Disclaimer: I own nothing; no Harry Potter, no Ivory Coast, no Thriving Ivory.
To be honest, there really is no meaning to the title of this fic, other than the band is called Thriving Ivory, and that reminded me of La République de Côte d'Ivoire, which I think is the prettiest name for a place ever.
This is a response to s i l v e r a u r o r a's challenge on the Gringott's thread over at the Hogwarts Online forum. Prompts: calamity, funeral, sunshine, outer space.
she can't relate to a world that only knows her by her face
is there anyone still breathing?
It starts with a funeral, the sound of a piano, and an emerald-green dress that matches her eyes down to the tiniest specks of a sparkly hazel that are visible only if you squint.
she swears this life is often overrated
She enters the room, terrified. She can see thestrals now, and the arrival of death in its Invisibility Cloak and cold breeze haunts her in her dreams, in her reality, and in everything in-between. It's silly, to have faced heartbreak and abandonment and even NEWTs, but to have been broken by something as human as death.
The entire room seems to freeze and look at her when she steps inside. I didn't do it, she wants to scream out loud, but that would only call unnecessary guilt to herself. She takes a seat in the very last pew; it's unoccupied, save for a single discarded rose on the other side of the wooden bench, its thorns picked off mercilessly and its petals wilting. She looks away, ignores the metaphors.
Roxanne, on the other side of the room, stands up. Lily examines her cousin's black-as-night dress, and feels awkward, out-of-place in her dark green outfit. She sighs, picks lint off of her own shawl. "Are you alright?" Roxy asks kindly, squeezing Lily's hand in her own soft, tanned ones.
"Stop asking me that," Lily mumbles quietly, trying to stay as quiet as possible. Arthur Weasley looks awfully lonely, in his black suit and almost-snow-white hair, sitting alone beside his wife's casket. Guilt. "I've been hearing that for a week, now. I'm sick of it. I'm fine."
The auburn-haired girl rolls her eyes, and nudges Lily gently. "I know you're fine, Lily, you're strong," Roxanne lies, "but I was talking about the fact that Teddy Lupin is here and he asked me where you were before you came in."
Lily almost chokes on her own spit. "Teddy?" she whisper-shrieks. One of her aunts turn around, and make a shushing noise. It looks like Aunt Hermione, but she can't tell anymore, the grief is clouding up the room and making everyone blurry. "Sorry. Teddy?" Lily tries again, quieter.
"Yes, Teddy, you twat," Roxy replies, pinning back a strand of hair that had fallen out of Lily's bun with a bobby pin she materialised with her wand.
"He's been in France for a year," Lily says in a strained voice, as if trying to convince herself that he wasn't here. "Why would he suddenly come back?"
"Lil, Grandma raised him like her own grandson," Roxy reminds her sternly. "Teddy must be devastated. He loved her, you know. And so soon after Andromeda died." She shakes her head, looking at the ground. "You talk to him later on, alright? Even if you two don't get on like you used to, I think you'll want him as at least an acquaintance later in your life. You two used to be the best of friends."
More than that, Lily grumbles in her mind. "People grow apart," she says instead.
"And people also grow up," Roxy murmurs back. Somber music from an old piano begins at the front of the room; it's Louis, showing off. Roxanne's face darkens as a single tear forms, slides, and falls down Arthur Weasley's cheek. The miniscule drop of water slips down his wrinkled, tired skin, searching for a place to be safe. Its blue moisture drips, hangs on, and loses its balance, thus losing itself in the maze that is a person's grief.
and she thinks that I'm the one that makes it rain
She's lying on the freezing beach outside of the church where the funeral is held. She's a funny sight, really. Her uncomfortable green dress has long been discarded, and traded for an old pair of jean shorts and her favourite worn t-shirt (that once was his.) Her body is sprawled across the cold, unforgiving sand. Behind her begins the grass, and upon that grass are tombstones. Some are so faded their names are illegible; some have new engravings and fresh flowers. She looks like a calamity, a catastrophe, a storm. She looks like a mess of broken bones and salted wounds.
His voice, low and rumbly and unsteady, surprises her, but doesn't make her flinch. She feels safe with him. "Your father," he starts, and soon his legs come into view as he lies down beside her, "is very upset."
"I know," she tells him matter-of-factly.
"You're not going to comfort him?"
"He doesn't need me," she sighs. "No one needs me. Dad's got Mum, James's got Al. Even Roxy - if I was gone, she'd at least have Dom." Lily shrugs, as if this is a postulate. "I'm only superfluous."
Teddy's brow furrows, but he doesn't say anything. "It's below freezing out here," he complains instead, subtly eyeing her bare legs and flushed arms. "Aren't you cold, at all?"
She smiles a bit darkly. "It feels nice. Try it."
He hesitates, but only for a second. Soon enough, he's tugged his dress robes and his jumper over his head and is left bare-chested, his jeans still on. She turns to him, and her eyes linger on his well-toned abs for a second before she gains control again and looks at his face. "Jesus, Lily Luna, I've got goose bumps," he gasps, and hugs himself, rubbing his arms. Quickly, without wasting warmth, he pulls his jumper back on and then offers her his dress robes. "Here," he says kindly. "You'll catch your death."
"And maybe that's my purpose," she says smoothly, staring at the robes as if he's just told her he's going to murder her.
His eyes flash. "Lily, that's not funny," he growls. "Put on my robes and let's go back inside."
"Why did you leave?" she asks him bluntly.
In his expression is confusion.
"Why did you leave?" she repeats, adding force to ever syllable of her sentence. "All I remember was saying good-bye to you, expecting you to leave in a month and come back in two weeks, and then I go over to your flat and your flat-mate tells me that you've already left, that you said you didn't know when you'd come home and that he should find a new person to room with." Her eyes darken and her entire face flushes. "Why. Did. You. Leave?"
They suddenly become strangers, outer space, two different species. He stumbles on his words, feels as though she's just stolen all his breath. "I couldn't… I couldn't be here. I had to… figure some things out. Find myself." His hair turns white. "Lily, you of all people should understand what it feels like to not know who you are."
"WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY?" she screams at him, finally letting her composure slip. She jumps up, her height playing to her threatening image before he stands too, towering over her.
"That you shouldn't judge me for doing something you've always wanted to do!" he yells back with the same fervor. She stands still for a second, and then is all movement, all quick swift lightning. She's walking towards the almost-black waters with the intent of never coming back. He doesn't hesitate in trying to tug her back to him, but she whips out her wand with experience and blasts him with an Impedimenta, still striding towards the water.
She slides off her high heels rubbing her sore feet for a blissful second as he is slowed by her spell.
"What the hell are you doing?" he demands, his voice cracking as he struggles against the Impedimenta.
"They all look at me - like I'm the one who killed her," Lily sighs calmly. "I know they know I didn't, but still. And God, the way Grandpa looks at me, like I'm the one who took his wife away." She shrugs, looks out upon the horizon at the setting sun. "They'll be better off without me."
"Lily, please," he sobs, tugging at his hair as he scrambles through his mind for something to counter her spell. "Don't do this." Out on the sea, the waves are ruthless, crashing through each other, fighting for enough leverage to reach the coast. She's a strong swimmer, always doing laps in the Lake at Hogwarts, but no one could survive this thrashing for long.
Standing up, she wriggles out of her shorts and shirt, standing only in her underwear. He feels sick to his stomach; her ribs are visible, and God, she's beautiful in this tragic, terrible way. "Teddy, when you left, I didn't know what to do," she confesses, slowly dipping her toes in the water. "I was a seventeen-year-old girl. Barely legal, just broken up with her boyfriend, in love with her twenty-eight-year-old best friend." She turns, and he can barely make out her weak smile. "You abandoned me when I needed you most."
Finally, the spell wears off and he breaks into a sprint, running until his lungs feel as though they will collapse. But it's too late. She puts her hands together when the water reaches her waist, takes a deep breath, and jumps into the murky depths. In a different time, a different place, her form slicing through the sea could have been beautiful.
God, we all need something
He swears loudly and immediately kicks off his shoes, strips off his socks. "Lily, God, no, Lily, you fucking idiot," he tells himself hysterically, feeling his hair morph into a bright warning red as both anger and grief fill him to the boiling point. He throws off his jumper and his jeans and dives into the water after her; the cold water feels more hot than cold to him, burning his skin. He searches underwater but it's nothing but pitch-black night underneath. Above water, gasping for breath, he catches a glimpse of flaming red hair, and forces his numb arms to move, keeping him floating.
He wants to cry and scream and yell at her, but he knows that if he opens his mouth water will only flood in and slow him down. He's all flailing limbs and unsure-of-where-to-go without land beneath his feet but soon enough, as he swims - no, fights - in the general direction she had disappeared into, one his arms collide with a skinny limb and he tugs her up, into the air, where she coughs and sputters and opens her eyes for an instant before they fall closed and she becomes limp against him.
"No," he grunts in spite of himself and begins to tug them both back to the land. The waves keep pushing him down, pulling him up, smashing against him in an effort to bring him into their cold Hades. He fights and battles and punches, plunging into the water and popping back up, gasping for breath every time and never ever loosening his hold on this devastatingly beautiful girl who could kill him with a single choice.
Soon, the grains of sand feel like sunshine against his stomach and he crawls, exhausted, up the shore leading back to where their clothes were. He curls up against her, trying to rub enough friction between them to create body heat, but he still feels numb and she isn't moving. He throws their damp clothes over them in a feeble attempt to warm her but the darkness beckons to him, carefully and slyly pulling him into unconsciousness. As his eyelids drift closed, he dreams of her and him together.
she makes herself at home
God, it's better than her place
Roxy's voice is the first thing she hears as she fades into consciousness. "What happened?" she chokes, her chest feeling constricted as she gasps for breath. She's almost-naked, clothed only by a terry-cloth robe, and is surrounded by her family.
Roxanne freezes mid-speech and screams, hugging her cousin to her warm body. "Lily, oh, yes, you're awake," she croaks, tearing up already. "I thought - if anything happened to you, oh, I don't know what we'd do."
Lily's face contorts in pain as soreness wracks her entire body. "Why do I feel like I've just been Avada Kedavra'd," she asks innocently, her head aching.
"Ask your saviour," her father calls, and he becomes visible as he enters the room, walking with a shivering Teddy wearing a too-large pair of tracksuit bottoms and a thick jumper.
"Oh my God," Teddy chokes out, and rushes to tug her to him. His figure is flush against hers, and his mouth at her ear. "You're a dumbass," he mutters angrily to her in confidence, and then pulls away (too soon.) "She was wading in the water, and I guess a rip current caught her," he explains loudly to the rest of the family. "I barely got to her in time before she went under for good."
Ginny steps forward and wraps her arms around him. "You saved her life," she tells him quietly. "Thank you, Ted."
"If you guys don't mind, I'd like to Teddy alone…" Lily says, her vocal cords sore and her mind puzzled. Memories of the waves pulling her to their Hell, of blackness and screaming and almost-death begin to form but she can't piece them together.
"You tried to kill yourself, in case you don't remember," Teddy explains as soon as he's sure they've left. "You're an idiot. I thought you were a goner. I was ready to die for you, Lily Luna Potter."
She stares at him speechless.
And then he's sitting down close to her, tucking his fingers underneath her chin. "Lily," he whispers once, gently, afraid. And then he presses her lips to her, softly and carefully, as if testing her. "Just in case you try another stupid stunt like that again," he explains, and then jumps away like he's been scalded.
"Why didn't you let me die?" she asks. Outside, raindrops drum a melody on the windowpane.
"Because that's like letting me die," he replies.
"Teddy, wait," she says, standing up, but he's already heading towards the door.
"In case I ever become as stupid as you," he starts, turning around at the doorway. She freezes in her tracks, scared to death of the thought of him leaving her again. "'I love you.' I wanted you to know that."
And then he disappears out the door, without a goodbye. It's become a habit of his.
He shows up in her room the next night, with his old packed bags and a guilty grin on his face. He promises he's here for good and living in his old bedroom across the hall and he's never leaving her, ever, ever, ever. She hides her immediate smile and jokes and pretends she's disappointed that she's got to see his face every day now, but secretly she thinks it's the most brilliant thing in the world and that when he kisses her the clouds float away and the sun's rays shine through and nothing is grey, nothing.