she told me not to step on the cracks

In the end, he thinks that it could be just beginning.

x

So he knows her when she's one, and is bald and ugly with no teeth. And he knows her when she's three and talkative and annoying and clingy. And he knows her when she's six and almost drowns; he knows her when she's nine and cries, not because she misses her brothers, but because she craves adventure and mischief and trouble like it's food and water and her parents are starving her.

He knows her when she's eleven and sorted into Slytherin, when she's fourteen and loses her virginity, when she's sixteen and knows how to manipulate everyone around her. He knows her when she's happy and her eyes are at their greenest and her hair is fire in the light. He knows her when she's sad and her eyes look black in their bleakness and her hair has been quenched.

And he knows her when she's no one but her, Lily, a girl with green eyes and red hair who doesn't want to waste a minute.

But now, in this moment, he has no idea who she is. The girl who sparkles, the girl who shines, the girl who is incandescent and he hates it. She's been beautiful for as long as he remembers but this, this is simply unfair. It's mutiny, it's waging war. He knows that he can't resist the temptation building up in his throat, and she is perfectly aware of the way the need is building up at the bottom of his stomach, the sensitive hairs on the back of his neck standing up every time he meets her gaze and she looks away, the touch of a smirk lining her stained lips, bright against her pale skin.

He has underestimated her. He knows her, knows her better than he knows himself, but he has forgotten that she knows him, too.

x

"You've changed."

Silence. Blinking.

"People change. It's called life."

Pause. Contemplate. Sigh.

"Don't act like you're so world-weary or anything, because-"

Interruption.

"Because, what?"

Glare. Bites lip. Turns away. Anger.

"This is it, then. I can't do this anymore. I can't watch this happen to us."

Defeat.

"Is there even an 'us' anymore?"

Nothing.

"I don't think there ever was."

x

But there's this thing, this problem he has, where he can't stop thinking about her. It's borderline insanity and half-love and almost-obsession but when he closes his eyes it's all unforgivable green and smokey red and light, nearly invisible freckles dotting the imperfect bump of her petite nose.

And he closes his eyes at night and in the darkness she lights up. She is all he sees and all he wants and this is need, this is lust, this is confusion and he wants to call it anything, anything but love. Because if it's love it means he's chosen his own fate. It means he's condemned himself to a fate worse than death, because the only thing worse than loving is loving back.

He closes his eyes again and tries to stop thinking, because it seems to be the only way to forget her.

This is why you don't play games, he reminds himself cruelly. You always lose.

x

She's at his flat, drinking coffee at the kitchen table. He knows better than to ask how she got in, and honestly, he'd rather not know. It's too early for this kind of headache, and he wants to hate the way she glows and basks in the early morning chill.

"You look hideous," she quips, hiding her smile behind her mug.

His hair turns black as he turns around to pour himself a cup, the steam from the heat warming his face. "Why in fuck's sakes are you here, Lil?" he asks, and doesn't even have to turn around to see the glare on her face from the old nickname.

"Just thought I'd stop by," she throws in, and the lie makes his blood boil.

"Quit being such a fucking tease," he says, his voice so calm that her face hardens and her back stiffens. The anger makes him feel like his skin is on fire, but his throat is smooth, the sound of his words so steady that it scares even him. "Look, I'm tired, okay? I don't want to hear it. Why're you here, Lily?"

She looks awfully young for a fleeting moment, and then the mask of arrogance is back. "I just wanted to say good-bye before I left for Romania," she tells him. "Thought maybe you'd have something important to say before I leave for, like, a million years." Her eyes don't leave his, even when he looks away, trying to blink away his shock at the fact that he'd forgotten she was leaving. Shock at the fact that he'd forgotten one of the main points of their falling-out.

"I don't want to play this game anymore," he mumbles finally.

Her cup makes a clang against the cheap table. "When will you stop thinking of all of this as a game," she says so quiet, a cross between a whisper and a growl and a sob and a choke, and then she apparates soundlessly, leaving him breathless and wondering how she always manages to leave as quiet as she comes in.

x

He can't help himself. He's there, at the Ministry, when she's about to Floo. She spots him, blue hair and all, standing out in the crowd, and when her family leaves her with the trolley stacked with bags, she comes to meet him. She's always the one who comes.

"I thought you didn't want to play this game." Her words are formal, curt, her eyes angry and hurt.

"I thought you said it wasn't a game," he counters playfully, and she smiles in spite of herself.

"Why are you here?" she asks, and he both hates and loves the way they're always reversing the roles.

He bites his lip, and when she starts to walk away, he follows her wordlessly. Just behind her shoulder, he speaks. "Just wanted to say good-bye. I had something important to say, and then I thought harder and remember everything is worthless compared to the things that leave your mouth." He winks and she rolls her eyes, and she remembers the time he told her that when she rolled her eyes enough times they'd fall right out of their sockets. It's an old, fading memory, but it's enough to keep him there. Reminds him why he wants to keep her by his side.

"You could say it." She looks at him but doesn't actually look at him. More, she looks to him with her words and her stubborness and the way her hair is like a waterfall of blood down her back. "And I could come with you and we could be okay again. Maybe not perfect and not the way we used to be but we could be okay." She doesn't meet his stare. "Or you could just walk away and we'll pretend this never happened and we don't ever have to think about each other again."

He closes his eyes, but when he opens them, she's still there. His heart pounds. He makes his decision so fast in his head that he knows, he knows his choice is the right because there is no time for doubt.

She watches him, studying him carefully as he carries out his fate.

x

(A/N) So this was inspired by this story, The Lady or the Tiger, I just read in English class. I thought it was fantastic and so I wrote this and really I kind of hate it but I love it, too. Anyway, I loved that short story and how the author believed whichever one you chose determines the type of person you are. (Personally, I think the Princess chose the tiger, and I would've chosen it myself.) So, yeah. I haven't written in a while and I felt guilty and this so doesn't make up for it but I was overexcited and I wanted to sleep early but I failed, obviously. I'll just stop here because I don't know where this A/N is going.