a/n- I finally finished it after weeks of trying to get it done! This is for my beautiful beautiful twinny Bri (swirling-summernotes) for her birthday which was on November 22 (extremely belated, I know). This girl is absolutely wonderful - she's just the best friend anyone could ever ask for. I love her crazy amounts and twinny, I really hope you enjoy this piece! :)

and please do not favourite without leaving a review, thank you.


warning- heavy cousincest. do not read if you don't like it.


we looked like giants

I'm out of touch, I'm out of love, I'll do it all for you in time,
and after all these things I've done, I think I love you better now.
lego house – ed sheeran.

-:-

He kisses her one day in a sun split forest with the red and gold of the leaves beneath their feet.

And that's how it begins.

-:-

The evening is Dominique's favourite time, especially when the day perches on the cusp of dusk and twilight. She likes it when the sky is dark blue and she can hear nothing but the crickets and her own thoughts, chasing her around the labyrinth of her mind. She likes it when she can see the sky gradually darken to dark and feel the air becoming chillier as the sun slips below the horizon. She likes it when she can see the long grass in the field outside of her house blow gently in the evening breeze.

She watches, perched on the balustrade of her balcony, as the crescent moon rises higher in the sky and the stars begin to peek out. It's easy to imagine falling, here, with her legs over what seems like the edge of the world. It's a long way down, but much too short a drop at the same time. She almost wishes the ground were further away.

Into the night, she whispers, "I wish I was perfect."

That's also how it begins.

-:-

What you need to first know about the story of Dominique Weasley and James Sirius Potter is that it has many beginnings.

What you also need to know is that it has many endings, and not all of them are happy.

-:-

Dominique likes attention.

She likes the sense of power it brings, the security that comes with it. True, everyone might be waiting for you to mess up, but that doesn't mean you're going to. And if there's one thing Dominique Weasley does not do, it's mess up. She's always all almost-perfect eyeliner, almost-perfect body, almost-perfect hair.

In reality, almost-perfect Dominique is a long way away from perfection.

She waltzes into the house in a too short skirt with heels the colour of the night sky and pretends she doesn't notice the stares that cousin James sends her way. She pretends she doesn't notice when he visibly sits up a little straighter in his seat, but not too much because his father, famous Harry Potter, is sitting next to him. She winks imperceptibly in his direction and tugs loosely at the hem of her skirt, tossing her hair over her shoulder.

Dominique Weasley knows she is desirable. She just thinks she could be better.

"Dominique," scolds her mother from beside the oven. "Do you really theenk our family members want to see your underwear? Change your skirt right now."

She smirks, glancing back at James, muttering, "Well, one of them certainly does."

"What was that?" her mother asks, levitating a batch of cookie dough into the oven.

"Nothing," she replies. James' eyes are upon her again and he runs a hand through his messy dark hair hopefully. She grins at him, leaning on the counter so that even more of her leg is exposed. Maybe she shouldn't be playing him this way because, you know, they're cousins and it's wrong, but Dominique can't resist. It's not like anything's going to come from it except from her amusement. It's not like this is the first time his eyes have been glued to her exposed skin.

"Go and change your skirt," her mother says forcefully, slamming the oven door shut. "You are only seventeen. I weel not have my daughter looking like a…" She frowns dangerously and leaves her sentence hanging, allowing Dominique to imagine the ending of it.

Still staring at James, she replies, "Of course, Mother," before walking around the table and hovers at the stairs. "Bye, Uncle Harry. James." She lingers over his name like it's something special in the hope that he'll notice and oh, he does. His eyes widen by a fraction, his confused look quickly being replaced by a charming grin that she's seen upon his face many times before.

"Bye, Dom," he says, a hand adjusting his glasses absently.

She jerks her head in a way that says, Follow me, and then proceeds upstairs. Moments later, she hears James mutter something about needing the bathroom and coming up the stairs after her. She meets him at the top and almost immediately his lips are on hers and her hand is in his hair and then there's the small fact that they're cousins, but who's caring? James is James and Dominique is Dominique and she doesn't know what this is but James' hand is on her leg and she doesn't think of anything else in the world but him.

His lips work almost furiously against hers and she barely has the sense to drag him into her bedroom and slam the door shut behind them. They never once part, moving almost in sync with one another.

Eventually, they push each other away, panting heavily and staring at the other. James' hair is even more messed up and she dreads to think what hers looks like after having his fingers combing through it haphazardly. His eyes shine brightly, their colour a sparkling hazel. In this light, he looks almost animalistic and Dominique can't help herself as she crosses the room and smashes her mouth onto his once more. There is nothing romantic about this whatsoever but she doesn't think either of them are looking for romance, so she continues to kiss him.

"You're keen," remarks James, once they finally let one another go again. His back in still against the wall she had pushed him up against.

"Excuse me?" She raises an eyebrow, letting him know that he's swimming into dangerous waters. "I'm keen?"

He grins in a way she supposes would be charming if she wasn't contemplating hitting him. "All right, calm down. No need to get all worked up about it."

"You're an arse," she mutters, shaking her head.

"Shut up," James says, his hands already working their way down the slope of her neck, past her collarbones, along the gentle curve of her spine, "and kiss me again."

-:-

James likes attention.

He likes the sense of comfort it brings and the way people listen to him when he's in the spotlight. People are still waiting for him to mess up but he's James Sirius Potter and he simply does not understand the concept of messing up. The ground he walks on is paved with gold and bad intentions and leads straight to the land of Tarnished Reputation. But he knows his reputation will always remain sparkling gold no matter what he does.

James is not perfect and he is perfectly okay with that.

He catches sight of Dominique across the courtyard at Hogwarts. She sits alone, leaning against the stone wall of the castle. A piece of parchment rests on her lap but she's not writing; she's not doing anything, really. In fact, it looks almost like she's waiting. So, he summons all of his Gryffindor courage and joins her, sliding down the wall and into a sitting position.

"Hey," he says, a little awkwardly. She stares at her parchment for a little longer before finally raising her eyes to meet his.

"Eventually," she says, twirling a lock of her blonde hair around her finger.

"Eventually?" he repeats, confused. "Why, 'eventually'?"

Dominique rolls her eyes. "I've been watching you standing over there staring at me for the past ten minutes. I wondered when you were going to pull yourself together and come over." A smirk rests on her lips and suddenly, James doesn't feel so sure of himself. She has that effect on him; he always ends up questioning everything when he's around her.

"I didn't know if you wanted me to come over," he replies honestly.

"You would've come over even if I didn't," she says. "Don't give me that look. I know you too well."

James grins crookedly. "You do, cousin." His tongue trips over the final word and it comes out laden with emotions he doesn't want – longing and desire and a traitorous twist of lust. It's funny how he can go from uncertain to cocky in just a fraction of a second, but then, he doesn't think Dominique will notice. She's the exact same.

"What do you want?" she asks, eyes back on her parchment.

"I want a lot of things," he replies, "but mostly just to know what the hell that was last week."

The corners of her mouth quirk up. "I don't know what you mean."

"Bullshit, Dom." James raises his eyebrows. "You know exactly what I mean."

She pauses, pretending to think. "Oh, yeah. You mean when you attacked me with your mouth at the family gathering. I remember now."

"I did not attack you," James says hotly. "And you didn't protest. In fact, if my memory is correct, you kissed me after that. Clearly," he smirks triumphantly, "you didn't regard it as an attack at the time."

"All right, all right." She bites her lip as if to stop herself smiling. "Don't get your panties in a twist. So I exaggerated a little," callously, she waves a hand, "what's new, eh?"

He rolls his eyes. "Why do you do that?"

"Do what?"

"That – that thing where you try to make everyone mad," he tries to explain. "It's infuriating."

"Well, obviously it's working then if you're so infuriated by it." She grins lazily. "Anything else?"

"You're impossible," James tells her, and the only answer he gets is a sultry wink and a, "Goodbye, cousin." He sighs, picks up his bag and retreats, defeated. Dominique is completely and utterly maddening, and the thing is – he thinks he might like it a lot. It's different. Annoying, yes, but different nonetheless. Most of the other girls who pay him any attention are so eager to please him, ready to jump at his beck and call.

But James doesn't want that. Strangely enough, the only girl he can imagine wanting is Dominique, and there's a massive sticky label declaring FORBIDDEN over that.

Yes, James might have the slightest hint of feelings for his cousin but hey, he never claimed to be perfect.

-:-

"I wish I were perfect," she says.

There's no one around. Just Dominique, the crisp autumn leaves and the twilight. Everyone else is inside, huddling up in their Common Rooms from the cold, talking mindlessly about classes and relationships and things that will never matter in the long run. The air is chilly, the evening wind swirling around her mercilessly. She shivers and wraps her arms around herself in a futile attempt to keep warm.

To no one, she repeats, "I wish I were perfect."

"Why?" a voice says, almost lost in the whistling of the wind between the trees. She shivers again, only this time it's not from the cold. "Why, Dominique?" The voice plagues her again and again when she refuses to answer. Instead, she merely lowers her head and purses her lips, unable to articulate her thoughts. The wind is relentless. It whips her hair and stings her eyes and slaps at her skin. The voice asks, "Why, why, why."

"Go away, James," she says. Her voice comes out muffled. "Just go away."

He sits down next to her, unyielding. He will not move. "What are you doing out here?"

The wind screams in her ear, whywhywhy. She ignores it. She ignores James. She tries to ignore everything. It never works. "More like what are you doing out here," she retorts, still not looking at him. His eyes burn into her; she ignores it. The wind pulls at her hair, her robes, her scarf. She refuses to bend.

"A walk," James replies. "Just a walk."

Dominique fiddles with the lining of her pockets. "All alone? While all your friends are having fun in Gryffindor Tower without you? I find that hard to believe." She has not looked at him once.

"Suppose you'll just have to," he says casually. His tone becomes more serious, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing to do with you," she says sharply. "Stop pretending to care, James. I know you want to shag me. Well, I've got news for you: I'm your cousin. You know what that means? Off fucking limits." The wind rages as her voice picks up in pitch. "So you can stop pretending now. You didn't fool me in the first place, anyway. I know you too well, remember?"

James says, "Maybe you don't know me as well as you think." It's tiny, almost a whisper, but Dominique hears it as if he had shouted it in her ear. She shivers. "You're cold," he states.

"I'm not," she denies immediately.

"You know, you don't have to be so defensive all the time," he says quietly. "It's okay to be vulnerable. It's okay to have weaknesses. You just need to realise that and it'll all be fine."

"Will it?" Finally, she looks at him. His hazel eyes sparkle against the hazy blue of dusk. He looks earnest in the dying light; his lips are half quirked up in an encouraging smile and he looks more comfortable than she's ever seen him. She wants to trust him, Merlin she does, but she doesn't know if she can. "James, will it really?"

"Yeah," he says. His eyes shine with honesty and for a split second, he resembles his father more than he ever has. They both have the same warm eyes (albeit James' are hazel); the same caring smile when they want to; the same stubborn determination. "'Course it will, Dominique. Just believe you'll be okay and you will." He shrugs. "Always worked with me."

She smiles tentatively, pulling her robes in closer around her to ward off the cold. "Okay, James. I'll be okay."

"Yeah." His lips quirk up in a smile. "Yeah, you will."

-:-

James never thought he would see Dominique so vulnerable again.

He was wrong.

-:-

"Hey, Dominique?" he asks, bumping his shoulder against hers in what's supposed to be a gesture of friendship.

She rolls her eyes and looks at him scathingly. "What, James?"

"You're all right, aren't you?" He examines her: the shadows smudged under her eyes, the hastily pulled back hair, the mismatching clothes. She looks like hell.

"I'm fine," she answers shortly.

"Sure?" he presses.

With a sigh, she says, "Yes, James. I'm fine. Great, in fact. Now shut up."

"I'm a lot of things," says James, "but stupid isn't one of them. Don't lie to me."

"I'm not lying," she insists, and with a huff, she turns and marches off in the opposite direction. James watches her go thoughtfully. She's not the overconfident, seductive girl she was during the summer, that's for sure. Or maybe she was never that girl. Maybe who she's always been is the girl he saw last night, shaking and anxious and not at all like anyone ever expected Dominique Weasley to be.

-:-

The dungeon is chilly at this time of year. Hell, it's chilly any time of the year that isn't June and even then it has its moments. She sits under the low swinging light of the girl's dormitory's bathroom and reads. The door is locked; it's the only way she gets peace. Her bare feet touch the tiled floor lightly and she pulls her black robes around her tighter as a draught whistles in from the cracks in the wall. For the first time, she's jealous of the other Houses and their well lit, toasty Common Rooms.

She swings her feet over so they now sit perched on the side of the bath and attempts to concentrate on her book. The seat of the toilet she's sitting on is cold and for a split second, she wants to go out into the dorm where it's at least heated magically. But then she hears the noise her room mates are making and debates against it.

Dominique swears the draught is getting colder every second as it slips through, chilling her feet. Sighing, she stands up and is immediately confronted with her reflection in the mirror. Her hair hangs limp around her face, its normal wave gone. Her chin is too pointed, she thinks critically, and runs her hand down the side of her face. If she tilts her head a certain way, she looks exactly like her sister. Irritated by this, she turns away from the mirror with a frown.

Maybe, like James said, maybe she doesn't have to be perfect. But she's Dominique Weasley and it's just expected of her.

"I wish," she says to the mirror, but she doesn't finish her sentence. With a satisfied smile, she shoots a hex at the mirror and it shatters all over the bathroom. Now, perhaps, she'll get some peace.

-:-

Dominique wishes.

-:-

He finds her under the beech tree, alone – as she seems to be most times he sees her – with a Charms textbook in her lap. She's absent-mindedly levitating sticks and pieces of bark then casting them into the lake. Cautiously, he approaches her, remembering that the last time he spoke to her, she stormed off, and Dominique is definitely someone who can hold a grudge.

"Hi," he says, stretching the word out as he takes a seat next to her. "What's up?"

"Just leaving," she replies curtly. With a snap, she shuts her textbook and pushes it into her bag. "The company suddenly got a whole lot worse."

James sighs exasperatedly. "You're being irrational."

"That's a big word for you," she remarks.

He decides that this isn't the best time to bring up that it's what his mum always says to his dad when he's in a mood with her. "The situation called for it."

"The situation can fuck off," she says tersely, glaring at him. "Don't say anything," she adds as he opens his mouth to protest. "And by 'the situation' I meant you." She smiles in a sickly sweet way. "Goodbye, James."

He pauses in mock thought. "Don't think so."

"Don't push me," she warns, eyes flashing.

He grins at her. "I'm a Gryffindor. It's what I do."

"You could do with a bit of self preservation at times," she grumbles, but to his surprise, she seems to be softening. "Oh, go on then. Sit there if you want, it doesn't matter to me either way. I'm content ignoring you, and believe me – I'm good at ignoring people." He would have got up and left there and then if he didn't notice that she was trying to keep a smirk off her face as she spoke.

"Yeah, yeah," he says, waving a hand. "I've heard it all before."

"Why can't I stay mad at you?" she asks, huffing. "It's like staying mad at a puppy or something, especially when you pull those eyes."

"What eyes?" James asks innocently.

"Those ones!" she exclaims. "You know fine well, James Potter."

"I like that our surnames aren't the same," he says suddenly; quietly. She looks at him in surprise and he shakes his head with a soft sigh. "It just makes it easier to pretend for a minute that we're not cousins." Even though he can see the similarities: the shape and colour of their eyes, inherited from grandma Molly; the too alike way that their lips curve upwards in a smirk; the curve of their jaw. They're mirror images of one another, moving in time and pressing their hands to the glass as their breath fogs it up, staring.

Dominique bites her lip. "James, I—"

He looks at her, waiting for her to continue. But instead, she remains silent.

After what seems like an eternity, she says quietly, "What will our families think?"

"Who cares what they'll think, Dom?" James bursts out. "Stop allowing yourself to be so shaped by other people's perceptions of you. Live a little! Life isn't about being perfect, it's about making all the bloody mistakes you can. When are you going to realise that?" He stares at her, daring her to say something.

She continues to bite her lip, eyes downturned. It's as if she can't bring herself to look at him. They sit there in silence for a long time, long after the moment has passed and he no longer feels a strong surge of frustration towards the slim blonde girl to his left. Idly, he watches the autumn sunshine dance on the lake, the droplets of light occasionally blinding him as they flow with the water.

"It's easy for you," she says eventually, her voice stronger. "You have everything. You have parents who will accept you no matter what. You're popular, you have no one to live up to. You're good at Quidditch and girls love you. You don't need to put up a front to impress people, they like you anyway. We're so different, James. Why can't you see that?"

"Bullshit," says James loudly. "Stop with the self pity. I have no one to live up to? In case you haven't noticed, my father is Harry Potter. And that front you think I don't need to put up? You see it every day. Except when I'm alone with you, or Al, or Lily, or Rose. You're the only four people I can be entirely me around and not be ashamed of it. Like hell are we different."

He never gets a reply to that.

-:-

James waits.

-:-

Dominique's mind is occupied by thoughts of James and her family these days. Mostly James, if she's honest. (Though, James comes under the label of family too, she reminds herself as she ignores that twisting feeling in the pit of her stomach.) And under no circumstances does she want to be honest about it – it infuriates the hell out of her whenever she closes her eyes and James' laughing face is there, taunting her with everything she can't have.

The thought of what her family would say if they found out is also almost constantly at the forefront of her mind. She can imagine her mother's scandalised face as she says, "I think I'm in love with my cousin," and her father's disappointed head shake. Victoire's incredulous stare and Louis' grin as he automatically assumes she's just having a laugh.

She thinks of the attention she'd get – the stares, the whispers, the rumours; haven't you heard Dominique Weasley is in love with her cousin? – and feels the familiar lurch in her stomach. She's always loved attention, loved the way it makes her feel, the power it brings. And with attention often comes imperfection, it's like the two go hand in hand.

"I think I'm in love with my cousin," she says aloud, watching her mouth move in the mirror. She sees the shadows of James in the corners of her lips, hidden in the slight gap between her two front teeth, lurking in the warm shade of her eyes. "I think I'm in love with my cousin." And oh, don't those words feel so good spilling from her mouth, unadulterated and hot with a combination of fear and pride.

She thinks she could get used to this feeling.

"I think I'm in love with James."

There, that sounds better.

-:-

"Save me," she breathes into his ear, hands trembling as they trace his body like it means nothing, absolutely nothing. Her voice shakes like she's going to cry, through her jaw is firm; unwavering. She remains stoic and strong except from those two little words that keep spilling out, keep begging, hoping, "Save me, save me, save me."

James tries.

-:-

Wishing and waiting aren't so different in the long run.

-:-

She laughs in the autumn sunshine with the red and gold leaves around her and the grass crisp beneath her feet and he has never heard anything like it.

The thing about Dominique is that she looks very beautiful in all seasons but in autumn, she seems to be at one with the trees and the leaves that spiral to the ground on the light breeze, the bite in the morning air and the breath that scatters into the air in cold wisps. She spins and dances, dressed in her quirky fashion. The leaves crackle under her brown boots as she runs, clutching her too big, brightly patterned sweater around her.

James smiles, leaning against a tree. He likes Dominique like this: carefree and wild. She looks like he would imagine a wood nymph to look, with her pointed chin and pouty lips and messy blonde waves. After a while, she glances back at him, grinning.

"Well, don't just stand there, James," she says, rolling her eyes. She jogs back to him. "Aren't you coming?"

"Coming where?" He can't help but smile at her excitement over nothing. It's contagious.

She laughs. "Anywhere. Anywhere at all." She grabs his hand and drags him along, twisting round trees and down to the edge of the Black Lake. Its surface is still and tranquil today; the Giant Squid is nowhere in sight. They're on the opposite side from where students normally sit, looking out across the water to the castle. It stands magnificent with all its turrets and towers, a mystical grey against the clouded sky.

"Still as beautiful as it was when we first saw it, eh?"

"Yeah," Dominique answers, smiling as she pulls her skirt down a little. It's as short as ever, he notices, stopping just halfway down her thigh. "Hey, James. Do you think wishes come true?"

"No," he answers honestly. "Only if you make them come true."

"I wish they did." She sighs, sitting down on the cold ground. The tip of her boots dip into the water that laps on the shore. "I wish I didn't wish that they did."

"Stop it," says James gently. "If this is about the other night—"

Dominique raises her head, gaze piercing. "Shut up, James. That never happened."

But James has never done what people told him to. "You don't have to be perfect, you know. Perfection is overrated." He grins cockily. "Look at me. Not perfect and still amazing."

"You're an arrogant bastard, I hope you know that," she tells him solemnly. The wind blows around her and she slides the cuffs of her jumper over her hands to keep them warm. It pushes through his hair and makes him seek refuge in his grey Muggle hoodie as his exposed skin is nipped at. She winces. "Victoire is perfect."

James lets out a breath and sits down next to her. "No she's not."

"She is," Dominique says in a small voice. "Everyone loves her. She's beautiful, smart, funny, has a great boyfriend and loads of friends. She can't do anything wrong, even if she tried." She sighs and finishes bitterly, "And my parents like her more than me. They claim they don't have favourites but it's pretty damn obvious. I'm not good enough for them."

"Dominique," he says firmly. "You don't have to be Victoire to be good enough. You're good enough being you. If there's one thing having Harry Potter as a father has taught me, it's to always just be yourself. And if people don't like it," he shrugs, "fuck 'em. That's all you can do, really. You're smart too, smarter than you give yourself credit for. You're funny, but in a different way to your sister. You're more sarcastic and dry, and—"

"You mean bitchy," she laughs weakly.

"Well, a bit," he admits. "And you'll – you'll get a great boyfriend." He swallows, not quite sure why his stomach is filled with the unfamiliar sensation of butterflies. "And you've got friends. And," he hesitates. "You're beautiful too."

"James…" she starts.

"I know, I know," he says quickly. "We're cousins who happened to have shared a snog or two. It's not right. Our family will kill us if they find out. But, Merlin, Dom. I'd have to be blind if I didn't see it, I—"

"James." She's smiling. "Shut up. Emotional speeches aren't your thing. I get it. Oh, God, do I get it. We're just… I can't explain." She pauses, as if trying to find the right words. "It's like there's this connection between us. It's wrong, yes, but it's there. And I can't ignore it. Fucking hell, James, I've tried. But it's you I keep coming back to. Always bloody you."

"I think it's about time we take a risk," he says seriously.

"I think it is too," she replies, and then her lips are on his and his hand is in her hair and his other is cupped around the side of her face. This is possibly the biggest risk either of them have ever taken – even James, ever the Gryffindor – and it's also possibly the best risk they've ever taken. James can't remember something ever feeling so right; they just seem fit together like two pieces of a puzzle. Just DominiqueandJames, the way it's always been; the two of them against the world.

Amidst the autumn leaves and Dominique's woollen sweater, he can't think of anywhere else that he'd rather be.

-:-

"We don't tell anyone," she breathes into his ear. "Agreed?"

"Agreed," he promises.

-:-

They become quite the duo, Dominique and James. As children, they were always the two who concocted the craziest schemes and got caught out in the end, banished to their rooms until everyone else went home. They were always partners in crime, just James-and-Dominique, like their names strung together meant something. Like they could hang the soft rhythm of their names in the stars and people would just look.

Now, it's become more of a whispered Dominique and James, James and Dominique, voices hushed just in case someone else hears. But for now, their dirty little secret is safe and their nights consist of broom closets and James' hand fisted in Dominique's hair and her arm slung loosely around his neck, like it belongs there. Like she has a right to have it there.

Like they're not cousins.

And yet, there's something in the way James can truly be himself around Dominique in the way that only family can be – something that hangs unspoken in the air – "you're cousins and you should know better". But they are young, limitless, and there's no stopping when you think you're on top of the world. Only hitting rock bottom can bring you down.

So rock bottom it is.

-:-

And Dominique is still wishing, still hoping with the tiniest flare of faith that's left in her heart (perfection) – after James ripped it all away and replaced it with new, shinier faith in something else.

But she's getting there.

-:-

James likes to kiss her outside. She doesn't quite know why, but there seems to be something about the outdoor air that unwinds him and allows him to just be. He pulls her through the scattered trees on the grounds and kisses her below each one when no one is watching. She likes to pull the golden leaves out of his air and toss them callously to the ground and never think about them again, because – let's face it, who cares about leaves when James is there?

He likes to kiss her with one hand inching up her painfully short skirt. She'll slap it away, laughing into him as he recoils in shock each time (like he doesn't know it's coming). James – well, James is a blur of autumn colours and Gryffindor scarves with Slytherin green fringed around the edges, and all she wants to do is take him down to the lake and announce to everyone that she has never been happier than she is now.

"See," James will say, one hand on her waist and the other on the tree behind her, "see, Dom, perfection is overrated. And – oh, Merlin, Dominique—" She has long since realised that he has a thing for full names when she's kissing him. "—you just," he hisses, "perfectly imperfect. Or so my sister says. Some inspirational crap like that—"

"James," Dominique says seriously, looking him straight in the eye. "I don't mean to be rude, but you talking about your sister when we're snogging is really a turn off."

"Yeah," he replies distractedly. "Yeah, of course."

"Idiot," she mutters, before his lips crash onto hers once again.

-:-

The cool breeze blows James' dark hair as he leans out the window of the Astronomy Tower. The sky is two a.m blue, scattered with stars. From here, he can see the Dog Star shining as brightly as ever, glimmering in the dark. It seems so very far away from where he stands, tiny and insignificant, yet much too close. He can imagine stretching out, extending his arm and grabbing it in the palm of his hand.

"Second star to the right," says a voice from behind him, "and straight on till morning."

James turns around to see Dominique standing there, her hair pulled back into a messy ponytail and her makeup smudged. She smiles slightly, arms crossed to ward off the chill, and moves forward in one fluid motion to join him. He finds himself transfixed by the gentle swaying of her hair as the wind playfully tugs at it. With effort, he tears his gaze away from it and says, "What's that from?"

"Peter Pan," she replies, looking out the window. "The film version. It's how they get to Neverland."

"I didn't have you down as liking Muggle things," he says.

She shrugs. "I like some things. Books and films. Some music."

"Yeah?" he asks. "What music?"

Dominique pauses. "Let's see… I love the Beatles, the Kinks, the Who–"

"You like the Who?" James interrupts.

She blinks in surprise. "Yeah. Why?"

"Nothing. Just, they're really good, aren't they?"

Enthusiastically, she nods. "Definitely. I own most of their albums on vinyl. I have Who's Next almost memorised."

"My Generation was always my favourite," James says, "I love the title track."

"Why am I not surprised?" she says wryly, raising her eyebrows.

"What are you trying to say?" he asks, but he's grinning.

"Oh, nothing." She smiles in what he imagines would be an innocent fashion if she was anyone else. Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be anything even resembling innocence when Dominique Weasley is involved. He merely raises an eyebrow sardonically and she laughs into the night, elbows over the edge of the window and her face resting on one hand.

"Yeah, right," he says, "I certainly believe you."

"You better," she replies, and they laugh themselves into silence. The sound echoes around the tower for moments after they stop, and James finds Dominique staring at him. Her gaze is intense and unadulterated; it's like she's looking straight into his brain and reading every thought he's ever had. He shifts uncomfortably from one foot to the other before saying, "What?"

"What?" she replies absently, eyes flickering away from his face at last.

"You were staring at me."

"Oh," she says, like she wasn't aware of it. "Was I? I'm sorry."

He scrutinises her for a moment. "You've changed."

She blinks. "In what way?"

He pauses, choosing his words carefully before he speaks. "You're very different from the girl who paraded about in a tiny skirt and rammed me up against the wall during the summer."

There's a pause during which he thinks she's absorbing the information. She says, "Good different or bad different?"

"Well, I don't think the girl I knew during the summer would let me be this close to her emotionally," he says softly. "I don't think she would have confessed to me her fears or desires. I don't think she'd have kissed me so passionately. I don't think she would have let me shout at her and tell her to quit the self pity. So yeah, I'd say good different." He turns his back to the sky, looking across the tower at the magnificent architecture. "I like this Dominique a lot more."

She remains silent for a while, and then quietly, she says, "I like her, too."

He grins. "That's good then."

"You, however," she says, tongue between her teeth as she smirks, "haven't changed a bit."

"Go on."

"You're still the same cocky arsehole you were a few months ago."

"Well, thanks," he grumbles. "I try to be nice and get it all thrown back in my face."

"Oh, shut up," she says easily, reaching out and ruffling his hair. "Why doesn't it ever sit flat?"

He groans. "Blame my father. Or maybe my grandfather. Bloody Potter genes."

"Better a Potter than a Weasley," she says seriously. "I couldn't imagine you with red hair."

He considers that for a moment. "No, me neither. It would look terrible with my skin tone."

"You're such a girl," she laughs.

"So are you," he retorts, without thinking.

"Well observed," she says, grinning.

"Damn," he says.

She looks at him out of the corner of her eye, biting her lip in an attempt to fight the grin threatening to form there. From here, she can just make out the mountains in the distance, the shadows of them dark against the navy of the sky. She hums under her breath lightly for a moment and then sings, "People try to put us down, just because we get around."

James grins and finishes, "Things they do look awful cold, I hope I die before I get old."

She laughs, kisses him, and whispers, "This is my generation."

-:-

I said once before that this is a story, not only with many beginnings, but also with many endings.

This is where they start.

-:-

I suppose, really, the end starts right here, when one fifth year Prefect by the name of Rayna Nott, housemate of Dominique and former girlfriend of James, catches them in the corridor long after dark.

"Excuse me," she says, voice raised. "Please go back to your dormitories."

"Huh?" James disentangles himself from Dominique and turns his head to see his ex standing there. "R-Rayna. Merlin, I—"

She eyes them suspiciously. "Dominique? What are you… Hold on, aren't you two—?"

"Aren't we what?" Dominique asks fiercely, taking a step forward and fixing her hair. "Aren't. We. What?"

"Cousins," finishes Rayna, looking at them with a mixture of curiosity and disgust.

"Caught red handed," mutters James, shifting from foot to foot. Normally he's good in situations that require him to step up and take charge but, right now, he's standing frozen like a deer caught in the headlights. This isn't something he had prepared for – he always knew it was only a matter of time, he just never imagined it would come quite so soon. He had hoped – oh, how he had hoped – that they might have had a little more time left together than this.

"What's it to you?" asks Dominique, folding her arms and glaring. She ignores the calming hand James places on her shoulder. "You're not going to tell anyone."

"And why," says Rayna, raising her eyebrows, "would I do that?"

"Rayna, please." James steps forward, elbowing Dominique. "Don't tell anyone. Please."

She considers him, head tilted to the side and surveying him. After a long moment that seemed like eternity, she agrees, "Okay."

-:-

Dominique should've known that Slytherins rarely keep their word.

-:-

It happens on a rainy day, with water lashing at the battlements and turrets of the castle that seems suddenly so distant and cold, like she could touch its walls and they wouldn't feel like home any more. No one knows, and then all at once, everyone knows. Whispers linger in the air after she passes groups of girls and wolf whistles when she passes groups of boys. It makes her sick to her stomach, like the reality of it all has so quickly set in.

It seems like everywhere she goes, people are talking and pointing at her, like she's some sort of circus freak. The disgust in their eyes makes her lower her head and walk briskly past as if she doesn't know what they're gossiping about. All too quickly, the whispers she had imagined in her head as a joke have become real life and it hurts her a lot more than she'll ever let on.

"Hey, Weasley," a voice hisses after her in the corridor one day, "I hear Fred's single these days. You interested?" The boy winks at her in a way that he probably thinks is sexy, but really, it's just kind of pathetic the way his eye scrunches up and how his lips pout a little. He repulses her so much that she doesn't even think twice about it before she has him up against the wall, wand pointed rigidly at his neck.

"You shut up," she breathes, anger(shame?) pulsing through her, "you shut up right now, or I'll tell the entire school that you're fucking Melanie Cobb. And by the entire school, I mean your girlfriend, McLaggen."

His eyes widen by a fraction. "Let me go."

"The hell I will," she retorts, jabbing her wand into his skin. "Give me one good reason."

He mumbles something unintelligible.

"Yeah," she says vindictively, "I thought so. Now, I wonder what hex to use on you." She pauses in mock thought, though her grip around him does not lessen. He could probably get away if he wanted, she realises – she's not the strongest out, but McLaggen doesn't appear to be as stupid as he looks and has by now realised that if he makes a run for it, she'll hex him anyway. "Perhaps I'll make all your hair fall out and not grow back for six months?" Her eyes linger on the mop of curls that fall over his forehead. "Such a shame to ruin such lovely hair, but… you've got to do what you've got to do." With a smirk, she raises her wand.

"Dominique," groans a voice from behind her, tugging her away from McLaggen. "This is the sixth time this week. Merlin."

She spins around, frowning at James dangerously. "Have you heard the things they're saying about us? Surely…"

James sighs, running a hand through his unruly hair. "Yes, it's pretty hard not to notice, you know. But – and I never thought I'd say this – you can't just go around hexing people for gossiping, Dom."

"You two are disgusting." McLaggen sneers at them before high tailing it down the corridor.

Dominique glares at his retreating back before looking back to her cousin. "You see? How on earth do you expect me not to hex his balls off?"

James looks as if he would very much like to bang his head off a wall. "Not the point."

"What is the point, then?"

"I – I don't know, Dom." His hand absently straightens his glasses, like he always does when he's unsure. "Just, try to ignore them, okay?"

She bites her lip, glancing down at the floor. "I – I'll try, okay? Not promising anything, but I'll try."

He surveys her for a moment. "That's better than the answer I was expecting."

"Oh?" She fights the rising smirk at her lips. "And what were you expecting?"

He shrugs. "Something like, 'Piss off, James, you massive prick. Don't tell me what to do'."

"I could still say that, if it'd make you happy." She gives in and grins.

"It'd make me happier than anything," says James, winking in a way that actually is rather sexy, she thinks. He smiles kind of uncertainly, one corner of his mouth pulling up higher than the other. She looks at him for a long moment before suddenly realising she's staring. Hastily, she averts her gaze, but then he says her name quietly and something compels her to look back up. He's staring right back at her, still smiling that half-smile. Steadily, he says, "I still believe in us, you know."

"Oh," she says slowly. "Well, that's good. Because I do, too."

Then he's kissing her all over again, and Merlin, for something that's so wrong it just feels so perfectly right. She grins as his back reaches the wall, and for a split second, she can pretend they're just like any other couple kissing in the Hogwarts hallways – like it's not forbidden; like it's not shunned. Dominique thinks that she will never, never need to try to be perfect again because right here, she is, and that – that is wonderful.

"Oi, that's horrible," shouts some kid down the hallway – a first or second year by the sounds of it.

Dominique smirks and stops what she's doing for a second to pull the finger at him.

"Getting there," murmurs James, before pressing his lips once again to hers.

It's not the end, so why does this feel something like goodbye?

-:-

Rumours do not take long to circulate around the entire school, Dominique has learned over the last week. Yet normally, what happens at Hogwarts stays at Hogwarts. Parents need never know of their child's sexual escapades or grand embarrassments, except, of course, if the child is extremely unlucky and through word of mouth, it reaches the outside world. And scandals as big as this rarely go unnoticed. So Dominique, when sent a furious letter from her parents, can't really bring herself to be surprised because she's always had the worst luck.

"Look. At. This." She throws the crumpled up piece of parchment at James' face as she walks him to Herbology. It hits him straight on the nose and he scowls at her before bending down to pick it up and precariously unfolding it. She watches him closely for any sign of reaction as his eyes scan through her mother's slanted script.

Eventually, he sighs and hands her it back. "That's bad."

She nods grimly. "Your parents will already know by now, surely. It'll be all round the entire family – their latest scandal since Uncle Percy got caught cheating on Aunt Audrey."

"Shit," groans James, hand over his eyes. "They're going to kill me."

"My mum will kill me first, trust me," she says, rolling her eyes. "Maybe I'll just stay at Hogwarts over Christmas."

"No way," he says. "I promised Mum I'd be home and no way am I going back there myself with this hanging in the air. If I'm going, you are too."

"How romantic," she states dryly. "We could have a double suicide or something."

He sticks his tongue out childishly. "Shut up. We're both going to die anyway."

"Ever the optimist, aren't you?"

"I prefer the term being realistic," he says, lips quirking. "I'm so not looking forward to this."

"We have a month to prepare ourselves," she says. "And then it's goodbye Dominique and James. I wonder if they'll let us choose what's on our gravestones?" She pauses, pretending to think. "Nah, they'll Avada Kedavra us the minute we step in the door."

James groans again. "We really are going to die, aren't we?"

"It's the end!" She responds by dramatically throwing an arm over her face, but when she takes it away and laughs with him, he can't help but wonder why her eyes are so sad.

-:-

The Potters' house is a modest little thing on the edge of Ottery St. Catchpole, not far from the Burrow where their grandparents live. Its roof is slanted and quaint; a weathercock wouldn't be out of place on it. The windows are framed on the inside by pale yellow curtains that are reminiscent of the countryside, and the garden is breathtaking in all its December glory – fringed with white frost that looks as though it has been dusted lightly over the top of the grass. Dominique can see her breath in the air, like a puff of white smoke. Next to her stands James, a steely glint in his eye and his fists clenched. Other than that, he looks completely relaxed, entirely at home.

Subtly, she pushes her hand against his and he loosened up a little in response to her touch. She slides her hand into his and squeezes him tightly. We will be okay, she is saying. He just looks at her in response, and she's shocked by the hopelessness she sees in his expression.

"Come on," she says quietly, pulling him forward up the little winding path that is bordered with grey stones. He follows, stumbling a little as he goes and it's then she realises – James is afraid. James. Fearless James who has probably never felt any real sense of fear in his life – James is terrified.

And she, for some reason, is not.

"We will be okay," she promises him as they stand outside the front door. Her hand is holding the knocker, ready to push it down. Her other hand is inside his and it's probably the only thing stopping him from running away as fast as he can.

"Will we?" James asks. They look at one another for a long moment and then she accepts defeat, knocking three times and pretending her heart isn't pounding against her ribcage harder than it ever has before.

She lets go of James' hand.

-:-

Disappointment is worse than anger. Much, much worse, Dominique thinks as she runs down to the stream that's beginning to freeze over. Her hair whips around her, coming down from its messy bun on the top of her head. Tears blur her eyes, threatening to spill over unless she keeps blinking hard to ward them off. The cold bites into her exposed fingers, nipping them until they're red raw. She can hear the grass crunch under her feet as she comes to a stop, gasping for air. Her hands are on her knees and she's bent over, sucking in air as fast as she can. The searing pain in her side almost distracts her for a moment. Almost.

She stays like that even after she's caught her breath – bent forward and panting. Weariness washes over her, leaving her legs weak and her hands trembling. She collapses onto the cold ground and draws her knees up to her chest, wrapping her arms around them. Her mother's face, twisted with a sad, sick sort of disappointment flashes across her mind, over and over. She shakes her head, trying to make the thought vanish but it doesn't work. How could her mother judge her like that? Didn't she fall in love with someone she shouldn't have as well? A Delacour, proud and ethereally beautiful, should never have married a Weasley, poor and graceless, so very unlike her ancestors. It's a similar situation between Dominique and James, except it isn't.

Because they are cousins. And that word feels so dirty, so tainted in her mouth as it spills past her lips and into the frigid air, but it is the truth. And the truth is a dirty, tainted thing.

Dominique shivers.

"We never had this problem with Victoire," her mother had whispered, so quietly it was no more than a breath but so powerful that it felt like a punch to her gut. Because of course Victoire would find a nice man and marry him and settle down and have three kids and a dog. Of course Victoire would. And Dominique's gone and fallen for her cousin and they will never be able to get married or have children. Not when it's so taboo that everyone grimaces at the thought.

Victoire, Victoire, Victoire. The simultaneous cause and solution to all her problems. Victoire hasn't shown her face yet, but Dominique does not doubt that she will eventually. But whether her sister will defend her or shun her, she has no idea. With Victoire, it can always go one way or the other.

Perfection is further from Dominique's grasp than it ever has been before. She stifles the sob rising up in her throat and it comes out as a muffled squeak. The tiny stream continues to flow gently, slowly, like it is in no hurry to get anywhere. She envies it for a brief moment; it cannot hurt, it cannot be hurt. It sounds like the perfect life. A life without emotion. How simple everything would be, she thinks. No ulterior motives for anything, just being. Right now, she cannot imagine anything better.

"Hey," says a rough voice from behind her. She turns her head to see James with his hands shoved in his pockets, grinning at her. It's a half hearted grin that doesn't quite reach his eyes, but it's good enough for now.

She returns his smile with a watery one of her own and it's then she realises she's been crying. Quickly, she wipes away the tears with her sleeve, hoping he hasn't seen. She wouldn't be surprised if he has. Nothing ever seems to escape James.

He sits down next to her and pushes a strand of hair back from her face. It makes her shiver more than the weather has, and she's not too sure if she should flinch away and tell him they can't be together. But James is looking at her so intensely, his hazel eyes burning into hers and it's all she can do not to look away from him because his gaze is so full of – something, something that should not be seen by her. Her lips part and she breathes out, her breath mists the air. And in that moment, she realises just how much she needs him to survive. Not to live, but to survive.

When he kisses her, it's slow and sweet and full of everything neither of them can bring themselves to say. It's a goodbye.

His lips leave hers after a moment but his face stays close to hers. They look at one another for a long moment before James breathes, "One more time. Please," and his voice is husky and he kisses her again. She holds him tightly against her body, feeling his heat seep through her knitted cardigan. He in turn pulls her into him, his hands hard around her like he can't bear to let her go. His lips move in sync with hers. His eyelashes tickle her cheek.

She may never be as close to him as she is now. Carefully, she realises him and her hands find his, gripping them tightly. When he draws away for what she knows will be the last time, his eyes are bright and his cheeks flushed. He opens as mouth as if to say something, but no words come out. The taste of him still lingers on her lips. Maybe it always will.

"You know we can't," she says, lowering her eyes. She can't look at him any longer.

"I know," he replies quietly. Their hands are still linked together, his fingers locked in the spaces between hers like it's the most natural, beautiful thing in the world. But it isn't, and it never will be. It is forbidden. It is shunned. It is wrong. They are wrong. "I know."

"James—" She inhales sharply, her gaze still fixed on the white-tipped grass. Can she? Can she really expose herself that much? "James, I l—"

"I know," says James. He does not let go of her hand. "I know."

And somehow, that is enough.

-:-

The next time James speaks to Dominique, it's six months later and his bedroom is littered with big cardboard boxes brimming with stuff. He hasn't yet had the time to perform an Undetectable Extension Charm on it because his mind has been preoccupied with other things like the pretty Muggle girl he slept with two nights ago and Dominique and moving out and how his mother will cry when he tells her he's already bought a small place and Dominique and how Lily will pretend not to care and how Albus won't bother trying to hide his emotions and Dominique, Dominique, Dominique.

She barges into his room in her typical hurricane style and comes to an immediate halt, staring in shock at the bareness of James' room. It takes every last inch of self control he has left to stop himself from looking at her. She's so close; he can hear her breathing. He can remember the last time he could hear her breathing and it sends a chill through his spine as he remembers the cold of the evening and the spectacular warmth radiating from her eyes. Suddenly, he doesn't think he can do this.

"You've been avoiding me," says Dominique, and though her eyes shine with what James swears are tears, her voice is steady.

He doesn't reply, just continues cramming things into boxes and forcing them in if they don't fit nicely.

"Are—" James hears her voice catch. "Are you going somewhere?"

At that, he finally looks up and is surprised by what he sees. He doesn't think he's ever seen Dominique's expression so torn. It sends a knife straight through his heart and it takes all of his courage to force out, "Yeah. Yeah, I'm moving."

"Moving," she repeats tonelessly, as though she has never heard the word before.

"Yeah," says James again, his voice coming out horribly cheerful. "Yeah, not far. Just – away. You know?" The words come out so fake that he winces the minute he says them. But you can't take words back.

Her brow furrows in confusion and her teeth tug at her bottom lip. It's such a familiar gesture that he has to look away, to look anywhere but her. Standing in the doorway of his bedroom. she looks so small and skinny. Her face has changed in six months of only seeing her when they passed in corridors. The once soft cheekbones are now more pronounced and angular, like her father's. She is not a carbon copy of Victoire anymore. No, where Victoire is all curls and curves, Dominique is pretty much straight up and down, more so than ever. She is entirely Dominique now.

"Why are you moving?" she asks.

The dam of emotion that James has spent months carefully building up suddenly bursts and he straightens up from where he was cramming a photo album sideways into a box. "What do you expect me to do?" he exclaims, brandishing the record he holds in his left hand. "Dominique, I can't—I can't watch you grow older, get a serious boyfriend, marry him. Love him. When—when he's not me." His voice cracks on the last word and all he wants to do is sink to the floor and yell at her to go away. "I can't watch you love someone that's not me. Can't you see that? Merlin – it's been, what, six months and you haven't left my mind." He inhales sharply. "I thought if I distracted myself with other meaningless girls then maybe you'd stop plaguing me." The record falls to the ground and he realises that it's My Generation by The Who. "But you never did."

Her eyes are fixed on the fallen record. "I'm sorry."

"For what?" he asks bitterly, picking up the vinyl.

"That I could never love you in the right way," she says. Her voice is barely more than a whisper. "For not loving you like a cousin when I should have. For not doing something about it. For letting this become something way over both of our heads. My mum's barely spoken to me since I got home. My dad acts normal but I can see it in his eyes. He's disgusted by us. Victoire told me she wants me to be happy but that I can't be happy with you. Louis sided with me and said that you can't help who you fall in love with." Her fingers twist in the pocket of her jeans relentlessly. "I've split my family in half."

A surge of longing rises up inside of James and he feels compelled to go and wrap her arms around her and tell her it's okay. But that would be lying.

"I'm sorry to hear that," he says instead, his tone brisk. There is nothing more he can do here. He knows it's better for the both of them if he pushes her away now instead of later. He wants to get out of this without breaking clean in two and the only way he can do that is if she leaves and he never sees her again. What is it going to be like, five, ten, twenty years down the line when they have families of their own? What is it going to be like when their eyes meet across a room filled with their children and other family members? He isn't ready for that kind of hurt just yet. The only thing he can do is get away.

Her eyes gleam. "I know what you're doing."

He ignores her, continuing to stuff his belongings into boxes with more force than is necessary.

"I know what you're doing," she repeats, "and it's not going to work."

James does not reply. He can't quite find the words to do so.

"Fine," she says loudly, and as he glances up, he can tell that she didn't mean to shout the word at him. Shouting shows emotion. He knows Dominique will not want to show any emotion at all, because the person who lets themselves feel anything first loses. And she will never lose. Quieter, she says, "Fine," and continues to look at him until he cannot meet her eyes any longer. Quieter still, she says, "Fine," and then, then she is gone.

-:-

The bar James sits in is overcrowded and an unpleasant musty smell hangs in the air. His fingers tap out the simple rhythm of the music that's playing on the stereo. They're going through oldies classics now, and he tries not to bob his head along to Eight Days A Week. He wonders absently if it's always like this after you leave someone, if every song that ever was reminds you of the way they used to light up your world. He hopes that next time he leaves someone (and there will be a next time because he's James Potter and leaving people seems to be what he does, lately) it won't sting quite as bad.

Though he pretends not to, he still catches glimpses of shimmering blonde hair out of the corner of his eye, and then the girl will turn and her face will be too plain to be Dominique's. He'll see a pair of brown eyes staring at him across a crowded room but they're not bright enough to be hers. He'll catch sight of a blinding smile but it will always be lacking the spark of energy that makes her her.

"Talkin' about my generation," declares the stereo.

He has another drink.

-:-

James waits.

-:-

It has been a year and four months. Maybe five. Time drags, sometimes. Sometimes it flies. He can barely keep track of the blur of endless days that cruise by him and he has not made use of any one of them. Now, he has a rubbish job at the Ministry when he always wanted to be an Auror. Now, he spends too long in Muggle bars and clubs hoping he'll see her, just once. Now, he hasn't much left to live for except Lily, who is always getting herself into trouble these days, and Albus, who seems to have shut himself off from everything in a way not unlike James. It hurts to see his baby brother and sister become empty shells searching for a thrill to make everything seem worth it. Not that he's doing any better.

And then one day, he sees her.

It's just a poster in a shop window advertising some clothing line he's never heard of, but it's her.

In the picture, she is not smiling. She looks bored. One hand is on her hip, the other in her hair. She's crouched down, her legs clad in fishnet tights. She's wearing a black lacy dress that barely reaches midway down her thigh and James is reminded painfully of the first time he felt any sort of attraction for her. Her eyes are lined with black and her lips, though the picture is in black and white, are obviously painted scarlet. Even in monochrome she looks breathtaking. Impulsively, James grabs the poster from the window and scans it, looking for any sort of information that might lead him to her.

There is a phone number for the agency. It's a Muggle one. Typical Dominique, trying to throw away everything that makes her a witch.

Luckily enough, he's been trying to do the same this past year.

He has never dialled a phone number so quickly.

-:-

She is there.

Right across the room, she is there, and James' breath catches. She takes a hesitant step forward, her eyes meeting his. He inhales deeply. This time, he will make things right.

And then Dominique runs, tripping a little in her too high heels, and launches herself into him, and she's clinging to him like he's a lifeline. Her arms close around his neck in a tight embrace and his hands find her waist, clutching her for dear life. He will not let her go without a fight. They were never meant to be apart, he thinks dazedly, because being together like this is so dazzlingly right his brain can't quite cope with it.

"Sorry," she whispers into his ear. She sounds the same as ever. His stomach twists. "Sorry."

But he shakes his head, curling a strand of her hair around his finger. "You're perfect."

"I'm not," she corrects with a grin. Her eyes gleam brightly. A year has not changed them. "Neither are you. That's what makes us special."

"I thought you'd hate me," he confesses in a rush, stepping back a little. "I thought you'd hate me for leaving you and cutting you out of my life. But you don't." His disbelief is evident in the last sentence.

She laughs. "I did," she admits. "A lot, at first. I despised the thought of you. But then I realised I'd do the same. That I was planning on doing the same eventually, because it would make things easier. But," her voice lowers, "easy isn't always right."

"We're not right," he counters softly. "Doesn't that bother you?"

"It should, it should," she says with a shake of her head. "But it doesn't. I just want you and fuck the consequences. I'll never be able to love you the right way, so why bother?"

"Why bother," echoes James. He knows, he knows this can only end in heartbreak and heartache, but he couldn't care any less than he does right now. She is there, and she is the most beautiful thing he has ever seen, and he wants no one but her in his arms forever. A smile lights up her face once more and he could kiss her senseless if she'd let him. "To hell with everyone else, Dom. Let's run away and change our names and live like Muggles and we can just be."

"That," she says, her lips finding his, "sounds like the best thing ever."

They run.

And that's how it ends.

fin.