Moll," he says, finally going over to the door. When there is no response he pushes the door open and goes to sit on the bed next to where she's curled up under her duvet, just her head poking out.
"Go away," she says, her voice thick with tears, and he sighs and pulls her easily up into his lap.
"I'm sorry," he tells her sincerely, "I don't want to make you upset ever. But you know you need to have magic, and I'm not giving your dad any more reasons to hate me than he already has. If you don't keep up with your studies then he'll tear me limb from limb. With a coathanger."
"Ever the optimist," she teases half-heartedly, but then she also sighs and presses her face into his jumper. "I'm sorry too. For being a bitch and stuff. I'll do it, but only because you want me to. As soon as I can, I'm ditching learning magic."
"Sure," he replies easily, smiling a little. "Just get a couple of NEWTs and then you can go become a world-famous ballerina."
"Promise?" she asks, holding out her pinky finger.
"Promise," he smiles, linking his into hers and then setting her down on her feet. "Now, come on, dinner's ready."
He drops her off for her first day at the school in his newly acquired muggle car, giving her a few words of reassurance and a hug when she looks like she's going to throw up with nerves.
"You'll be great," he tells her firmly. And then, to make her laugh, "the nargles said so."
She gives out a slight grin, even more pale than usual, and then takes a deep breath and pushes open the car door.
"Good luck," he says, and then she turns around and her smile is brighter. She fishes around in her bag for a little while before pulling out a pair of desperately battered nude-coloured ballet shoes.
"I don't need luck. I've got these."
She's got her new pair, of course, a white satin pair he got her when she finally grew out of those first ones – but these are her reassurance and her lucky charm and her memories all in one, and he runs his finger over the very tip of one shoe.
"I'll see you at four," he says, and she stares at him hard for a couple of seconds, as if to draw comfort and courage from his face, then she slams the door and he watches her climb the stairs leading up to the grand entrance with apprehension but also delight.
He hangs around at home all day, his new job not starting until the next day, and then drives to pick her up at four. She sprints down the steps to where he's waiting outside his car, still in her leotard and skirt, and throws herself into his arms.
"Oh, Merlin, Ly, that was the best day ever!" she exclaims, and on the way home and all evening all he gets are babbled accounts of her lessons and her teachers and even, to his surprise, her classmates.
He's slightly surprised by the notion of Molly actually getting along with other people – but, after all, they're muggles who know nothing about her famous family and they share her passion and her skill and he wants to be pleased for her, he really does, but suddenly he's terrified she's slipping through his fingers.
She bounds up the steps the next morning with barely a backwards glance, her bag slung over her shoulder and her hair in its customary plait.
He watches her go, and then he pulls out and heads off to his new job.
The people are friendly, but Lysander's never been good with people so the perky ones irritate him and the quiet ones make him impatient. He ends up in a large room with a map spread over a desk and a man a couple of years older than him leaning over the map.
"Scamander?" the man asks as Lysander walks in, and he nods in reply. "Get your butt over here. We need to work out where this herd of unicorns has gone."
Lysander grins, liking his no-nonsense attitude, and he heads over to the map.
The man is called Brian and he's almost as anti-social as Lysander. They become friends, sort of, and Lysander surprises himself by looking forward to his conversations with the other man.
He arrives home with Molly that evening and warns her that she's got half an hour to get ready for her tutor, and that he's put charms on all the windows and doors so he'll know if she tries to sneak out.
"Be good," he warns as the doorbell rings, and she sticks her tongue out at him from where she's collapsed on the sofa watching muggle cartoons.
"Hey, Lysander," a familiar voice says from the doorway, and Molly cranes her head round with surprise to find herself facing none other than Professor Brandon.
"You!" she exclaims in shock, scrambling to her feet. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm your new tutor," he explains with a broad grin, pushing his glasses up his nose and dumping an armload of books onto the table. "It's the least I can do to repay you for helping me show my family that being a wizard isn't a total waste of time."
"But… but… but I owe you," she replies, disarmed, and he just shrugs and draws out a chair for himself as Lysander disappears into his bedroom.
"Well, it was either this or taking the new knitting club at Hogwarts, so I picked this. Take a seat and we'll start with charms."
It takes the Weasleys about three months to find them. Lysander had told his parents where he was going, but not his brother, and eventually the day they'd dreaded comes and the doorbell goes.
Lysander peers through the spyhole briefly, and then swears loudly.
"Quick, Molls, hide!" he commands, and in about five seconds she's across the room and in her bedroom. Lysander spells all her stuff in after her, and then quickly hides her door with the charms he's been practising.
"Lorcan," he says when he finally gets the door open. "Oh, hey, Lucy."
"It's good to see you, Ly," Lorcan says, fortunately making no effort to hug him, just pushing past him and into the room. "Been a while."
Lucy follows him in, pausing to hug Lysander briefly, who stiffens and tries not to show too obviously that he doesn't like her in his personal space – Lorcan would probably kill him if he hurt her feelings.
"How's it going with travelling and stuff?" Lysander inquires as he pours them out cups of tea, and Lorcan shrugs as he cradles his mug.
"It's alright. Lonely without Lucy."
Lucy grins and elbows him in the side, and Lysander watches them wordlessly as she whispers something to him, they bicker quickly, and then turn to Lysander with scarily similar expressions.
"Let's cut to the real reason we're here," Lucy says firmly, her eyes travelling around the room as if the walls will tell her secrets. "Where's Molly?"
"Not here," Lysander responds coolly. "Haven't seen her in a while."
"You know she ran away?" Lorcan says reproachfully, leaning forward to study his brother's expression. "No-one's heard from her for months."
"Percy should have let her go to the ballet school then, shouldn't he?" Lysander replies, his Slytherin detachment showing perfectly as he takes a bored sip of his tea and stares right back at them.
"If you know where she is, Ly, you should tell us," Lorcan warns. "The adults are going crazy with worry."
"Good," Lysander retorts. "It's about time somebody showed some emotion towards her."
"Please, Lysander," a small voice says, and his gaze flicks to Lucy, who is twisting the hem of her jumper between her hands. "I just want to know where she is. It's horrible without her."
"She's safe," he replies, but his voice is more gentle now because Lucy might have Percy's looks while Molly has her mother's but they are twins, after all, and something in the way Lucy holds herself reminds him of his best friend. "She's happy."
"Is she going to the school, then?" Lucy asks, and Lysander grins.
"Yeah. She's top of her class."
"So she's… she's actually good at this ballet stuff?" she inquires as though she can't quite believe it, and Lysander catches her eyes and holds them firmly.
"Yes. She's amazing."
"Like mum," Lucy whispers, and Lysander can see tears filling her eyes. She turns wordlessly into Lorcan's side, and Lysander watches silently as Lorcan puts an arm around her shoulders and stands.
"If she decides she wants to see us, you know where to find us," he says, and Lysander nods and watches as they let themselves out. He hears a soft pitter-patter of feet behind him, and he turns his head to find Molly standing with one hand resting on one of the kitchen chairs.
He opens his arms wordlessly, and she hurries over and into them, snuggling up under his chin and letting him knot his fingers into the ends of her long hair.
"D'you want to go back?" he asks softly, his heart beggingbeggingbegging her to say no.
"I don't think so," she replies slowly, her fingers intertwining thoughtfully in her lap. "I'm going to wait until I've got results from the Academy, and prove to them that I'm really good."
"You're going to be the best ballet dancer ever," he reassures her, and she lifts her eyes to his and, for the first time, shows a hint of uncertainty.
"You really think so?"
And she smiles and lets her head fall back against his shoulder and they sit like that for hours.
She finishes the year top of her class, and she is so exultant that she's almost bouncing out of the car on the way home.
"Calm down!" Lysander exclaims with a laugh as she joggles joyously in her seat, cheeks flushed with delight. "If you don't sit still you can't have your surprise."
"My surprise?" she asks, suddenly absolutely still, and Lysander laughs and makes a turning in the opposite direction to home.
Molly cannot contain her excitement, her nose pressed against the window as they travel down back streets and eventually pull up outside a small house in the London outskirts.
"Where are we?" she asks curiously, undoing her seatbelt and clambering inelegantly out of the car, staring around her at the big houses. A woman is coming out of the house they're parked in front of, and Lysander grins as he comes to stand next to Molly.
"That's Izabelle. She was in the same ballet company as your mother, and she's in charge of it now. She's going to see you dance and then maybe offer you a place with them when you're done with school."
"Oh, truly, Ly?" she exclaims with delight, hugging him tightly around the middle before turning warily to face the redheaded woman coming down the stairs. The woman staggers a little as she gets close enough to see Molly's face, and Molly automatically rushes up to steady her.
"Good lord, child," the woman says breathlessly, a hand on her heart, "for a moment I was so convinced you were Audrey come back to me!"
Molly smiles, to Lysander's amazement, at the stranger, and releases her so she can hold out a hand for a handshake.
"I'm Molly," she says, a little shyly. "I'm so pleased to meet you."
"And I, you, my dear," the woman replies. "My name is Izabelle, as your friend here has no doubt told you. I understand you have just finished your school year?"
They're walking up the path now, Lysander following behind and trying to control his massive grin, utterly delighted because Molly is so happy.
"Yeah, I just got out today. I came top."
"Then you must have your mother's talent," Izabelle replies with a serene smile, sending Molly one sidelong, enchanted glance. Lysander watches as Molly sends the woman an equally enraptured look, and can't help but smile.
Izabelle pours them tea and tells Molly the story of how she came to be a ballerina – escaping Russia during the Cold War and coming over to England. Molly listens eagerly to all the tales the woman can give her about her mother, and she demands the one about how her parents met twice.
"So now I will see you dance," Izabelle announces once Molly appears satiated, stuffed to the brim with stories of her beautiful ballerina mother. "Get your shoes and we will begin."
Lysander hands Molly her pretty satin shoes and then follows the pair into a small studio, taking a seat at the side and watching with his usual awe as Molly stretches and then begins her 'audition'.
She skips and leaps and moves like muscled water, flowing this way and that, inspired by the tales of her mother and dancing better than she ever has before. Lysander watches her, so full with pride he feels like he will burst.
Izabelle's face doesn't change, but a small smile plays around her lips and when Molly finishes Lysander notices her surreptitiously wipe away a few tears.
"Thank you, Molly," Izabelle says, going over to place a hand on her shoulder. "You were wonderful. I'll be in touch."
Molly cannot stop smiling, hugging Izabelle and thanking her so many times it's a wonder she has any voice left. On the way home she tips her head back against the seat, her hair cascading down her back, and sighs mightily.
"Thanks, Ly," she says, reaching over to touch her fingers to his arm in that way she has. "That was the best surprise ever."
She spends the summer following him around Borneo, hunting new and old creatures and getting sunburned and being so happy Lysander feels himself infected with her joy and they spend most of their time laughing and smiling.
But when they return they find Lorcan waiting for them in Lysander's flat, a cup of tea in his hand and a look of apprehension on his face.
"They know you're here, Molly," he warns without preamble, ignoring her gasp of horror and fixing his gaze on his twin. "You need to get out of here."
"She doesn't have anywhere else," Lysander retorts, and then turns to Molly, hands flying over her face and through her hair, trying desperately to reassure her as she turns paler than ever. "It's alright, Moll, we'll hide you. It'll be fine. Don't worry."
"They'll find her," Lorcan reminds him brutally – he sees in his brother the almost mad devotion to his friend, and it is so identical to his feelings for Lucy that he cannot bear his brother to lose her. "She has to go away."
"She doesn't have anywhere!" Lysander yells, turning on his brother with such a look of anger that Lorcan takes a step back. He girds himself to stand firm and argue his point, but a small voice interrupts.
"I do though, Ly," Molly says, and Lorcan starts with surprise – she's probably spoken in front of him about three times in all the time he's known her. "I can go with Izabe–"
"No," Lysander replies without even turning round. "That's not happening."
"What are you, my father?" she spits at him, taking his arm and tugging him around ferociously. "I'm going, Ly. They'll never find me."
"Moll, please," he whispers, dropping to his knees and taking her by the hands, staring up into her face pleadingly. "It's a whole year in France and Russia. I can't bear to be away from you for that long."
She takes her hands from his and threads her fingers through his fringe, staring down at him solemnly as he moves his hands to her hips, his face pressing against her stomach.
"It'll be okay, Ly," she promises, dropping to press a kiss against the top of his head. "I'll be back before you know it – and this way you can take that job in Latvia, yeah?"
Lorcan watches this scene silently; watches his emotionless, tough twin brother abandon all his shields and walls at the feet of this young girl; and he wonders whether he really does understand the depth of devotion between these two, who have only ever had each other in the world.
"I'll throw them off the trail," he says suddenly, breaking into their little bubble of goodbyes. "I'll tell them you were gone by the time I got here, and there was a map of America on the table. America's huge, they'll spend ages searching for you there."
"Thank you, Lorcan," Molly says genuinely, talking to him for the first time ever, and she smiles weakly at him. "You're very kind."
"Can I tell Lucy where you've gone?" he asks, his friend's face swimming about behind his eyelids, stained with tears. "It's been hard on her, losing you after losing your mum."
"Tell her I'm happy," Molly insists, not breaking eye contact. "Tell her I'm dancing."
Lorcan holds her gaze for a long time, admiring of the fact that she doesn't break the contact first.
"Okay. Now, you'd better go. Pack your stuff, I'll delay them."
He leaves through the front door and they hear him apparate away with a pop.
"Promise not to fall in love with some French boy, okay?" Lysander says in a low voice, gently teasing, and she lets out a sob before throwing herself into his arms, letting him raise her off the ground as she wraps her legs around his waist and squeezes him as tightly as she can.
"I'm going to miss you," she murmurs into his ear, her hair tangling over them both, and he battles down the unmanly tears that want to rise – because, for nearly six years, his life has been MollyMollyMolly and he doesn't know how he's going to deal without her.
"I'm going to miss you too," he chokes out, and he can feel her tears wetting the skin of his neck as he stands clutching her for what feels like forever.
He drops her off in St Petersburg with Izabelle, who watches the pair say their goodbyes in silence, and then she hustles Molly off to her first rehearsal with the ballet company. Another girl from Molly's year at the Academy is there too – they all take a year out during their studies to be a part of a company and learn the ropes – and Lysander is glad to know that there will be at least two familiar faces for Molly.
He goes home and clears out his flat, spelling his belongings and Molly's into boxes and disapparating just as Percy Weasley bursts through the front door.
"What have you done with my daughter?" Mr Weasley yells at him, and Lysander pauses, his wand in mid-air.
"I've loved her," he replies with a half-smile, watching Mr Weasley's face fade to an ugly red. "Which is far more than you can claim."
And then he's being sucked into total blackness and staggering out into blinding Latvian sunshine, his friend Brian from the zoo waiting to greet him.
The year is agonising as he travels all over the world, discovering entirely new species and getting to spend three months working with his father, which feels familiar and comfortable and for a while takes away the pain of not having Molly there and missing her smile and her laughter and the way she hides behind her hair when she's shy or nervous.
"So who's the girl?" his father asks eventually. They're sitting in their shared tent, the rain hammering on the outside as they lounge in the kitchen chairs, coffee clutched in their hands.
"What d'you mean?" he replies, slightly startled to be having a conversation that doesn't revolve around animals. He and his father aren't exactly the verbose sort.
"I mean the girl who you're in love with," Rolf clarifies, and grins as Lysander sends him a shocked look. "Don't try to pretend – I've seen you hunched over that writing desk day after day. And, if that wasn't clue enough, the fact that you've barely sent a second glance after all those pretty girls we've been working with. Unless there's something you need to tell me, of course."
Lysander frowns for a few moments, unsure what his father's getting at, but then understands. "I'm not gay, dad."
"Oh, of course you're not," Rolf replies, eyes sparkling. "I didn't mean – um, well… you know what I mean."
They stare at each other for a few seconds, and then suddenly burst out laughing, and the laughter feels very good to Lysander, who hasn't laughed in so long.
"You miss her then?" Rolf inquires once they have control of themselves, and Lysander sighs and sends a glance at the pile of letters, all written in her messy handwriting.
"With everything I've got," he replies, and Rolf half-smiles.
"Well, I'm not much of an expert on women, but you should tell her how you feel, you know. Get it out in the open and all."
"Maybe I will," Lysander says thoughtfully, and Rolf grins and rises, clapping his son on the shoulder.
"Don't let her get away," he warns, and Lysander thinks of Molly's smile and her prettypretty hair and brightsparkly eyes and the beauty of her dancing, and decides that nothing on Earth could ever make him let her get away.
When, finallyfinally, her year with the company is up and the Weasley's hunt for her has abated and he has quit his job in Latvia, he buys a ticket for the Nutcracker at the Paris Opéra and rents a tuxedo and slips into his seat just as the curtain goes up.
The lights swivel down onto the stage, the music soars into the air, and Lysander's muscles clench with anticipation as the first of the girls dart out from the wings.
He can't identify her at first, and soon he is shaking with worry because he can't see her amongst the troupe, can't see her at all, and maybe it's been so long he's forgotten what she looks like or something.
But then he takes a second look at the lead dancer, her face radiant as her partner lifts her and sends her spinning through the air, her tiny form so elegant in the white tutu and white satin ballet shoes that it is almost painful.
And then he recognises her, and he absolutely can't help the tears that escape.
Because his Molly has grown up – she's still small but she's got a figure now, and her smile is wearier but full of promises and memories rather than innocence and her face is tired and lonely but she's so full of the dance it's like she shines.
The violins weep as the final scene comes to a close, and Lysander is no longer the only one with tears on his cheeks. As the last movement stills and the orchestra dies off, the silence in the theatre is absolute.
And then Lysander is on his feet, roaring with… something. Wildness and love and inspiration and awe. The rest of the audience follows suit, stampeding to their feet and applauding the whole company, but mostly the girl who stands at the centre of the stage with her chest heaving and her face full of belonging.
The troupe seems to be turning to leave when suddenly Molly hesitates, turning around and shading her eyes with her hand as she scans the audience, a terrible, blazing hope written across her features. Lysander is still on his feet like everyone else, yelling his admiration out, and then her darkdark eyes meet his and her mouth drops as his heart soars.
He sees her lips form his name, and then she's leaping from the stage and landing neatly on the floor, barrelling up the aisle as he fights his way out of his row, sprinting towards her and clutching her into his arms as her heart hammers against his and she cries his name, over and over, and the screams around them notch up several decibels.
He can't hear what she's saying as she pulls away briefly, her lips moving but the sound too quiet with the uproar, and he shouts his love for her again and again, despite the fact that he can't be heard, and he guesses she must hear because suddenly her lips are fastening onto his, hungry and lonely and full of a sudden realisation.
The audience's cheering grows louder, good-natured whoops coming from all around them, and when they pull apart Molly is smiling so brightly and so widely that Lysander can't help falling in love with her for the nine hundred and forty-seventh time.
"Love you," she mouths to him, her eyes drinking all of him in as though she can barely believe he's actually there.
"Love you," he mouths back, his fingers tracing her flushed cheek, and then suddenly she's laughing and darting to her feet and taking him by the hand to tug him out through the foyer and into the dark, rainy night.
"Oh, God, I've missed you," she sobs, her tears mingling in with the rain, and he gathers her right up to him, their hearts thudding in tangent as he kisses her again, more sweetly this time, more with a nod to romanticism.
"It's been hell without you," he replies simply, his hands all over her as though she'll fade away, that fairytale air still clinging to her. Perhaps that is what makes her so popular as a ballerina.
She leads him through the rainy streets of Paris, back to the hotel the company is staying in, and she's laughing as they run through the grand lobby, her white tutu almost see-through with the rain and her ballet shoes ruined with mud, his bow-tie vanished and his jacket hanging off one shoulder.
They tumble into her room, and it is too unbearable to be apart for even a second so they curl up on the bed, pressed together right the way down their bodies, her head tucked under his chin as he marvels at how this young woman is both the Molly he knows and loves with everything he has, and an entirely new person to get to know.
"You were incredible tonight," he murmurs into her hair, damp and bright and loosened from its restraining bun to tangle over the pillows and the bed. "I was so proud of you."
"I wasn't sure you'd be there," she confesses, tilting her head back to look up at his face and clenching and unclenching her fingers in his white shirt. "Izabelle said that you'd got a ticket, but I didn't want to believe her in case you couldn't make it."
"I wouldn't have missed that for the world," he tells her firmly, one large hand sliding around to her back to pull her more closely into him. "You were just indescribable."
"Thank you," she says quietly, and then her face is buried in his chest as she asks a question that's obviously been bothering her for some time. "Why now, though? Why did you decide you loved me now?"
"Now?" he repeats, taking her face so gently between his hands that his touch is like starlight. "I've always loved you, stupid. I guess it's just knowing how hard it is to be parted from you that made me not want to waste another second without you."
She laughs then, and her arms wrap around his neck as her eyes blaze with devotion and her mouth seeks out his, wondering and soft and so full of need he can feel himself being consumed in an instant.
He finally persuades her to face up to her family, and she does this by sending her father twenty-five tickets to the next day's performance of the Nutcracker, one for every member of her large family, and then she takes Lysander out to show him the city and take her mind of the impending showdown.
He tries to tell her that it will all be fine – how could anybody who's seen her dance not acknowledge that this is what she was born to do?
"I think it will make dad hurt," she admits when they're staring at a Van Gogh in the Musée d'Orsay. "Because of mum."
"Yeah," Lysander agrees, putting his arm around her waist and squeezing her gently. "But it'll make him proud, too."
"Promise?" she says in a low voice, and he looks down at the fierce worry in her eyes, and holds out his pinky finger with a smile.
Lysander waits for them outside the Opéra, rented tuxedo getting damp in the rain, tickets for his parents clutched in one hand.
They appear out of the night one by one, Charlie first, followed by Harry and Ginny and their three children, Teddy Lupin in tow. Ginny rushes to hug him, and his arms go around her easily as she darts up on tiptoes to whisper into his ear.
"Thank you so much," she murmurs, so sincere he can hardly believe it. "You've done so much for her."
He shrugs self-consciously and smiles, surprising himself with not minding her touch too much, and then gestures for them all to go in and find their seats while he waits for the next lot to arrive.
Lily lags behind, eyeing him astutely as he stands there awkwardly.
"Why have you done all this for her?" she asks, and Lysander looks down at her and raises an eyebrow.
"Why did you go out with Teddy, even when you knew he was too old for you?" he replies, and she grins and the challenge in her face melts away.
"Love's more important than anything," she says shortly, honestly, and Lysander smiles and inclines his head.
"I'd drink to that."
"Lysander!" someone shouts, and he chuckles and releases Lily to her husband and family as Roxanne bounds up to him, still full of beans despite her seven-month pregnancy, her family lagging behind her. "How's my favourite wee Slytherin?"
"I'm only three years younger than you," he protests, and she laughs and tousles his hair and moves on into the building, Fred and her parents following behind with a nod to Lysander. Bill and Fleur file past wordlessly, Lysander earning himself a wink from Dominique but no acknowledgement from Victoire or Louis, and guesses that this part of the family have decided to side with Percy against him.
He waits until there are only two minutes until curtain-up for his brother and Lucy and Percy, but eventually he gives up and goes to take his seat alongside his parents.
"They'll be here," Rolf reassures him gently as the orchestra strike the first chords, and Lysander crosses his fingers wordlessly as the curtain goes up. He jumps as someone slides into the empty seat next to him, and a small hand slides silently into his as he smiles down with relief at Lucy.
Lorcan is sitting between her and Percy, and Lysander only needs one glance at the older man's face to know how conflicted he is about all this.
And then Molly glides onto the stage, breathtaking in her grace, and the family gasp as one with relief and delight and pride.
They cheer the loudest when the ballet finally crashes to a climax and finishes, the whole family making about as much noise as the rest of the theatre put together, and when Lysander looks away from the look of blazing triumph on Molly's face, he sees Percy standing, his face as blank as though carved from granite, with tears dripping endlessly down his cheeks.
Without a word, Lysander pushes his way past Lucy and his brother, and leads the man out into the Parisian night.
"I'm so sorry," Percy says, taking out a handkerchief and blowing his nose loudly. "I don't mean to be such a pansy."
Lysander just grins ruefully and gestures to his own watery eyes.
"She has that effect on you. She's just too good."
"Like her mother," Percy mutters, and when he turns to face Lysander his face is so full of loss it is like a physical blow, sending Lysander staggering back a couple of paces. "She was so beautiful… so talented. She looked just like her, you know. Just like her."
"Molly's missed you," Lysander says firmly, holding the other man's broken gaze with just the right amount of gentleness. "She wants her dad behind her. She knows it hurts you, with her mum and everything – but she really does want your support. She just wants to make you proud."
"Oh, Merlin," Percy exclaims weakly, taking off his glasses to clean before pushing them back up his nose. "I am proud of her. I'm the proudest I've ever been. But I suppose it's too late for that now."
"It's not," a small voice pipes up, and they both whirl to find Molly standing behind them, her hair pulled hastily back into a ponytail and her ballet shoes in one hand. "It's not too late, dad. I've missed you."
"I've missed you too, baby," Percy says tenderly, and suddenly she's rocketing into his arms and Lysander leaves silently, tactfully letting them catch up on six years of silent warfare and loss and loneliness.
"It's because he loved mum so much," Molly explains later when they're back at her house, stretched out over her bed as though nothing has changed from that summer day so long ago when she discussed the future and he thought about her past. "It's why he couldn't bear to be around me."
"You should envy him, you know," Lysander replies gently, poking at her leotard-clad side. "Not many people find that sort of epic, enduring love. That sort that lasts forever and ever."
"Have I found it, d'you reckon?" she asks ingenuously, rolling over to look down at him, and he grins and reaches up to toy with her silver ballerina necklace.
"Well, I think I've found it," he replies, and then he reaches up to kiss her, his hand tangling in her prettypretty hair, and she smiles against his mouth and surrenders herself to him, completely and utterly.
They get married five years later, when she's twenty-one, and she wears her mother's wedding dress and has her newly-engaged sister as her maid of honour and her three-year-old second cousin Lux, daughter of Lily and Teddy, as her flower girl, with Roxanne and Dominique and Lily and Rose, the loyal ones, as her bridesmaids.
The wedding is packed, jammed with relations and colleagues and friends from the ballet world. She glides up the aisle more gracefully than she's ever accomplished a tour en l'air, and when she reaches Lysander, standing full of love next to his brother and best man and Lucy's future husband, they are both so full of happiness it's a wonder they don't burst from the enormity of it all.
"Love you," she mouths as the official begins his speech, and his eyes are full of laughter and devotion as they rise from where he's caught sight of the ballet shoes under her wedding dress to meet hers.
"Love you," he mouths back, and she beams that wonderful smile and he takes her hand as he takes her as his wife, sliding the ring onto her finger and feeling like his life couldn't possibly be any more perfect.
A/N: credit to howlsatthemoon for the name of Lily and Teddy's daughter, Lux.
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