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Wow!

Title: The Clouds In The Sky Look A Lot Like Your Eyes.
Prompts
: September. Floating. Sweaters with long sleeves. Best Nights by Lydia .Walk the Line. Hurt by Nine Inch Nails (Covered by Johnny Cash.) Rape. Albino dragons. Russia. Albus Severus. Muggle stories. Muggle bands. You Be the Anchor by Mayday Parade. Whole body sobs. The smell of the dark. Ice caves. Sylvia Plath tattoo. Being old. The scars of war.
Prompt-giver: oneofthelivingghosts (tumblr)

x

The Clouds In The Sky Look A Lot Like Your Eyes

And I'll be here by the ocean just waiting for proof
That there's sunsets and silhouette dreams
—Mayday Parade

x

part i

It happens on a cold September night.

The sun's already begun to set, and the sky is filled with clouds the colour of flames and mist. The street, brightly lit a few hours ago, is murky with unsureties — all dark corners and suspicious alleys.

Lily thinks maybe the way home is left, or maybe she needs to cross the street first before going right. The pavement is suddenly curving underneath her feet and she realises it might not have been the smartest idea walking back to her flat what with the amount she's had to drink — she thinks maybe someone was supposed to pick her up at the bar. What was his name? Alan? Alex? Albus? Albus Severus, she muses. Her brother. But it's been an hour and it was cold outside, and the boys were looking at her in the way that gives her shivers and her feet didn't hurt and she found herself here, stumbling on the cobblestones, her soles sore, and footsteps behind —

Everything happens too fast. She's thinking of the who'd been playing at the bar — one of those Muggle bands that Rox likes so much — and suddenly there's a hand, dirty fingernails, clawing at her elbow, someone's reeking breath at the lobe of her ear, and she fights so hard but the world is falling away and blurring at the edges.

They're dragging her away, those monsters. All claws and fangs and growls and their hunger, loud, like demons, coming for her. Someone's screaming, screaming, screaming so loud that — it's her. Oh. It's her, screaming. No one hears. No one comes. She's alone.

They choke her — she coughs so desperately, those sharp, dirty fingernails constricting around her throat, and she can't breathe, ohgodohgodohgod, can't breathe, too dark, the world, black, September wind in her face, tears in her eyes, all alone with nothing but the dark until —

(somebody help me oh my god please help me I can't breathe I can't see please anybody jesus)

SHUT UP STUPID BITCH NOBODY'S COMING.

Nobody's coming. Nobody's coming.

The world fades from technicolour to greyscale to blackness. The last thing she remembers is the sound of her own sobs mixed with her desperate, choking coughs.

/

It's Albus who finds her the next morning, broken and tattered, on the cobblestone path. Her dress is in shreds. Her breathing is laboured. She wobbles on her own two feet. Her mascara trails down her face like a mask. She doesn't cry, though. She never does.

x

part ii

"Look, I know she's going through a hard time but I really don't get why I need to be here. She's not my responsibility. Maybe she was a long time ago, but I haven't even seen her in ages, much less spoken to her. I really don't think I'm going to be able to help." Teddy's hair flashes in different shades — magenta, aquamarine, periwinkle — as he stands next to Victoire on the porch of the Potter manor.

The blonde gives him a long, disgusted look, all icy blue eyes and fierce glares. "Ted, we were her best friends for her whole childhood, practically," she reminds him in annoyance. "Are you just going to pretend like that never happened? She needs us." Victoire pushes the doorbell again impatiently, and then crosses her arms over her chest. "I've been right here, helping as much as I can. Where have you been?"

He opens his mouth to answer. "I've been — "

"That's right," she interrupts with the kind of lightning fast reflexes that belong on a Quidditch team. "You've been chasing sluts all over the country."

The door opens so suddenly that Teddy jumps. His hair — which had settled into a healthy dark blue — quickly turned into a shock of electric pink.

"Nervous, hm?" Vic snaps at him before turning to hug her cousin. "Hello, James, nice to see you out of bed and wearing pants."

James ignores the comment and turns to glare at Teddy and run a hand through his messy black hair. "What's he doing here?" he asks indignantly, quirking an eyebrow at Victoire. Then, he turns to Teddy. "What're you doing here? Shit. I thought you'd gotten eaten by the Loch Ness Monster back in Scotland." He pauses for a moment, sizing him up, as Victoire steps over the threshold and into the house behind him. Then, he cracks a grin. "I'm just kidding, everyone knows Nessie's an herbivore." His smile, however, quickly fades back into seriousness. "But really, Lily's isn't going to be happy. Well, to be honest, she's never happy, but, well, don't be surprised if she's going to want you to piss off."

Teddy pushes past the eldest Potter and into the house he'd grown up in as a child. "The lady is forceful," he says over his shoulder, gesturing to Victoire, standing in the kitchen.

"She's in her room," Vic tells him as he steps onto the tiled floors. She's not even looking at her fingers as she commences chopping an onion. She doesn't even blink an eyelash as the stench begins to make Teddy's eyes water. "Surely you still remember where that is, don't you, considering you'd spent every waking moment in there before you became — what's that word again? — a whore?"

He scowls, his hair darkening from its neon shade. "I can't just go up there," Teddy complains.

"Why not?"

"I haven't seen her in ages! How's she even supposed to remember what I look like?"

At this point, even James' good-natured face becomes clouded. "She grew up in your arms, Theodore!" Victoire cries. "Would you forget the people who'd been by your side since the day you were born?"

"And to be honest, Ted, you never change," James puts in. "I would think you're a vampire if you weren't already a metamorphmagus. If you'd gotten both, that would just be unfairly awesome on your part."

Victoire groans in exasperation. "Just shut it already, James — and go up there and say hello, will you, Ted? Honestly. You lot are like Hufflepuffs."

Teddy's forehead wrinkles as he walks away, James' protests echoing behind him. "I am a Hufflepuff," he grumbles to himself as he makes his way up the carpeted stairwell.

Pictures litter the walls, painted a pleasant shade of beige. They document all three of the Potter kids' growth — James first, and then a tiny Albus showing up next to toddler James, and finally the miniature Lily, with her shock of bright orange hair, muting into a deep red as the pictures went on. They ended at the final step — a fuzzy Polaroid dated a few weeks ago of the whole family: Harry and Ginny at the center, both of their hair graying, but their smiles having the same fervor as years ago; Albus off to the left, his green eyes thoughtful and his smile small; James in the space between his two parents, showing off straight, white teeth and soft brown eyes, his arms around the both of them, half-laughing, half-grinning.

And then Lily at the very center, looking small compared to her larger-than-life family. She dominates the whole picture, he notices, with her serious demeanor. She sits cross-legged on the same wild grass growing in the meadow behind their house. Her hair, long and as red as the roses blooming in her beloved garden, wrapped into a braid, pooling on the ground beside her. Her eyes, wide and a green that's closer to hazel, rather than her older brother's jade ones. Her lips, painted red, one side curved like it's holding in a secret. Her face is pale, her cheekbones prominent. She looks haunted. Tortured. Her eyes are scared and makeup-less. They don't sparkle like they did when she was younger.

If it hadn't been her family surrounding her, he wouldn't have known who she was.

/

The door is already half-open when he gets there, but he knocks anyway. There's nothing but the sound of faint, raspy music, drifting through the air. He knocks again, and the door creaks open slowly. Lily's clothes are all over the floor, her bed unmade, books stacked throughout the room, and an old, scratched record-player, placed haphazardly on her nightstand, playing the vinyl record like it's on its last legs.

Behind him, he hears her voice, low and unsure. "James, is that you?" He turns around in time to see her pulling her sweater down over her stomach, hiding inked words on the skin of her hipbone.

"Lily," he breathes. He thinks that maybe he wasn't prepared for this moment, to see her again. She's even paler in person, her hair like fire in contrast. Her eyes are filmy — like a bog, murky and secretive. She's thinner than he remembers, and shorter, too — or maybe he's just gotten a bit taller since he'd last seen her when she was fifteen. He can see the effect that her attack had on her. She looks like someone half-dead.

Her auburn eyebrows wrinkle almost immediately at the sight of him. Her greeting is not as pleasant as he expects. "What are you doing here?" she asks, both surprised and displeased.

Teddy's hair switches to silvery blond. He doesn't answer for a few moments, and they watch each other in tense silence, him looming over her, the record player still spinning its fuzzy tune. It stops after a bit, forcing them both out of their silence. "Why does everyone ask me that?" Teddy makes a feeble attempt at a joke as he follows her into her room.

Lily handles the player carefully, flipping the record over and pushing it back in. The vinyl begins to croon again. "Probably because we haven't heard from you in two years," she tells him unkindly.

His gaze wanders to the window. It's snowing outside. The glass is stained with moisture. "It's only been two years?" he wonders aloud. "It seems like it's been an eternity."

Her eyes flash with something, and just as quick, all feeling is gone from her face. "It was an eternity," she mumbles, "for me."

She reaches over her bed, pushing her things into different piles. Her overly large, knit sweater — complete with the signature fancy emblem of an 'L' giving away the maker of it — falls down over one shoulder, revealing her pronounced collarbones. She's rolled the long sleeves up to her elbows, and the gaps between the bangles and friendship bracelets reveal wide, angry red gashes, and purple and yellow bruises, all along her wrists and forearms. Teddy bites his tongue.

He watches her as she stands up straight to glare at him. "Are you just going to stand there, or are you going to leave off to Scotland or France or wherever it is you'd gone off to?" Not knowing how to respond, Teddy's eyes fall to her hands, where she's clutching an old Muggle DVD of that movie she'd made him watch a million times when she was little — Walk the Line. Wordlessly, he realises the voice on the record is Johnny Cash.

Swallowing, Teddy struggles to get the words out of his mouth. "Lily, Lily, what you've got to realise is that I'm here for you." He stops, watching for the reaction of emotions on her face. The thing is, there isn't one.

Her eyes are blank, expressionless. "What you've got to realise, Teddy, is that you're here now," she murmurs, "but you're only going to leave later, and you're just dragging out the process now."

/

He stays at the flat that Victoire owns.

They eat dinner together in a gloomy silence. Teddy stirs his peas in a circle with his fork, mixing them with gravy. They turn into a colour not unlike that of which Lily's eyes had resembled.

"She's even better now than she was before," Victoire informs him as she eats. "The first week she didn't talk. Didn't eat. I don't think she even slept." She sighs, putting her fork down and blotting her lipstick with a napkin. "She's only just started talking again a few days ago." She looks over at him, her eyes that perfect shade of blue.

Lost for words, Teddy says the first thing that comes to his mind — "Victoire, look, when we broke up — "

Her face is overcome with an expression of anger. She puts up a smooth palm. "No, Ted," she says firmly. "This isn't about us. I didn't ask you to come because of us. This is for Lily."

"I know, but — "

"But nothing." Victoire gives him a pleading gaze. "Don't you realise? All our lives everything's been about the two of us. And then when… What happened between you and me, and then you and her, it only ended up giving her the worst end of the stick. Don't you see? After everything, everything that's revolved around us, it was Lily who'd gotten hurt. Every single time. And now she's finally broken. She'd been so strong and this — it snapped her in half." She clings onto her napkin desperately, wiping away a tear that was beginning to smudge her makeup.

Teddy grips the table until his knuckles turn white. "I know, Vic," he begs guiltily.

"You don't." She sighs. "I was here for her then, I'm here for her now. It's your turn. She needs you. God knows I needed you, too."

He looks away, frustrated. "Don't even try to say that I didn't love her, Victoire," Teddy argues. "I loved her. I loved Lily. I loved her more than anyone I've ever known."

"Then stay!" she bellows. "Stay, for her. I don't think you understand how bad it's been, for all of us!"

He stays silent if only to save himself, glowering at his ex-girlfriend from across the table.

Victoire's cheeks are filled with trails of tears now. "She was raped, Theodore." The word makes him flinch. Makes him feel pain in his own body for what was done to the girl. "We hurt her, we left her, we didn't protect her, and look at her now. She's broken. We almost lost her. You almost lost her."

Teddy's voice is rough, struggling to stay in control. "I already lost her a long time ago."

"No you haven't!" Victoire sobs in frustration. "Teddy, you've got to understand! That's why I asked you to come! You, of all people, she would forgive for anything!"

His hair's gone black. "I don't even know her anymore," he ends, a final, weak protest.

She shakes her head, strings of blonde hair loose, gone from her perfect demeanor. "Sometimes, I don't even know you anymore, either."

Victoire takes her plate from the table, dumps it into the sink with a clank, and leaves him alone in the dim lighting of the kitchen to the confines of her room. He stays there, thinks, and tries not to listen to the sound of his own cowardice.

/

There's a little liquor shop at the end of the street corner, and he finds her there in the candy aisle with a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a pack of Jammie Dodgers and a lottery ticket in the other.

"Oh," she says uninterestedly in that raspy, tired voice of hers, "fancy seeing you here."

He had put a box of condoms in his basket, just to boost his own confidence. They'd seemed very discreet a minute ago, but suddenly they're much too conspicuous. His hair's turning that embarrassing shade of lavender when her eyes flicker to them, smirking. "Yeah, I, uh, just stopped in to get some things. I'm going to be staying in London for a bit, actually. On business."

She raises her eyebrows. "What kind of business?"

Teddy coughs. "What're you doing here, anyway?" he counters, the tops of his cheeks turning red. She smiles, lowers her eyebrows. Gotcha.

A finger goes to her bottom lip, painted red. "I'm not supposed to be out, but nothing's ever stopped me before." She begins to move toward the cashier, and he follows her there. Like a puppy. A really, really screwed-up puppy.

He stares at the lottery ticket in her hand. "I didn't know you gamble."

She shrugs. "You don't know a lot of things about me, I guess." She shrugs. Her smile is so secretive, so guarded — far from how open and admiring when they hadn't, well, been destroyed.

As she puts her things onto the counter, Teddy shakes his head and puts his hand out to stop her. "No, no, Lil, I've got it." He touches her fingers. Her skin is cold and sets his touch on fire.

She's looking at him through those unforgiving green eyes, behind those long, red eyelashes and smoky black eyelids. She lowers her voice. "With Muggle money?"

There goes the last of his pride. "Right. Um." He scratches the back of his head. His hair'd gone completely pink a while ago. The cashier eyes him, snickering behind his desk.

"Wow." In spite of herself, Lily giggles. It's the first time he's heard it in years and it's got such an impact on him that he couldn't even imagine. She covers his hand with hers. "Don't worry. I've got it, Teddy."

Teddy. Teddy. The way she says his name. He knows that's the moment he lost the battle.

/

As they're leaving the store, she walks ahead of him, sway in her step — a kind of confidence that's associated with the youngest Potter. "Condoms, eh?" she teases ruthlessly. "Are you and Vic, um, doing the deed?" She quirks her eyebrows accusingly.

Teddy's hair, which he'd managed to get back down to brown when they'd left the store, erupts back into pink. He hopes the Muggles don't notice. "Godric, no," he splutters.

Lily's lips spread back into a wide grin that disappears quick. "Come on, then," she sings, skipping ahead in the direction opposite Victoire's flat.

"Where're we going?"

She stops, putting her hands on her hips, and rolls her eyes. "Oh, Teddy," she sighs. The sound of his name — it's never been so amazing. She goes back and hooks her elbow in his. "We're going to live."

/

He doesn't know what's happening until it's done. That's always been the way it was with her. Everything happening so fast — neon lights, compressed bodies, technicolour alcohol, screeching music, all a blur. He'd think that after what'd happened she'd be scared of this kind of lifestyle — instead it's only made her more reckless.

He watches her through the fog of the club. The way she's dancing, the way she moves her body. It's like she's got a bubble around her — she's so full of life that it'd only be soiling her beauty to touch her. The light in her is reflected against her skin. It looks like she's floating.

She opens her eyes to meet his and he doesn't remember what a thought in the world is. Her eyes are hollow. Outside, she breathes, but inside, she's dead.

/

He comes home at two, with Lily in his arms, fallen from her throne. Her hair sticks up in every direction, like flames, and her makeup has smudged all across her eyes. She's light as a feather and clings to him like oxygen. He's never known anything prettier.

Victoire is waiting by the door as they enter, her face looking on the verge of tears. "Everyone's gone crazy looking for her, crazy bitch," she mutters, brushing the girl's bangs off her moist forehead.

Teddy puts her onto the sofa gently and goes to the guest room in search of a blanket. He comes back and carefully tugs it around Lily's curled-up body, sleeping soundly. "Relax, she's alright. A bit mental, yeah, but I took care of her." Vic watches him doubtfully as he sits at the foot of the sofa and begins to take off her sneakers.

"It's like she doesn't value her life anymore," Victoire chokes out, desperately trying not to cry.

She's watching as Teddy moves her hair off her shoulder and fans it out behind her onto the pillows and adjusts her limbs so they're not hanging off the edge of the sofa. "She's different," he admits.

Victoire can already see it in the way he looks at her, all coming back. It hurts her heart remembering. "Don't hurt her," she pleads. "She's gone through enough."

Teddy frowns. "I'm not going to hurt her." He looks down at the sleeping girl. "Besides, she's strong."

/

It's like old times again and it's the best feeling he's ever had. She shows up in the flat every morning, never before eleven, and takes him places he hasn't been in years. She takes him to Diagon Alley and tells him stories underneath the roof of Florean Fortescue's. She takes him to get his palm read by a curly haired lady whom her father had been friends with, with white scars running all down her body — casualties of the war. She makes him feel old and young and in the middle again. She teaches him how to live.

She takes him to the Ministry and climbs into the fountain. He stares at her dubiously, as wizards begin to notice. He's taught her how to cast a spell to change her face and hair, and he's sporting a large nose and green hair today, so they're both unrecognisable, and he can feel the thrill of adrenaline thumping in both of their hearts.

"Come on!" she cries, laughing as she sloshes around in bare feet and shorts. He thinks she's gone dangerously mental in the years he'd been gone.

"I can't," he sighs. "I'm too old for this, love."

Lily laughs even louder, the sound of it echoing. Everyone's definitely noticed, now. "You're not old, silly." She reaches out her hand, as if requesting for him to pull her out, but instead she tugs him in to splash next to her. She wraps her arms around his waist and pulls him close. "You'll never be old for as long as you live."

Her face is so close he thinks she's going to kiss him. Then a security wizard's yelling in the distance and they clamber out of the marble fountain and leave a watery trail behind them as they race out of the building and run so far away that they're still breathing hard by the time they've Apparated home for dinner.

/

Ginny thinks the fresh air is good for Lily. Harry would probably murder him for taking his daughter out so soon after the incident if he wasn't his godson. James tags along once in a while. Albus, though, Albus Severus, who has put the blame on his own shoulders for what had happened to his baby sister — watches silently, green eyes calculating. Watching the way the blue-haired boy gazes at his sister like she's the only thing he sees.

/

He catches her in the bathroom of the Potter manor when she doesn't show up at Victoire's flat one day. He doesn't think his blood pressure's ever been so high.

She's holding up a knife and her palm is bleeding, a deep gash in it. Her hair, which had been down to her waist, is choppy, just reaching her shoulders, and matches the colour of her blood. Her face is a pale white not too far from the bathtub's shade. His hair goes pure black with fear.

Teddy runs to her, yelling, takes the knife and throws it into the bathtub. The red stains the porcelain. He hugs her to his chest as she sobs, and smoothes back her newly shredded hair as her whole body shakes with her cries, the front of his shirt wet with both tears and blood.

"Dirty, dirty, dirty," she wails, the sound of it so haunting, so broken. "I feel so dirty."

He takes her palm in his, shakily takes his wand out, and taps it onto the wound, spitting out a spell to stop the bleeding. "Hush," he whispers into her ear as they slowly sink to the ground. "I've got you."

/

The haircut gets fixed. The wound on her palm gets fixed. The stain in the bathroom gets fixed. But the image of Lily, covered in her own blood, sobbing, never quite leaves his head.

He asks her about it one night after watching Walk the Line for the millionth time. "Why'd you do it?" he asked in a gently voice.

She bites her lip and looks at him. Her newly short hair is tugged back into a tiny ponytail. "I felt like — like Rapunzel."

"Gesundheit."

"No, silly!" She pushes him, laughing. He grins at her, catching her wrists in his hands. The scars have begun to fade. "It's a Muggle story. About this girl, with long, long blonde hair, trapped in a tower." Her green eyes look off somewhere else, like a dream. "And at the end, the witch cuts off her hair and throws her out of the tower. And she wanders in this awful desert for years and years — and then she finds her prince, but he's blind. But he still loves her. And she still loves him. It's a beautiful story." She tugs at the ends of her hair self-consciously.

He doesn't quite understand. Her voice is a mix of mumbles. But he nods his head and watches her fingertips leave her hair. "Yeah. It's wonderful."

/

He takes her to the ocean on her nineteenth birthday, just him and her. They lay on the sand, the sun beating down on the both of them, and he watches her as she closes her eyes, barely breathing. Words, tattooed onto her hip — I think I made you up inside my head — in inky script. She's magic.

She turns to him suddenly, blinking, sand falling from her hair. "I've got to say this one time," Lily insists firmly, "just so you feel it." And then she leans over him, presses her whole body to him, and kisses him, just once, the taste of sea salt and grains of sand between their lips.

Closing his eyes, he relishes the feel of the sun against their skin. "You're fucking crazy," he groans, and then pulls her right back down and kisses her again, properly, deeply, with everything he's ever felt in the past three years in the way their bodies curve together.

She pushes him away and throws her head back and laughs, running down the coast in jean shorts and a swimsuit top. He chases her down that coast, yelling and whooping after her, and they meet in the middle. He tugs her around the waist and into the waves, and when they come up for air he kisses her again, softly and slowly, both of them soaked to the bone.

/

When the sun begins to set, she takes his hand and they spin into a black hole and ends up on a green countryside with nothing but luscious grass for miles, with snowy mountains in the distance. Teddy shivers, and when Lily notices she conjures a sweater for him, and throws her clothes over her swimsuit.

"Where are we?" he asks as she tugs on his hand and they run, wildflowers blooming all around them as the sky turns orange.

Lily stops suddenly at the top of the valley, and he watches as she stares ahead, her freckles dark against her pale face. "Somewhere in Russia," she replies, and giggles when he blinks in surprise. "Uncle Charlie took me here once when I was thirteen, and it's been my special place ever since."

Teddy's brow furrows. "Why?"

The redhead sighs and presses her lips to his cheek, then turns his head to where she'd been facing. "Look."

Hundreds of dragons — a whole colony. Some of them feeding, some sleeping, a few drinking from an enormous lake. They don't pay any attention to the two wizards at the top of the valley. They're all pure white, their wings standing out impressively against the pure green of the land.

"Wow, they're gorgeous," Lily breathes.

They sit down to watch as the sun sets. "Why're they all white? And why aren't they in a reserve?"

"This is a resort," Lily explains. "They're albino dragons. Albino dragons are considered an anomaly — they're usually runts, and don't breathe fire, and their mums reject them, so they end up becoming herbivores. They can't survive in a reserve because other dragons would kill them, they're hated so much. They're practically exiled. Hardly anyone even knows there's such a thing. So they're sent here. And they live here, all their lives. Not even knowing there's a whole other world just beyond the mountains."

x

part iii

"I told you not to hurt her," Victoire screams at him.

Teddy shakes his head furiously. "You've no right to assume that I'm just going to hurt her," he bellows right back. "I love her, Vic, and I would never do anything to cause her pain!"

Victoire's hands fly up cover her face in frustration. "You don't understand!" she spits back at him. "When you first left, she didn't know what to do with herself. She totally collapsed within herself. She hurt herself. It's like someone had left her at the gates of hell. If you leave again, she's not going to be able to build herself back again."

"She's better now," Teddy insists. "She's over it. We're over it."

"No," Vic disagrees. "No. She's only gotten better at hiding."

/

"Why do you like Muggles so much?" Teddy asks her when he catches her drinking a gulp of Muggle whiskey, straight from the bottle, reading an old Hogwarts textbook in her room.

She sits up in her bed. The mattress curves in to carry his weight when he climbs on next to her. "They're so much more human than us," she tells him in that dreamy tone she's been using more and more often. "They make so many mistakes. So much violence. So much blood in their lives and it's normal to them." The way she smirks, the way her eyes have no light, scares him for the first time since he'd first seen her after the incident. "They fascinate me."

Teddy frowns at her, but doesn't dare say a word against it. She's fragile enough as it is.

/

She calls him from a Muggle payphone one night, with lots of noise and music in the background. He's not used to using Muggle telephones and it hurts his ears to listen to her slurred voice, begging for him to come and get her at the address of a popular club in London. He throws on a jacket and yells where he's going to Victoire as he walks out the door without wasting a minute.

He Apparates there as soon as he finds a place with no anti-Apparition wards, but she's nowhere to be seen. Scantily clad Muggle girls blink at him with long, false eyelashes and seductive smirks, but he pays them no mind, desperately searching for a girl who could snap his sanity like a wig. He swears loudly when he realises she's not there and takes off running in the streets, looking for her.

He passes the alley where they found her that night. With a gulp, he looks in there. It's dark and he can barely see, so he looks around and casts a Lumos, terrified of what he might find.

There's nothing. He's never been more relieved and terrified.

And then it hits him, harder than anything physical ever could — he knows where she is. He Apparates there without another thought, and finds her standing at the coast at high tide, her arms out like a cross, her red hair, grown back down to her shoulder blades, flowing freely behind her, so much like fire she burns.

He runs behind her, panting, but stops a few feet before he can reach her.

"I waited for you." Her voice is eerily calm and steady.

His heart is pounding in his chest. "I came! Why did you leave? I was worried as fuck."

She turns around and smiles at him. It scares him more than any dark wizard, any Muggle thriller, any Unforgivable Curse. "I hurt myself today," she tells him, "just to see if I still feel."

His heart stops. "Do you?" The smell of the dark is musky, thick. It takes over ever sense he's got.

Lily stares back at him, desperation in her eyes and a smirk on her mouth. She jerks her head once. "I thought there'd be a sunset here, a silhouette at least," she muses aloud, "but it's only dark."

"Lily, it's midnight." He steps forward, but she steps back at the same time, her heels touching the waves. "Lily, you're scaring me!"

She nods her head in agreement. "That's the problem."

And then she steps backwards, closes her eyes, and disappears. Apparates into thin air. Gone off to wherever it is she goes.

/

It all falls apart again on a cold September night. They found her in the bathtub, James tells him with wet eyes and a flushed face. Bleeding wrists and pills all over the bathroom floor. Muggle whiskey by her side. Her eyes yellow. So much blood you couldn't tell the difference between it and her hair. Barely alive when she got to St. Mungo's.

They check her in there for six months. Suicide attempts are not appreciated in the Wizarding World. Victoire won't look him in the eye.

/

He tries to visit her once — but the floor for her kind of treatment (mental patients) is so cold it's like an ice cave, sucking out all the life from his body. He curves in on himself and can't bring himself any further than the elevator. He wonders for a fleeting second if Professor Neville's parents still reside here, but remembers how they'd died years back. He practically runs out of the hospital and can't breathe for days.

He keeps seeing Lily's pale, dead body in his nightmares after that. Her hair flows all the way down to her feet and her eyes are black to match her pupils. He touches her arm and then realises her hair is blood and it covers them both, washes them down into the ground.

/

The six months are past and he's too much of a coward to do anything about it.

/

The door of his flat — Victoire has long since given it to him, moved out and in with a boyfriend — shakes with someone's firm knock, and he goes to it, expecting a neighbour needing a cup of sugar or whatever excuse Muggles use to ruin someone's day.

Instead it's a girl with hazel-green eyes and dark red hair that goes back down to her waist, and the kind of smile that makes him forget how to speak.

He loses his breath for so long that her wide grin curves back down into a worried grimace. And then — "Lily!" — and he holds her tight, spins her around. She lands back on the ground with a thump, her teeth white and her eyes clouded.

"Teddy," she breathes, and his world falls apart and back together again. "Fancy seeing you here." He can still see the hollow in her face. He knows this time that neither of them is over it. Neither of them is okay.

But both of them have gotten better at hiding it.

/

"I think I made you up inside my head."
—Sylvia Plath