Disclaimer: Don't own Harry Potter.
This is maybe a bit tragic and a bit angsty, but it doesn't end with death, and that's good, I guess?
For Kc, with love and utter adoration.
He slides in the puddle of slippery slush on the sidewalk and swears, pulling his cloak tighter around him. He's in Muggle London, for the love of Merlin, and he's nowhere near almost there; that stupid flat that will never be home, all white walls and brown tiling and shiny countertops and that big bed for him alone. But he can't go much further and almost sits on the ground, that's how tired he is.
But the bar is there, and the door is just swinging shut and it's fate—destiny, kismet, perhaps?—that it's there, right there, and his foot catches it before it closes and he slides inside.
The bar is tiny, quiet and almost dingy, a thin layer of dust coating everything that doesn't move—there isn't much of that either, just him, two guys in a corner, a bartender polishing two glasses and a girl at the counter, red hair tied into a knot at the back of her head.
He drags his feet to the bar and throws himself into a stool.
"Look like ye need someth'n to warm ye up, mm?" the bartender says, looking up at the pathetic sight of Teddy Lupin, brown hair, golden eyes, sitting in a stool, sodden and miserable.
The girl at the bar doesn't turn to look at either of them, just stares fixedly at a spot on the dirty wall and bounces her silly, girly menthol cigarette against her bottom lip. A lock of bright red has fallen into her face, and she doesn't make a move to brush it away.
The hair is so familiar in itself, that he doesn't jump when she finally speaks, "Looks like we meet again, Teddy Lupin."
He thinks it's pathetic, the way his stomach drops like he's Apparated and his heart leaps like he's been electrified. "Lily…" he breathes, and he forgets how cold he is because the room is suddenly balmy and there's so much warm air he might pass out. He's drowning and she's a life raft.
But he can't reach.
There's a ring on her finger, an ugly antique gold one with a pretty decent rock. He tries too hard not to stare, she notices anyways.
"Lorcan Scamander," she says flatly, letting out a stream of smoke that rushes into Teddy's lungs and he can feel his insides churning. "We get married when he gets back from the Amazon or Bora Bora … or wherever he is this time."
She doesn't sound happy, and she doesn't crack a smile. She hardly moves, but to reach down to tap her cigarette against an ash tray.
The bartender slides a glass towards him. He downs it in one gulp, winces at the bitterness and it tears a trail of fire down his esophagus and gestures for another.
"Hope you're happy," he mumbles quietly into his glass, and hopes she doesn't hear him.
She does, but she doesn't comment. She rolls her eyes and lights up another cigarette.
"Hector?" she calls the bartender like they're old friends. "The usual."
The liquid in her glass is clear and a wedge of lemon is stuck on the side, and swirls it around expertly before tasting it. She trails a finger through the wet rim on the bar and puffs at her cigarette.
They lapse into silence.
One of the men at the table throws up into his companion's lap and Hector gets up to ask them to leave.
"Y'know," he tries for conversation, swallowing, "Those really aren't good for your health."
Lily laughs then, tossing her head back so that a few more tendrils come loose from her bun. "I've heard."
"Sorry," he murmurs, and focuses on keeping his hair brown and not his embarrassed shade of pink.
She humors him anyways, and drops the cigarette, grinding it out on the table with her glass.
She turns slightly to look at him, and her eyes are just as he remembers them, so brilliant and dazzling and amazing and why'd he leave again?
There's gold eyeshadow on her lids and a bit of mascara smeared along her lash line. She might just be perfect.
"It was great catching up, Teddy."
There's no indication of this in her eyes, and she turns and picks up the jacket tossed over the back of the chair and slides into it.
He marvels at how skinny she'd become; all angles and no curves and bits that stick out and flesh strung taut across bones. She barely looks alive.
They meet again, she's wearing stockings with a great big rip and a pair of scuffed boots and she's got another of those wretched cigarettes between pink, chapped lips and the end glows almost as brightly as her hair. He stands and watches her for a bit, and she stands in silence and pretends not to feel his gaze on her back.
She doesn't crack, not at all, she just gets bored, "So, were you planning to say hello, or did you just intend to stand there and stare?"
He chokes out a laugh, and they fall into step together—it's awkward and his legs are longer but she moves a bit faster, jerkier, anyways.
"Tell me about him. Lorcan, I mean."
She looks surprised then, and then barks out a short laugh.
"Oh, I dunno. He's got brown hair and green eyes and a sort of turned down nose and sticky out at the back hair…"
"D'you love him?"
"Maybe, a while back, at least. I was eighteen, and I was bored, so damn bored, and it's what you're supposed to do when the guy you date for two years gets down on one knee in front of everybody you know and asks you to be his wife."
"So why'd you say yes if you didn't want to marry him?"
Her eyes flit to him then, and she pauses a bit.
"I didn't say I didn't want to marry him."
"So you do?"
"It's more than that, Teddy. He's been there, for the most part. He didn't run away."
That one hurts. He doesn't know how to explain that it was run or die, for him, anyways? He couldn't stay—he was eleven years too old, and she was eleven years too young and he couldn't do it anymore.
"I came back, if that counts for anything."
She doesn't speak. She just keeps walking, maintaining her pace and staring up at the streetlights.
"I'm sorry, I know it doesn't."
She flinches then, only slightly, and her gaze snaps to him, as if she'd forgotten he was standing there. "No," she agrees, finally.
"What've you been up to though, Lilypad?" The nickname rolls off his tongue like it used to, but it's different somehow, not the same.
She runs her fingers, long and thin, through her tangle of red hair and he thinks maybe sparkles are falling out of it, but he swear he ought to have his eyes checked or something. "I went to Romania, for a while. Dragons kept my interest for a while. Got some scars and burns and bruises to match the ones on my heart, I suppose.
"But I couldn't stay, not for long. I went to France, with Dom and Molly for a summer, by the coast … It was too windy, too sandy and too … French. I came back. And Lorcan asked me to marry him."
"Will you marry him, though?" And he knows he shouldn't ask, doesn't want to know, but he can't help it.
"I think I might."
And that's the end of conversation, for now.
They meet next at Rose and Scorpius' engagement party. She's wearing a black dress and the same ripped stockings and a pair of ankle boots with an unrealistic heel but she doesn't totter around. Her tangle of red hair is thick and long, and a bit unruly and she doesn't fit there, not really, but for the red of her hair and the freckles on her nose.
Neither does he, really.
She drinks a glass of champagne and then goes to dance with a tall fellow, with long brown hair and a golden tan and a silly, silly, silly grin on his face like a man who's caught a star flush in his palm (and doesn't he know he's holding Teddy's star?).
After a while, the glasses of wine kick in and maybe his head's spinning when he does it, but he doesn't remember, he taps Lorcan twice on the shoulder and with the grace and charm and sophistication of a proper suitor, asks if he can dance with Lily.
Lorcan squeezes her waist reassuringly, almost, before leaving them alone.
She takes his hand a bit hesitantly and they sway together in the spot for a bit. "He a good guy, Teddy," she whispers, not against the crook of his neck, ohno, she doesn't get that close. Arms' length and definitely not draped across him like he'd hoped.
"I know," and it hurts him to say, because it's true. And, maybe, he'd have made the old Lily happy.
But this new Lily; does she smile, at all? Really smile, without the irony and sarcasm and the malice of a true Slytherin, but smile, really smile?
Probably not, he decides, letting her go.
She sits on the wall and smokes another of those stupid cigarettes, pulling the shoes off her feet and tossing them over the wall. She doesn't care where they land, really. She'll stumble home without them anyways.
He sneaks out, and shuts the sliding door.
He clambers onto the wall beside her and she holds out the box.
"Menthol? Hell no," he mutters, shaking his head. He sits in silence and watches the thin pillars snake from her nose and mouth instead. He's killing himself just watching her.
When she's finished smoking about three, washing them down with a flask of Mead she's conjured from who the hell knows where and shared with Teddy, she looks at him, really looks at him. And smirks.
"Well, I suppose this is the part where you kiss me?"
She's even more sober than he, and he'd only had a few sips.
He presses his lips against her cold, chapped ones hesitantly.
"You leave for four years, and that's the best you can do?" she teases, almost maliciously. "I'll pretend not to remember in the morning, if that's what you'd like."
"Remember it in the morning, and remember it when he kisses you next," he snarls and tangles one hand into her hand and the other slides up her thinthintoothin thigh and he kisses her.
She pulls away first, panting, "I knew you had it in you." She slides off the wall and the tear in her stockings spreads. She leaves without another word.
A nondescript tawny owl taps on his window and he lets it in.
Meet me. Lily.
He finds her at the bar, half an hour later.
And not wearing her ring.
"Lily, where's the ring?"
"I dunno, maybe Lorcan has it? Maybe I do?" she frowns, and reaches into her jacket pocket and pulls out the ring. "Oh, I have it."
She drops it into her glass of vodka, straight. (How does she drink that poison?)
"You did," she mumbles, and kisses him.
She smiles into the kiss and he thinks that maybe there's hope after all.
Well, this is for Kc, and I hope she likes it … And I love her, I do. Because she's sweet and amazing (and should stop posting so much good stuff; I'm becoming a total creep).
Kc, as promised, your oneshot. ;)