A/N: Hey - hi - hello; I'm Hope and I'm falling apart. This fic is basically me attempting to get out all my feelings in a manner that you may or may not understand.
WARNING: If you haven't caught on, this is cousincest. Don't like it, don't read it.
x x x
i tell my love to wreck it all
"I come here and imagine that this is the spot where everything I've lost since my childhood is washed out. I tell myself, if that were true, and I waited long enough then a tiny figure would appear on the horizon across the field and gradually get larger until I'd see it was Tommy. He'd wave. And maybe call. I don't let the fantasy go beyond that - I can't let it. I remind myself I was lucky to have had any time with him at all." –Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
x x x
On the exterior, she's hated autumn for as long as she can remember. She's hated the dimming of the lights in the wake of darkness so much earlier than she believed necessary; hated the soft whispers of the wind that were so hard to forget because they were louder than they first appeared to be. However, her most passionate reasoning behind hating the season was the most irrational of all, which deep down she realized and even classified as being ironic.
Because what she hated most of all about autumn was the uncertainty - the uncertainty of the way every movement and change of the weather was so unpredictable, how these changes could turn a simple "no" into a very more complicated "yes," and how every touch and smell suddenly seemed to be so much more fragile in the crisp breeze because it was no longer strictly warm nor cold. There was existing no black and white, no solid and undeniable perspective that could be referenced when needed, no solid lines she could draw to make herself feel worthy of knowing what was going on around her because nature itself turned into an indecisive creature that even she could not outwit.
In fact, she considered the awkward several weeks that never seemed to end between summer and winter to be an enamoring but loathed phase - it was one of the only few times she liked to play pretend with herself, but somewhere along the line, she'd lost track of her one dream and her constant, overpowering sense of reality.
It just so happened that now she really believed that the entire world stuck in vertigo somewhere, a silent vertigo of autumn and its uncertainty that did nothing at all purposeful in the world but warn of the approaching winter, a winter that she could only hope would eventually take with it all the sins of yesterday, because if there was one thing she didn't have, it was time to repent on her flaws.
x x x
"No, I'm not."
"I don't owe you anything."
He knows it's over.
x x x
It's alarmingly warm when he initially discovers her on the linoleum floor of her new apartment, knees drawn up to her chest and streaks of tears that she attempts to hide when she sees him obvious on her cheeks. He knows immediately from the manner with which she glances over him hastily that she's probably forgotten that he was scheduled to come over and assist her with unpacking.
He grows nervous as she stands up quickly, still sniffling, and he realizes that he would have immediately walked out on anyone else crying - but she's his favorite cousin and that counts for something.
Cousin, he reminds himself bitterly, noting the way her tank top is cut much too deep and her shorts are riding up more than they should. He can deduce without any doubt that she would never be caught dead wearing such attire in public, but this is different because it's summer and she's alone in her apartment aside from him, the boy she's been both expecting and not expecting to show up and she trusts him.
He feels worse about betraying her trust because of the thoughts running through his mind more than the thoughts themselves.
"Rose," he whispers, her name one of the easiest things that he can say, slipping off his tongue by second nature as if it's another version of his own name, "what is this...?"
His question becomes more of a statement when she cuts him off, one cautious finger in the air that signals him to stop talking.
It all hits him harshly then, because he's mentally afraid of how easily this one simple gesture and the expression on her face is a window into her mind that tells him without any verbal explanation exactly what's happened to her.
"Oh, Rose," he says again, quieter this time because he knows that she knows what he's thinking and he realizes that everything he will say to her past this second will be completely pointless, "Rose."
She laughs weakly - a terrible sound that crashes through his entire being and leaves him absolutely numb. Moreover, this one sound from her portrays to him in an instant that she's given up, which he would be able to tell even with his eyes closed and ears plugged, but she's trying her hardest to hide it anyways. Classic.
"James," is the only thing she can say in her one moment of hesitation, but by then he's practically flung himself at her and she takes solace in the comfort of his familiar arms. It's like everything in the world is right again except it really isn't - it's the opposite of that to a point of pathos and sometimes it hurts to know how wrong they really are - but that's exactly why they never waste time contemplating it.
He hears her repeat his name into the creases of his wool cardigan, and the only coherent thing that runs through his mind is how he's never taken into consideration that his name sounds as if it has so many more syllables than it really does when it's coming out of her mouth.
They don't say anything else.
Hours later, he can barely even recall her face or what she looked like when she cried or how it felt to hold her as one would expect. The only thing he can remember is the echo of her broken voice shattering through his ears.
x x x
They've always joked around about how the fall - well, that's what he calls it and she almost hates him for not addressing it as autumn, since that's what it truly is - will come and he'll move into her apartment one day in the middle of the night when he causes a ruckus and gets kicked out of his own home, since she is the only sanctuary he'll have and no one else will be willing to take him in. He's far too much trouble and she would be openly applauded by their entire clan if she ended up taking actual responsibility for him, the uncaged mess that is James Potter attempting to live up to everyone's expectations but his own because he doesn't have any for himself other than the ones Rose Weasley has given him over the years.
They've always shrugged it off as if it would be entirely platonic for a cousin to live with another cousin, because that's how society looks at them. That's what they are, and that's what they'll always be.
They've always laughed at the suggestion of her being the only person he truly trusts with his everything, because it's true but they can't seem to convince anyone that it is. They can't believe it unless they convince themselves of it and that will never happen because she has too much pride to realize that she is the only cousin with fire-red hair that he will ever lay eyes upon in the way that he does.
So to make up for it, they've also managed to always acted like complete strangers around one another. Thus the occasional bumping into each other when baking brownies the Muggle way in the various Weasley kitchens must be entirely accidental. They're the only two cousins who happen to have a sweet tooth, which gives them a valid excuse to disappear for a few hours into the depths of a lonely kitchen, every single touch and collision and clatter accounted for by only a few short lines of "Sorry, I'm clumsy" because they are. They're the clumsiest of all even in their feigned grace and that's why they have to face their fate when the time comes for falling so deep into a hole they dug themselves by acting like two strangers dancing to a song only they know.
But one night he actually does crash over at her place for no reason at all other than the increased boredom he's subject to day after day in the confines of his own home, and it's still platonic because they've grown used to those quite innocent sideways glances and broom rides and things they can generally get away with without being questioned. It was more than just difficult for the first few years to adjust to the sudden shift of being graduated legal adults entitled to whatever in the universe they wanted to do, but by now they've gotten more than used to it.
"One day you'll forget about me, Rose," he mentions casually out of nowhere, and her heart almost stops beating.
"Why do you say that?" she replies neutrally, looking up from the parchment and quill in her hand that was until a moment ago scribbling useless ramblings of nothing.
He lets her words fall through the air around them and sink in before responding, satisfied that he's broken through the ice that is her usual reaction to everything, the girl who never pretended to give a fuck about anything because she really had nothing to prove to anyone but him.
"Just because," he says, trying his hardest to keep the smirk out of his voice, because otherwise she would recognize his game for sure, "you know what your everything is, and I'm not a part of it - I may be now but that's not how it'll always be."
He's setting her up to say what he's wanted to hear for years and years.
She doesn't fall for it.
"I thought you liked my writing, though?" she tries, but he doesn't falter either. They have this issue in which they never let the other win an argument, no matter how ridiculous it is, because it's their only spark. He's playing her because he does like her writing for everything it's worth, but he'll never admit it because he knows his opinion matters most to her and therefore he'll be boosting her ego by doing so. That's just the way he works.
"How did you know I was talking about your writing?" he retorts, exercising his tendency to play Devil's advocate complete with a raised eyebrow and crossed arms, staring expectantly up at her from what he finds to be a comfortable spot on the floor directly in front of the sofa she's occupying.
"Valid point - I don't," she quips eagerly, suddenly so interested in the twist of his tone that her eyes noticeably light up, looking down from her perch of the sofa to meet his, "but there's really nothing else you could be talking about, now is there?"
"So you're admitting that writing is your everything?" he continues, and all of a sudden she sees exactly what she's meant to see in those brown eyes that hold so much deception for the world but only the raw truth for her, and she's on him in a flash.
Later she will desperately wish that he'd been a bit out of reach, that maybe it would have stopped her from leaning down at the precise moment that he leaned up. She will attempt to erase the night from her mind, try to allude herself into making up a story in which those few moments were a horrible few moments by forgetting about the feel of his hands in her hair, the softness of his fingers trailing all over her contrasted against the urgency of his grip. She will do her best to disregard the faint memory of his distinct, woody scent as she pressed her lips into the crook of his neck in between a million other hastily scattered kisses.
She'll paint a picture of herself that is the stark opposite of what he'd described her to be - because if it hadn't been for him and his insistence on her passion of writing about worlds that would never exist being her everything, she would have had no need at all to prove him wrong and make him believe to the best of her ability that he was her passion because he was her truest version of everything.
But for now, all she is able to focus on is how he tastes suspiciously like autumn - not the bitterness she's learned to associate with the season but something more meaningful; something superficial that she knows will never last but she revels in the moment nonetheless because it's all she'll ever get.
On the interior, she's loved autumn for as long as she can remember. She's loved it to the point where all she can familiarize with the season from that night onward is that his tongue tastes like maple when it traces unique patterns on her skin and the melancholy sound of her name coming from his lips is almost a longing moan of everything that can never be.
x x x
The snow falls thick and bright, an earnest sort of white with a bit of a sharp glitter to it that's much clearer to the regular eye than it has been in past years - but this could just be the perspective of a certain bystander along a forgotten path on a particularly optimistic day because they want to believe that the snow they're watching fall down through their world is the epitome of perfection. Anyone else could call the same snow dirty and nothing more than a chilly nuisance and not be called out on it because in the world they live in they may yearn for perfect, twinkling snow that they will never get because they are of the pessimistic sort and therefore don't believe that the type of snow described in novels and depicted in the obscure paintings in art galleries is possible in the universe they've built up for themselves. These are the sorts of humanly disputes and undefined facts of nature sometimes referred to as "opinions" that Rose Weasley lives for, because they are the center of her secretly lonely existence and her only drive and inspiration for writing the stories that she does and never shares with anyone except for one person.
She also never tells anyone how interesting she finds this kind of human behavior, but there's one person who she doesn't even have to tell because they've already figured it out on their own through silent observation and another strong feeling that can't be placed or named. This person also happens to notice every other tiny detail of their cousin and makes a vow to themselves to etch these observations into the depths of their mind and never forget, no matter how aware they are of how little time they have with their said cousin.
She's almost stopped attending the obligatory extended family holiday get-togethers over the years that have passed since graduating school, but then she also lives on her own and has enough dignity to say no. However, James isn't as independent as her - he still lives with his parents and thus has no escape from these overly awkward functions, having to get through them no matter what. So of course he invites Rose over to keep him company when his parents demand that he organize a get together with just him and Lily and Albus and "whichever few other cousins that you'd like to invite before the annual dinner at the Burrow next week where you'll have to interact with every one of them" on a cold, dreary December afternoon even after she protests over and over again at having nonexistent work to get done.
She ends up coming anyways because it's only one afternoon with the few closest cousins she's grown up with - and it is him asking; the one person she can never figure out how to say no to. She also makes the rash decision of inviting her younger brother to tag along, because she's completely paranoid that somehow, someone will find out what's really going through her mind and expose the actual reason that James has invited her.
As it goes, they're only two particularly close family members - perspective - sitting across from each other among a few of their other cousins with just a small ember lit in the fireplace before them and steaming mugs of hot chocolate held in their hands to keep them occupied.
Rose offers to bake brownies.
Everyone except James refuses.
So is he.
They make unwanted eye contact.
A moment passes where time almost stops, the chatter of Lily and Albus and Hugo forgotten for the quiet but ever present crackling of the lit fireplace in the Potter's drawing room that really should be giving them a sense of security but only ends up reminding them of their destined solitude - that one day their lives will mirror this situation exactly - sitting in front of a fire with warm drinks and blankets and the incessant, never ending chirping of their respective future families just a few short days before Christmas, but not with each other because they won't be together.
They both remain frozen, sitting in place. Their eyes quickly turn away from each other to face someone else who matters much less and listen to something significantly irrelevant, the thought of brownies and want and time completely lost in the suddenly suffocating air as if it had never been suggested by her in the first place.
Eons pass in the several minutes that she's forcing herself to not meet his eyes again, constantly wondering if getting up and leaving with no reason given would be more harmful than staying and enduring the warmth of the side of Albus's body pressed up against hers under their woollen comforter that they've been sharing since they were only eight years old. She ignores how even when she shoots Lily and Hugo friendly, cousinly looks as they sit on the long couch opposite her she can still see James out of the corner of her eye despite trying so hard to accomplish the opposite. He's lounging between them as if he couldn't be any comfier, legs drawn out on top of the couch so they're draped over Lily's lap with his head resting lazily on Hugo's shoulder.
Just as she's beginning to feel comfortable again at not slipping up, the inevitable that she was trying to avoid takes place when, without thinking it through, she laughs at one of James's jokes that was directed at Albus and Hugo. The sharp glare she receives from Lily Potter an instant later is almost simultaneous with the feeling of dread that overcomes her when she realizes her mistake a second too late.
She never laughs at anyone's jokes - no one has ever been funny enough to deserve her attention and even if they they have, she's treated them with a serious caution, because laughing is caring and caring is getting attached and getting attached is not an option.
And of course Lily notices - it was predictable enough that someone would notice eventually, but what Rose hates the most is that it was over something so stupid - something like responding to a joke that in the long run is such a small action, but now she can feel things shift and time still doesn't stop ticking on.
Everything is a blur as Lily drags her into the kitchen away from the others with some invalid excuse, and all Rose can do is put on her best fake smile that she's specifically reserved for occasions such as this, but it can be seen through easily because she's gone so long without having the need to wear it.
"You bitch," she hears her cousin hiss from somewhere outside herself, because this is irrational and it just can't be real - this can't be happening and everything that Rose categorizes to be irrational is something she considers a dream instead of reality. So she almost tunes Lily out, but in the end she can't. She can't fight herself anymore and this might be the perfect time to let go.
"What?" she mumbles, eyes flitting over to the doorway of the kitchen from where she can only vaguely make out the sofa in the drawing room, "why are we here?"
"You're fucking my brother," Lily continues as if it's the simplest thing in the world, crossing her arms in a way that reminds Rose so much of the girl's very brother that she wishes she could forget, "that's why you're here. The reason why we're here is because I needed to tell you that it has to stop."
"You've got everything mixed up," Rose coaxes, but it's no use because Lily's already made up her mind and will for this reason have the final say, "it's not like that at all."
"Don't," the other girl warns, standing up ramrod straight against the far counter and looking two heads taller than her most envied cousin even though Rose is clearly the taller one, "it's not worth arguing, and I don't even want to know why. I don't want to know what made you move on from every single other guy - what they couldn't give you so that you had to resort to fucking the brains out of your own blood."
There comes a point in everyone's lives when something occurs that causes them to discredit all they've ever been told and question their preconstructed beliefs, values, and truths. It makes contact with them whilst carrying the force of a thousand burning buildings, breaking them open and throwing them astray into an ocean of doubt that they may not have even know existed up until that very moment of their existence. They can almost hear everything around them, including their sanctuaries and dreams and previously accepted rules being subject to destruction in a symphony of deafening explosions, and everything becomes a lie that is a lie that is built upon the basis of another lie until there is nothing left to fight for at all.
If Rose would have realized that this was what was happening to her as Lily went on and on about dignity and self-respect and morals and fucking, fucking, fucking, she may not have silently decided that she was tired of games and tired of building up ice only to have it broken this easily; proceeding to feel someone's hand that definitely did not feel like her own connect with the side of her cousin's face, the sound of the slap echoing through her ears as she blazes through the doorway of the kitchen.
She can feel Lily trailing right behind her as she storms through the drawing room, lingering too long on purpose to make sure that she won't have a chance to discuss what just happened with the three promptly turned faces waiting for them or properly say goodbye to James. She can in turn feel James tense up when she reenters the room only to not make any interaction with him at all, picking up her bag from the floor and feeling like she's outstayed her visit by a million and one heavy minutes.
James glances at Rose through clenched teeth, observing the vacant expression in her eyes and the smirk on his own sister's face, and remembers everything that he'd pushed aside for the past few months - that he's never brought up moving into Rose's apartment and she's never made any move to offer.
He can't help but wonder if it's because they truly aren't platonic any longer.
"Rose?" he asks blindly, voice coming out strangely disconnected, his true emotions masked even as he disregards that Hugo and Albus are in the same perimeter of walls as them and Lily is obviously not much further, "you're leaving? It's cold outside," he stands up instinctively, feeling all her anger and frustration seep into him in the brief second that her hair brushes his shoulder as blocks her way out, "at least take your coat - take something," he pleads.
"It's not cold enough," she responds blankly, shoving her way past him and then Lily, whose eyes are everywhere, wanting the two of them to mess up somehow in front of Hugo and Albus, apparent in the way her lips are sealed and her stare that inspects them both as they weave around each other, attempting not to touch, is rough and unforgiving, "I came without a coat, so I'll leave without one."
"But you hate winter," he manages as a last resort, pulling at strings that are too short for him to cling to any longer, "you hate it..."
She looks back one last time, ignoring the fact that she's leaving Hugo to fend for himself even though he has no idea what's happening. She nearly chokes on the little air left in the room, not meeting his eyes. "You've got your seasons all confused, Potter. I'll see you later."
Her voice is half a whisper but even a fool would immediately recognize that she's not directing this farewell to Lily Luna or Albus Severus.
x x x
It's ironic that the flowers are blossoming and the scents are changing for the better - again, it all comes down to perspective and the ability of individuals to look at a situation in a certain biased way that's embedded at the very roots of human behavior - when she confronts him first because she knows he never will and tells him what he has to hear.
"You did - what?" he's incredulous and disbelieving and everything she anticipated in her long hours of insomnia throughout the past several weeks, which gives her an odd sense of motive that screams at her to keep going and not back down - to let go once and for all because she's subconsciously aware that it will be much easier to do so during the spring rather than the autumn.
"You heard me," she says, tone devoid of any emotion at all as her gaze fleetingly falling on how the door to his bedroom is somehow closed - was it not open all of two moments ago? - and they are the only people in the Potter household. She almost laughs at the fact that they are inside when the weather outside is everything that he always secretly hopes for, but then again, he's himself and it almost disgusts her that he's willing to abandon his favorite season for her while she can't let go of anything in her life for him other than him himself.
She feels awful, once again visited by the familiar sense of suffocation and lack of breathable air that she always experiences in this very house. She wants to give up and leave without getting a proper response from him, but as always, his eyes are pleading, which outweighs the dangerous level of warmth in the air, so she remains in place, suspended in time by his hopelessness and her false confidence used to hide that she is just as lost as he is.
"But you couldn't have..." he trails off, wanting it all to be some terrible joke that she will inform him of in a second or two, "you really aborted the baby?"
Of course this was just an excuse, and a sorry one at that, but for once in her life she can't think of anything better to persuade him that they have to be over, and the only thing that runs through her mind is Lily's stinging words - word - from so many months ago.
Fucking, fucking, fucking.
"I did it months ago, and nothing you say now can change that. I just decided that you should know about it now or you would never figure it out... Besides, I couldn't keep it. Everyone would have thought - it was bad enough already by just being -" she breaks off on the 'p' word, skipping ahead as if she hadn't just hesitated, "- and then people - the world would think that it wasn't his - because of you. Because people would find out eventually. Your sister did."
"No, that's a lie," he shakes his head sullenly, losing all ability to take her seriously because as always, he can see right through her lies, "you knew all along that it was his, and so did I. Why would anything matter to you after knowing that? Why would the world matter to you, Rose? Why?"
"The world didn't matter to me! You're right, it didn't matter!" she shrieks, amazed at how she's able to get her voice out when she can barely breathe, "it only mattered to me because you were my everything and you were my world and that was unfuckingacceptable, James! Unacceptable..."
"It doesn't have to be this way." He takes a step closer to her, every footstep a tragedy because he could have always had anyone he wanted but her.
"Yes it does," she croaks, backing away from him slowly, "because we're wrong."
"No, you're wrong!" he exclaims with an accusatory finger in her direction, done with being quiet and done with being nonresistant because that's gotten him nowhere, "You're the one who's wrong because this is right! You know that 'wrong' is the exact opposite of this - wrong is a world where you forget how to write. Wrong is me being responsible for once because that's just not me. Wrong is me ceasing to always pretend that I'm the most content person on the planet. Wrong is you and that bastard together somehow. Wrong is me looking at any other woman except you," he's a dead man, but he's been dead for ages and ages so it makes no difference, "wrong is you constantly putting up the act that you don't care about me and you don't trust me and you just don't give a single shit," a warning bell goes off in his mind because there's only one thing left to say that he's never brought himself to go forth with, but there's a place in his imagination that can vividly picture living without her and her understanding and her beauty and her everything that makes him go on, forces him to say one last thing because time stops and he doesn't want to live in a world where they're not allowed to be together. "Wrong is me not being in love with you just because the entire world would think it was wrong."
She almost doesn't hear him at first, instead distracted by the fact that there's a breeze - there's a breeze coming in through his bedroom window and she can breathe again, but each breath she takes involves inhaling in the scent it brings in from outdoors, a scent that could be considered entirely normal and even cheerful in a way by most people - fucking perspective - but makes her want to vomit all over his belongings because they are the closest things in sight and she can't hold it all in for much more time.
She attempts to hold herself steady for a moment, staring hard at him and being impassive as ever until the last possible second, but then he's gone and said what she'd wanted to avoid - the predicament that could have been avoided if he'd originally just been a bit out of her reach one lonesome autumn night in her apartment that he was always meant to share and live in with her but never did because she was always too scared.
"No," the breeze picks up ferocity and she has to repeat herself to be heard even though this one syllable makes no sense at all, "no."
They're finally out of time.
He doesn't formally kick her out of his home but his next two words are enough to make her want to leave immediately and drown in an endless pool of self-pity and regret.
The breeze through his window continues to pick up pace, but it's more of a soft wind that carries the bitterness of his voice, and though this wind is full of newly turned flowers and still currents of slow moving waters and the piercing passion of the sunlight, all she can feel rushing over her is the scent of autumn.
x x x
"And how can you be so fucking sure that it was mine?" his voice rings out, harsh as it carries the burden of someone who made up their mind about things a very long time ago.
"What was yours?" she retorts, crossing her arms defensively like James always does because that's the only way the boy in front of her will understand, "what are we talking about? What have you ever been talking about?"
"Oh," he scoffs, "don't fuck around with me, Rose. Do not fuck around with me now after I've already found out from Lily that -"
She interrupts him with a shrug, voice growing louder to mirror his because she knows what comes next but doesn't want to hear it from his mouth. "No, you don't fuck around with me. Because I have the faintest idea of what you're trying to say and Lily has nothing at all to do with it."
"It's everything - Lily has everything to do with it, because she just confirmed what I already knew - what you knew. You knew all along that it was never me. It was never me that you..." he trails off, staring at her expectantly and hoping he's irked her enough to receive a proper explanation. "Do you have anything at all to say for yourself?"
She doesn't respond.
"You're pregnant," he accuses loudly, clearly trying much too hard to contrast the crisp silence of her betrayal. He hopes for anything - acceptance or denial or rejection or anything that will stop the way she's looking at him, the way he knows that she feels nothing at all for him - doesn't hate him or love him, doesn't pine for him or want to beg to get him back, because he's right about one thing - it was never him.
She's still calm, unflinching under his cold stare as she wills herself to finally reply. "No, I'm not."
"Prove it," he nearly spits out, taking two steps closer to her only to find the tears slowly running down her face, tears that he never had the privilege to see or wipe away or even be the cause of, because she'd never given him the opportunity to matter that much. He wasn't her strength or weakness; pain or happiness; friend or lover; he was her nothing, almost as if he didn't exist for her at all.
"I don't owe you anything," she manages, wiping her tears away swiftly and pretending like he never saw them. As she does, she can see the comprehension of what's really happened dawn over him, and her entire resolve nearly breaks when he opens his mouth to find no retort waiting on his tongue, because James would have had a retort ready no matter what.
Scorpius Malfoy finally walks away from her for the last time, and she readily lets him.
It doesn't matter anymore, but she still finds some comfort knowing that she made the right choice.
x x x
Years pass. He can't help but buy her first Muggle novel and read it from afar like he's meeting her all over again as the farthest back he can remember when he was only four years old and she was three, and he can't stop himself from falling in love with her all over again. He doesn't want to believe that the beautiful prose she's written that has the world on its knees is mostly the same lines of her unedited vulnerabilities in a journal that existed almost a decade ago; the stories that she read to him in the dark of the night when they were all alone in the grassy fields of nowhere and were only teenagers that happened to be first cousins, but it is.
He feels as though he's watching a ghost of himself when he finds himself at one of her readings at a Muggle bookshop. He listens and observes and fidgets with the broken threads of his old blue shirt, wishing he hadn't come at all but not being able to move a single muscle when it's finally over, waiting for the storm or the calm before the storm or even worse, nothing at all.
He can't predict these things with her anymore. He can still read her like a book when she acts but can no longer predict what the book will say beforehand because it's not the same anymore and there's nothing that can be done to reverse that since winter is already coming and winter is all they need to forget.
She's sitting on her stool at the front of the shop, watching him carefully and pretending that she hadn't known for the entire past hour that he was sitting in the audience, the oddly silent but dashing one in the very last chair in the very last row because he hadn't wanted to draw attention to himself.
She's pretending that she didn't know him at all.
If they were only cousins she never would have considered surprise as an adequate emotion to choose for the dilemma sitting casually on a chair in front of her. They're still family, after all, and still see each other across the table at various family dinners which are irrelevant and they obviously both wish they could skip to skip the anguish, but they can't.
It's different because he's there and none of her other cousins are.
So she is surprised, because they're not just cousins, and there's no way she can hide it.
Rose. And the foreboding chiming of bells and the tears that resembled the pouring rain and the unwanted changing colours of the leaves and wishing for winter and summer all at once, just anything but autumn.
James. And the hopes of the early full moon and the smiles and the glorious cripness of the grass and the feeling that autumn should and can last forever.
"I've missed you," he clears his throat, and they both know he's not talking about how he hasn't seen her properly since the last Weasley Easter get-together - they both conveniently never show up to the summer ones because summer is too premature - summer isn't spring and summer isn't autumn and so summer is something that can't be handled by them.
She ignores him, instead bursting out with the only appropriate thought she can currently fathom. "You read the book."
"I did," he whispers, and it's insane if they take the time to think about how she can still hear him, considering she's half-way across the room sitting on a stool and he's making no move to abandon his chair. The chair is his only hope and he knows he will fall into a hopeless abyss of nothing if he stands up and somehow attempts to walk closer to her.
So he stays, feeling silent gratitude for the universe because she hasn't gotten up from her seat for the exact same reason.
"They lied," she says simply after a period of long silence, as if it's all she really has to say to get her point across - and it is. But after everything has finally been broken, by "they" she obviously and quite clearly means the two of them paired together with their insecurities and nothing else - not the world and no one except themselves. "We could have been together."
All she receives in response is a small nod.
"James?" she questions, suddenly feeling sick to the stomach that after all these years, he's grown into the habit of saying absolutely nothing.
The words are out of his mouth before he can think about what implication they might have.
James Potter. The hopeless cousin of Rose Weasley.
"Of course they lied, Weasley -" his voice doesn't even waver, "- of course we could have been together. But we're not, and you know why."
She nearly bolts, much more affected by the nonchalance in his voice than what his voice is actually saying, because there is only one thing that his referral to her by last name could mean. "Time," she finally offers, knowing he'll understand this one word more than any others; the one word that will always define them because they never had enough of it, "time, Potter."
He gives her a small smile at this and her entire being explodes all over again that this person who completes her exists but she can't ever be with him, that everyone around her is more flawed than ever but it's her flaws that always matter, her flaws that brought them down and tore them apart so they never had a proper chance.
He doesn't flinch, reading her eyes as effortlessly as he always has, and proceeds to stride over to her, because there's nothing left to be afraid of.
Time keeps ticking on.
He brings his hand to the side of her face, gently tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "I was lucky - we were lucky to have those few months. Those few stolen moments and glances, really."
His voice echoes through the shelves around them even though it really doesn't, because there's still a low chatter going through the shop that would make it impossible for there to be enough silence for his voice to echo.
But it does.
There's no air in her lungs.
She can't breathe and there's no possibility of any spring breeze to arrive this time to revive her.
"Time," someone repeats again, and in their panic and detachment from everything occurring around them, neither of them can distinguish if it was him or her or both of them in some sort of strange unison, but it quite honestly can't matter because it'd mean the same thing from both of them.
And that's all they can remind each other for the moment, all that they ever have been able to remind each other of - time was their only constant and time was their only flaw because they lied to themselves enough to trust it. She's anticipated this all along but has never had the will to believe it, just as she's never been able to admit to herself that they were the opposite of wrong - but him standing in front of her, a mirror image of her broken self, makes the situation much more real than the thought of their two separate families waiting for them in their two separate homes that will never coexist.
He easily slips right through her fingers and yet she cannot deny that the final taste of autumn is still sickeningly sweet.
x x x
A/N: I'd be extremely honored if you liked this story enough to favorite, but I'm begging you to not favorite without reviewing!
Disclaimer: Title comes from "Skinny Love" by Bon Iver and the quote at the beginning that inspired most of this fic obviously comes from Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.