Author's Chapter Notes:
I don't own Harry Potter. I'm not JK Rowling and never will be. This fic is based on Dance with Me by Drew Seeley, and while I do not own the song, I definitely own Drew. *swoon*
A million thanks go to my wonderful, endless list of betas: Alex, Jess, Hayden, Gianna and Natalie.
Finally, in my personal canon, Blaise is Cuban and his wife is Italian, making Gabriella Cuban-Italian.
My father was a rich and powerful man; both my mother and my grandmother told me this constantly. It was, therefore, a given that my future partner should also be a rich and powerful man.
"When your grandfather passed away, he left me his gold, and if it wasn't for his will, I don't know where I would have got my money from." Nana Isabella, my paternal grandmother, told me about her last husband, who, according to my father, had been with her for a record amount of time.
She continued. "See, chica? All good, important men have money, and they're willing to give it those they love. Just like Blaise does for you and your mother — because of how important you both are to him."
What my grandmother didn't know, however, was that her wealthy and influential son was also a jealous wife-beater. I was the only one who knew, besides my own mother, of course. And she tolerated him, for reasons that are beyond me even to this very day.
And Father was least tolerant where my mother and other men were involved. One glance at another man, even the most fleeting, innocent, how-much-does-this-cost one (and, worst of all, vice versa) and Father would be on to Mother like a hawk. Gone was his charming exterior, the front he put on when around other people, the indifference towards blood traitors and Mudbloods. The fa ade that redeemed my father, Blaise Zabini, of the taints of being a Slytherin, disappeared completely. Behind this, no one knew of Father's mental and physical torture of my mother. It scared me, frankly, but I became skilled at masking my increasing unease around Father, lest the same thing happen to me.
I desperately hoped that the sharp taps on my shoulder, the pats on my head, the pinches on my arm, were casual — affectionate, even. But as I grew older, I realised it was pointless trying to hope for the best like that. The taps turned into slaps, becoming more and more frequent, and they left the occasional bruise. Yet it never went to the extent that my father hurt my mother, and as selfish as it sounded to my ears, I was grateful for it.
It was only in the summer before my sixth year that he finally confirmed my fears. I don't know what it was that I said, or did, but whatever it was, Father finally snapped. At last, he drew blood, so my injuries were as bad as Mama's. She had tended to me immediately after, while Father left the house to God knew where.
Sitting on my bed, she passed her wand along the angry cuts and bruises on my face and neck so that the pain eased along with any traces of contact between me and my father.
"How could you let him do this to you?" I'd asked disbelievingly.
"I had to, cara," Mama whispered, tears falling down her cheeks and landing on the remaining injuries on the side of my neck, the salt of her tears making them sting. "I didn't have a choice. You don't know what he would have done to you if I struggled..."
On the same day, Mama told me that Father had taken it too far and that she planned on divorcing him. I breathed such a deep sigh of relief that I didn't realise I was holding my breath in the first place. I thanked my stars that fate had given my mother another chance.
I should've known not to trust anything from there, especially not the stars.
The very next day, when I turned sixteen and had just arrived home from my grandmother's house, I found Mama, dead in her and Father's bedroom. It was — in every way possible — the worst day of my life. I had never felt so helpless before.
Mama's cause of death remained unknown. Investigations took place, but Father, like his usual self, maintained his innocence, his mother — Nana Isabella — and I even providing him with an alibi. Father had been with my grandmother and me at the time of Mama's death, so as much as I wanted to, I could not possibly blame him.
Mama hadn't written a will, so all her assets, everything she had, went straight to Father without any consideration to either of her parents. My Italian grandparents, along with my paternal ones, attended the funeral, and I can still remember their expressions of utter loss. I had never thought my heart could bleed for anyone, but at that moment, my heart truly did just that. It thumped painfully in my chest whilst I watched Father lower Mama's coffin into the ground with his wand.
For the remainder of the summer, Nana Isabella moved in with us, supposedly to keep me company when Father was at work. She wasn't the nicest person to be around, but I supposed the gesture was thoughtful. Most importantly, though, Nana's presence meant my worst fear was put on hold: with Mama gone, would Father take his anger out on me again, instead?
My grief had not lessened when I arrived at Hogwarts, and I had never been so grateful to be back at school before. However, the change in my demeanour must have been noticeable; both teachers and my fellow students commented on it frequently.
But I never told anyone about Mama. It wouldn't do me any favours, and in any case, I did not want sympathy. My mother always told me that sympathy was for weaklings, and that I should never show my fear or anger. "People sympathise with others that they don't understand," she'd said.
And no one would ever understand me, I thought.
That didn't stop people from trying, though. Mama wasn't well-known, so no one knew nor cared when she died, much less how she died (something that I nor the authorities wasn't sure about myself — though I placed the blame wholly and unequivocally on my father). I suppose it was better for me in a way, but no matter how much I tried to put a cap on my emotions, everyone knew something had gone on over the summer from my dour silences, my constant snubbing of classmates and my rare bouts of temper. It was just that nobody could guess that my mother had died.
When Scorpius Malfoy asked me out, I was more than a little surprised. For a fleeting moment, I suspected he only did so because he felt sorry for me. But then, it seemed to be something he had been planning to do for a while, so I did the polite thing and accepted his invitation to Hogsmeade. I was thinking of going anyway, but was not entirely sure since most of my friends had dates.
Friends...what a strange word. It was funny, because I could not possibly name any one person in Slytherin House whom I was particularly close to, or whom I spilled my secrets to or went to when I had worries. Yes, I lived with four other girls, but frankly, they were either a pain in the arse or just plain silly, so I didn't have much to choose from.
There are no such things as friends, my father constantly told me, although only in his friendly, non-drunk, non-violent moments, of course. There are only acquaintances that haven't let you down yet.
This seemed to hold true for me so far. I had hoped for a contradiction to my father's teachings, but there was none. There was not one person whom I truly trusted.
Scorpius Malfoy was...all right. Yes, he was reasonably good-looking. Yes, his family had a good amount of money, and yes, he was a decent person. But there was just nothing to be excited about. His kisses were pleasant enough, but I could not for the life of me feel any kind of...spark.
I've kissed boys before. None of those kisses were particularly nice experiences — they were either sloppy or messy or inexperienced. So Scorpius definitely topped all the other guys, at least in that respect, because neither he nor his kisses were messy. And he was a nice guy. It was just a shame that I simply couldn't feel any kind of attraction to him, no matter how intelligent or funny he was. More importantly, though, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I didn't trust him. I don't think I ever could, not after my trust was betrayed so completely by what happened to my mother. Men weren't to be trusted. Ever.
At the same time, it was nearly worth it to lead him on in our relationship, just for his sense of humour, assistance with homework and his sheer presence. Sixth year certainly wasn't easy. I complained to Scorpius constantly about how hard this year was, in comparison to our previous years. We were studying so much it was as if we had exams every day. And that was not fair, even though I was told numerous times by various people that our NEWTs were the hardest exams we'd ever face, and that I should be prepared for it.
The pastoral care witch at Hogwarts — a new, pointless, Muggle-school-inspired innovation, no doubt — organised a project called the NEWT Mentoring Scheme. Seventh-years who were ahead of their work would assist sixth-years who were struggling with theirs. Professor Morgan, who I'm sure had never met me before, took one look at my Ps and Ds and signed me up, along with a couple of Gryffindors, three Ravenclaws and half a dozen Hufflepuffs. It was shameful that I was the only Slytherin present, although my Slytherin friends — no, I corrected myself, acquaintances — wouldn't have been much help in such a situation.
I was assigned Dominique Weasley. I found it rather hard to believe she was part of the Weasley family — there was neither a red hair nor a freckle in sight. Instead, Dominique was everything a Weasley was not: beautiful (while the other Weasleys were pretty at most — although I'm sure plenty of people would disagree with me), with the most delicate features. Her face was framed with blonde, curlyish hair that nearly reached her waist. Most of the time it was tied in a messy bun, and when she was helping me with a wand movement or demonstrating a spell, I watched in awe, not at her spellwork (which, admittedly, was just as wonderful), but at the way tendrils of hair escaped from the clip holding her hair together. I often had to fight the urge to reach out and touch it.
When I first met Dominique, she had such a mesmerising effect on me that it was impossible to express my distaste at this scheme in a coherent manner. It was only when she spoke that I managed to snap out of it.
"Hi, I'm Dominique," she said, extending her right hand. Silver bangles jingled on her arm and I couldn't help but stare at her slender wrist, forgetting about her outstretched hand. Her skin seemed almost translucent, her veins clearly visible.
"Erm...are you all right?" asked Dominique, sounding a little bemused.
"No...I mean, yes, I'm fine. I...er...my name's Gabriella Zabini," I spluttered, taking her hand and shaking it.
"Gabriella," she repeated. "That's a pretty name. Suits you."
Later on, I heard rumours from some of the other Slytherins that Dominique was part Veela, but I certainly did not expect myself to be under her spell at first. I was a girl, after all. It wasn't supposed to happen.
Dominique and I worked well together. After the third session was over, I asked her how she was so smart.
She laughed and shrugged. "I'm not," Dominique said. "Compared to my family, I'm not even in their leagues. My Aunt Hermione, for example — I've never met anyone more intelligent than her, and even my dad swears she was the smartest witch of her age. And Dad doesn't dish out praise like that on a plate. He's a big softie really, but he doesn't praise you unless he really thinks you deserve it."
The smile on her face as she talked about her dad and her aunt so affectionately was enough to fill me with the wish to have a proper family that I could talk to, and to see my mother again. But I couldn't, because she was in a coffin in the family cemetery, unable to talk to me and comfort me, the only member of my family who had been able to do that.
Seeing the nostalgic look on my face, Dominique asked me which side of the family I got my intelligence from. I simply stared at her, unable to respond, unable to even deny her claims of my cleverness. And for once, it had nothing to do with the invisible hold she seemed to have on me, the one that forced me to stop being my grieving self and actually be polite. I tried to swallow that melancholy feeling and attempted to speak.
"I — I'd rather not talk about my family," I told her.
"Why?" she enquired.
I looked away, suddenly unable to meet her eyes.
"Why not?" Dominique persisted.
"Because...because I have a feeling that if I start, I'll never be able to stop."
I couldn't bear to think about it for a second longer; without another word, I extricated myself from her and walked away. It was only when I thought about it that I wondered when I had grown so close to her to begin with.
Afterwards, I considered giving up the sessions, but on the day of the fourth session, Dominique cornered me after Transfiguration.
"I'm sorry," she said, placing her hand on my shoulder and looking at me sincerely. "I didn't mean to upset you. I understand if you don't want to talk to me about anything. Don't worry about it, Gabby," she assured me, using the nickname that would have annoyed me if anyone else used it but her. "Are you still coming to the session?"
I hesitated, unsure if I should reveal my insecurities to her.
"Gabby, if you really want, the only thing you and I will talk about tonight is human transfiguration How's that?"
True to her word, Dominique kept her promise, and I distanced myself further from my boyfriend and the rest of the Slytherins and attended three sessions a week for the next several weeks. My marks in all areas shot up. By December, the only people with better results than me were Rose Weasley, Dominique's cousin, and funnily enough, Scorpius himself. My boyfriend was as happy for me as I was for myself, and in the excitement of finally doing well at school, I consoled myself with the fact that I was doing my mother proud, at long last.
Shortly after, I broke up with Scorpius. I told him that there was someone else — someone in seventh year. He took it stoically enough, and it was worse that I felt only a tiny bit guilty about it.
But as much as I was willing to lie to him about our relationship, it wasn't fair on Scorpius. He was nice and he deserved someone better than me, someone who actually wanted him. Not me. It could never be me, because I was already someone else's — Dominique's.
And she was mine. She just didn't know it yet.
During the last revision session a week before the Christmas holidays began, Professor Morgan gathered us together. The chairs were arranged in a circle, and the tables were up against the wall.
"We're going to be doing something different today," she announced. "Since this is our last session, we're not going to study."
The Gryffindors cheered, and the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws joined in half-heartedly a moment later.
"Sixth-years, would you say that you trust your mentors?"
I considered. I had learned to get used to this professor. She was a Mudblood, therefore equal to a Muggle in Father's eyes and therefore definitely not a competent witch. But I simply could not think of her in that way, despite the fact that Father's opinion was certainly shared by most of my fellow Slytherins — she had proved me wrong. Professor Morgan had told us about her travels, and what she had learnt; she had proved to everyone that her magical capabilities were in many ways far superior to ours, and for that, she deserved (grudging) respect.
I looked around, thinking about her question. Did I trust Dominique? The other sixth-years were nodding, some reluctantly, others enthusiastically (mainly Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs). Feeling Dominique's eyes on me from my right, I quickly nodded as well, even though I doubted I could ever trust anyone. Not after the only person I trusted, my very own mother, promised to leave my father, and then, without even saying goodbye, she died instead.
Still, I was definitely the closest to trusting someone with Dominique.
"This session is all about trust. We'll be playing a Muggle game first, one that I played a lot when I was travelling in India, but with a bit of a twist — STD, also known as Situation, Truth or Dare." At this, some people sniggered, but I didn't understand why, especially when Professor Morgan laughed and said, "Not that type of STD. For those of you who don't know, the original game was this: one person in the group would say up to three consecutive numbers, starting with one. The next person would have to say up to three consecutive numbers, starting with whatever number the last person finished on. This goes on, until eventually, you reach twenty-one. Whoever that would land on would have to do one of the following things: a situation, when you're given a scenario and four options; a truth — self-explanatory, really — or a dare. But because this is a trust game, we'll just have situations and truths.
We all acquiesced.
"OK, why don't I start?" she said, pulling up a chair in between two Hufflepuffs. "One."
"Four, five, six."
It continued, until a Gryffindor said "Twenty."
Everyone turned to Matthew Wood, who said, with a grin, "Twenty-one."
"So, Matthew: situation or truth?" Professor Morgan asked.
He thought for a moment before replying, "Situation."
"If four of the Weasleys were in a fire — Dominique, Molly, Louis and Rose — which two would you save?" the Gryffindor next to him asked.
"Rose and Dominique, of course," Wood said. "I don't know Louis or Molly well enough. Rose, though, obviously I'd save her, because she's my girlfriend, and Dominique because she's so lovely and gorgeous and—"
"We get the idea, Wood," I couldn't help but interrupt, an irritable look on my face He raised his eyebrows, but to my surprise, didn't say anything further. Instead, we started the game again, and it was only when we reached Dominique that I paid attention.
"Nineteen, twenty," she said, turning to me with a smile.
My eyes widened as I realised what number I was. "T-twenty-one."
"Situation or truth, Gabby?" Dominique asked.
"Truth," I decided.
"What's the real reason you broke up with Scorpius Malfoy?" said one of the Hufflepuff sixth-years, who I knew was one of the biggest gossips in the school.
I groaned inwardly. Why did they have to mention that? "Can I change my mind?"
Professor Morgan shook her head. "Sorry, Gabriella, those are the rules. You pick one or the other. Although I'm not quite sure we should be discussing personal—"
"No, Professor, she chose truth, so she has to answer my question," the Hufflepuff interrupted, a smirk on her face.
"Right," I said. OK, if that was how things were going to be, then so be it. "I broke up with him because...because I had someone else. Scorpius is a lovely guy, don't get me wrong, but he's just not — he's just not the person I'm looking for. The person I'm with—" I was playing it better than I thought, the hesitation, the indecisiveness, and I continued, "He's in seventh year—"
Two voices simultaneously said, "Who?" and "So you were two-timing him?"
Who do you think you are, the bloody Spanish Inquisition? I felt like saying. But instead, I kept my cool, ignoring the first question. "To all intents and purposes — yes, I was," I lied smoothly. "He took it rather well, I have to say, but no hard feelings were intended, and we're still friends." I was almost shocked by my insincerity, but if they were asking a stupid question, they would get a stupid answer.
Judging by the giggling coming from the Hufflepuffs opposite me, I had just added to the grapevine of Hogwarts gossip, which would, naturally, spread through the school in no time.
"OK, I think we'll continue this later, but first, I want us to do a trust exercise. I want you to get into a space in your pairs. Mentors, stand behind your partner, and have a bit of space between you."
There was a shuffling as chairs scraped back and we got up in our pairs, doing as she told us. I stood three feet away from Dominique, in front of her.
"Now I want all of you sixth-years to fall back, and I want the mentors to catch you. Mind you, it's not as easy as it sounds! And take your time, because I think the sixth-years will find that it's far harder than expected."
I realised she was right. I found it impossible to fall back and just expect Dominique to catch me. What if she didn't? What if she moved out of the way just as I fell? Then I would fall backwards and land on my arse. And I didn't want that to happen.
"Gabby..." said Dominique softly from behind me. "Gabby...just fall back."
At that moment, one of the Ravenclaw mentors sidestepped out of the way just as his partner fell, laughing at her. She glared at him from the floor, where she had landed in a most unceremonious manner.
"This is stupid," I murmured, turning to Dominique. "I can't do this."
"Ignore them, Gabriella," she dismissed. "Trust in me. I wouldn't forgive myself if I embarrassed you like that. Please, Gabriella?" Her use of my full name, which she had previously said was too long for her, seemed to appease me somewhat.
Slowly, I turned around and closed my eyes. Taking a deep breath, I fell back. Before I knew it, however, I felt warm arms close around my midriff, supporting me, Dominique's body being the barrier between myself and the floor. I exhaled in relief as I righted myself, turning around and returning Dominique's smile.
"See? Wasn't that hard, was it?"
"That's the spirit!" interrupted Professor Morgan before I could say anything. "Right, now, swap places with your partner. Mentors, it's your turn."
Dominique was now in front of me. I held out my hands, ready to catch her. After only a moment, she fell back into my arms, and because I was slightly shorter than her, my face was in her hair, which was softer than anything I had ever felt. I was empowered by the heady scent of her hair as I inhaled deeply, relishing the smell of her, and the warm feeling of her body against mine.
"Um...Gabby?" I jumped, realising I was still holding her. Immediately, I released her, and she turned to me questioningly.
"You... er... smell nice," I blurted out before I could stop myself.
Dominique laughed, and the sound of it was so exhilarating that I forgot my embarrassment.
"Oh, I'm wearing this Muggle perfume my Aunt Hermione got for me. It's lovely, isn't it?"
My eyes feasted on her, and I had to force myself to look up at her face. "Yeah," I said, "gorgeous."
Somehow, after the session was over, Dominique managed to persuade me to attend the Gryffindor Christmas party that night in her common room.
It was strange, being in a different common room, and while I would always prefer the Slytherin one, I liked the warm atmosphere in the Gryffindor common room.
The party was in full swing. However, I couldn't help but notice I was the only Slytherin there. I told Dominique this, and she merely laughed, turning away from the friends she was talking to.
"Don't worry about that," she said, patting my arm, apparently unaware of me shivering at her touch. "I thought we were past prejudices like that?"
"We never will be," I muttered.
"C'mon," she said, grabbing my wrist. "Let's dance."
"I don't know how to." Trust me to put a downer on everything like that.
"Nonsense," Dominique said. "Don't be silly, Gabby. I know you can dance. I bet you took lessons when you were a kid."
She was right, as she always was. I was taught when my mother sent me, pressured by my father, to ballet lessons.
"How could you tell?" I whispered.
She winked and tapped her nose. "I could just tell. You seem like the type, and you may be a good liar when you want to—"
"Like what?" I asked.
"Like that imaginary boyfriend of yours," she teased. I tried to look affronted, but it clearly didn't work.
"Oh, don't worry, you had all of them fooled, but there are just some things you can't hide from me."
I wondered if she meant what I thought she meant — that I couldn't hide the fact that I was heavily attracted to her, or that my mystery person was actually Dominique. Because, despite my doubts, I couldn't deny that I felt something for Dominique, no matter how wrong it was to feel that way.
"I had ballet lessons," I admitted. "But I'm flattered that you think I'm a good liar." I tried a smile, attempting a very poor joke.
"It may come in useful, but I don't think that's a compliment, coming from me." She sipped her Firewhisky, staring at me. "Don't you ever feel, sometimes, that you just want to bare everything out to someone, without having to hide anything, and just...just trust?"
I nodded slowly. The Firewhisky burned away a little of the buried grief in my stomach, and when I spoke, I knew it was the drink talking, not me. Because if I was sober, there was no way I would say what I did.
"I'll dance with you — but only if no one sees."
After saying a quick goodbye to her friends, she grabbed my hand and led me up some stairs I had never seen before.
We could still hear the music playing. Just then, the latest hit, Boom! Boom! Boom! came on the wireless.
"Gabby," she said, taking hold of one of my hands and placing the other on her shoulder, whilst hers rested on my waist, "why are you such a damn good liar?"
We swayed together for a moment, and I leaned my head against her shoulder, inhaling the thrilling smell of her hair again, and catching a hint of her intoxicating scent. I could tell that both of us were more than a little tipsy, and that meant that it was impossible for me to lie. After all, Mama always did say that the only time she could trust Father was when he was drunk, and on the rare occasions that Mama had a drink or two, the alcohol forced her to tell the truth as well.
"I just...am," I said, the s's in the "just" slurring as our feet moved slowly together, in time with the music. "It's the only thing I'm good at. I'm shit at anything else."
She raised an eyebrow. "How so? You have many talents, Gabby. You're stunning to look at, you're very bright, you're so sweet...and just one sick liar. Why?"
I smiled, and my jaw was beginning to ache because I smiled more today than I had ever done, and that was saying something.
"Well...compared to you, I'm nothing. I'm not as intelligent or as funny or as beautiful as you are. Oh yeah, you're so beautiful. I don't know how you do it, but Salazar, I've never seen such a gorgeous woman in my life. And d'you know what the best thing about you is?" I pulled her closer to me and whispered to her, "You're such a bad liar." Now the drink was definitely talking, but I just had to trust that she was tipsier than I was, and then it wouldn't matter because hopefully, the next morning, she wouldn't remember.
That didn't seem the case, however, and her blue eyes darkened as she opened her mouth to protest, presumably against me calling her beautiful.
But I didn't let her; instead, I leaned forwards, closed what little space we had between us and silenced her with a purposeful kiss.
Her lips seared against mine; although she stiffened for a fraction of a second, she immediately relaxed as her arms encircled my waist, while my hands travelled from her shoulders to her neck, and then to her hair. Unlike Scorpius' lips, Dominique's were soft as they parted, allowing my tongue entrance. But as soon as it had started, Dominique pulled away.
"What are we doing?" she breathed, both of her hands now resting lightly on my arms. Our faces were mere centimetres apart. My lips burned for hers, and it took all my willpower and sense to stop myself from kissing her again.
"For an incredibly smart and gorgeous person," I said, "you can be rather dim sometimes. Then again," I amended, "to be fair, you also called me stunning to look at, although I blame that on your drunkenness. I'm sure that if you were sober you wouldn't—"
This time, she interrupted me with a kiss, and this was more heated than I expected as I took off her cardigan, revealing her shirt underneath. Dominique tugged mine off too, casting it aside, her lips never leaving mine.
"And for the..." she began to say mid-kiss, "record..." at this point, I was kissing her jaw, marvelling at the perfect symmetry of her jawline "...you're so gorgeous that..." She broke off as I kissed her again, my tongue entwining with hers. Dominique was only too happy to comply, and it was only when I heard a gasp that we broke apart.
I turned to see Rose Weasley, standing there, rooted to the spot, her eyes wide with shock. And then, to my horror, to make matters worse, I saw my ex-boyfriend standing near her. Rose seemed to register Scorpius' presence at the same time as me, but she, unlike me, quickly turned back to the matter at hand, forgetting that there were now two Slytherins in Gryffindor Tower.
"You — and her?" said Scorpius in disbelief.
I made up my mind in a heartbeat. "If you tell a soul, I swear I will hex your balls together, Malfoy. Anyway," I added, "it's not as if I lied. Dominique is in seventh year."
Dominique, cottoning on to my unease at the situation, managed to sweet-talk her cousin. "Rose, please don't tell anyone," she implored. Rose nodded grudgingly, before insisting that we leave.
We did so immediately, escaping down the stairs to the next floor, where I was more than happy to resume where we left off. But then Dominique stopped me.
"What's wrong?" I asked, even though I knew what was coming.
"Why don't you want to tell anyone?"
"For the same reason you don't want to tell anyone," I told her, realising that she had sobered up a little.
"And what reason's that? Because it's wrong?"
I shook my head. "No way." Then, seeing that she still wasn't convinced, I went on, "Come on, Dominique, it's Christmas. Forget the world for a minute. Please."
I fingered her cheek as I pleaded with her, and she relented, closing her eyes to receive my kiss, and the passion that she returned it with belied any doubts she appeared to have.
Mine and Dominique's clandestine relationship progressed as we stayed behind for the Christmas holidays. Luckily, there were only two other boys in Gryffindor who remained at Hogwarts for Christmas, and that meant Dominique and I had full rein of the girls' dormitories.
"D'you think we'll be able to keep this a secret forever?" I asked her, as she undid the Disillusionment Charm on me. We had just finished Christmas dinner, and for once, I had pigged out, much to the amusement of Dominique.
She used her wand to lock her dormitory door before taking my face into her hands, touching my brown curls.
Dominique sighed. "I don't know, Gabby." She took a deep breath and I knew what she was thinking. "D'you think...d'you think that what we're doing is...wrong?"
As she said it, her hands abruptly dropped from my cheeks to her sides and she moved away from me, sitting on her bed, waiting for my answer.
I didn't know what to say. Was it? In my father's eyes, it was. The same went for pretty much all of the Slytherins. Their parents — with only a couple of exceptions — still had the archaic mindsets of the war, despite the fact that it happened more than two decades ago. Hell, even my own dead mother would disapprove.
"It's simply unnatural, carina," Mama had said, when I asked her about same-sex attraction. "It's just not right."
But it felt right. I would use Mama's words — unnatural, not right somehow — to describe my relationship with Scorpius. Not Dominique. So what did that mean?
Father had heard her explaining this to me when I was thirteen. He had barged into the kitchen while we were having our chat and barked at me to leave. I can still remember the sound of Father's yells, telling her not to talk about such debauchery and wantonness under his roof, as I had scurried out of the kitchen as fast as I could. But louder still — and far more terrible — was the sound of Mama's cries. They seemed to echo around the empty house, bouncing off the walls and attacking my ears.
"Gabby, tell me, how many girls have you ever fancied?" Dominique asked. I frowned as I was jolted back to the present; what kind of question was that?
"I fancy you," I told her honestly. I had never wanted someone to trust me more than I did in that moment. She narrowed her eyes as she scrutinised my face. I held her gaze as I walked towards her, not blinking once.
"Trust me," I said firmly, my eyes never leaving hers as I kneeled to the floor, my hands wandering on her lap, searching for hers. "I fancy you, and I want to be with you, but if anyone finds out, then...then..." I trailed off, unable to say anything further.
"Then what, babe?" she asked softly, her finger tracing circles on my palm absent-mindedly. "What'll happen if you tell anyone?"
I couldn't bring myself to say "My dad". Because that would just make things more complicated, and I'd have to tell Dominique the whole story. And as much as I wanted to, the last thing I wanted was for anyone, even Dominique, to feel sorry for me. I was not a charity case. I didn't need pity.
"People..." I began, not even sure about what I was going to say. But the lie seemed to form itself on my tongue quite easily, and I wondered when I had gone from desperately wanting Dominique to trust me to wanting to convince her of my lie. "People will talk," I said finally. "Your lot may be more accepting, but not mine. You're a Gryffindor. I'm a Slytherin. We're so different — too different, people might say. And...we're both girls, and it won't do either of us any good, OK?"
"Why? Are you ashamed of me, Gabriella? Is that it?"
"No!" I burst out angrily.
"Then why do you give a shit about what others think of you?" I could see that her temper was also getting the better of her — Dominique only swore when she was angry or drunk.
"I don't!" I insisted.
Dominique, realising that I was still holding her hands, snatched them away from mine before standing up. I was smouldering under her gaze, and if looks could kill, I knew I'd be six feet under already. "Fine," she snapped. "Then this won't continue. If I'm a fucking embarrassment, a goddamn shame, then you can forget it." Dominique strode to the door and kicked it open. "I refuse to be part of any more cloak and dagger shit. I would have thought that eventually, we were going to come out — together. I don't want to do it forever. Now get the fuck out of my dormitory, Zabini."
I was already on my feet, but I made no effort to leave the room. I had to say something. Anything. She had never addressed me by my surname before. Even when we were just — friends, or whatever it was called — she'd never done that. And I knew it wasn't that big a deal, but it hurt far too much for me to simply accept it.
"Please, Dominique," I pleaded. "Don't be like—"
"Get out," she repeated, refusing to look at me. I realised that it was useless.
"I'm sorry," I tried. Still, she wouldn't meet my eyes, so after casting a Disillusionment Charm on myself, I left her dormitory.
I tried to forget about Dominique. Really, I did. But it was so difficult. My skin still burned from where her hands and her mouth had touched it, and my lips sorely felt the absence of hers over the next few days, which I spent doing all of my homework. Yet, for once, it didn't take very long, and I was reduced to looking over my Potions and Transfiguration essays for the millionth time, trying my best to add something where I could and spot any errors. I knew that I'd get Os for them. But it certainly didn't make me feel any better about myself.
I was so glad when classes began again. It gave me something to do. However, the satisfaction I had previously felt when doing well in lessons had disappeared, to be replaced with an even emptier feeling in the pit of my stomach. I ached for Dominique, and I didn't know what I could do to make her forgive me, save actually coming out as someone who fancied another girl — coming out as a...lesbian. I hated the word. It sounded so — wrong. The image that came to mind at the word — of butch women and tomboys and girls who had cropped hair and wore far too much pink — certainly didn't fit my description, or Dominique's.
I was — possibly — gay, so damned confused, and I didn't even have anyone to talk to about it.
On the second day back, Scorpius was paired with me in Potions. Frankly, I didn't have the energy to protest at being partnered with my ex-boyfriend. However, just as I was coming back from the store cupboard with the ingredients, Scorpius' words made me halt in my tracks and drop the pomegranate juice. I just about managed to keep hold of the Ashwinder eggs.
"Did you hear about Dominique's—" he began.
"What about her?" I interrupted brusquely after the sound of her name, when I regained my composure and used my wand to gather the juice up, returning it to its container. I tried my best to look nonchalant, but it was proving impossible. Scorpius was the smartest guy I knew, and he was one of the few people who could read me instantly.
"You don't know?" he said, frowning.
"Know what?" I honestly didn't know what he was talking about. I hadn't seen Dominique since our argument in her dormitory.
"Scorpius, tell me," I ordered. I had to know. What if she said something about us? What would I do then? "Tell me. Now. Or I swear, I will jinx you so badly that—"
"Today," he interrupted, watching me carefully for my reaction, "Professor Longbottom came into her Potions lesson. He told her that her mum's got cancer. Terminal cancer."
I immediately dropped the pomegranate juice again, along with ashwinder eggs, which fell to the floor with a crash. But this time, I didn't care, because I was already out of the door at this point, on the way to Professor Longbottom's office.
I didn't have to look far. Dominique was just coming out with her brother, Louis, who was in fourth year. They both looked devastated. Dominique put a hand on Louis' arm and murmured something, before she continued in my direction and Louis went in the other, towards the Ravenclaw common room, presumably.
A closer look at Dominique told me that she'd been crying — her eyes were red and her hair was messy, as if she had been running her hands through it. Even so, my heart was racing at the sight of her.
She didn't greet me when she was near enough for me to hear her, but I kept on walking alongside her. There was no way I was leaving her alone.
As soon as we reached the seventh floor corridor, she quickly paced in front of the entrance to the Room of Requirement three times and then wrenched open the door. Not knowing what else to do, I followed her, closing the door behind me.
The room was beautiful. It wasn't even a room; it was like we were outside, and it felt warm even though it was dark. Here and there, benches were scattered, around several water fountains. The place was lit by the water, somehow; it cast a pleasant glow on everything it fell upon. There was something peaceful about seeing and hearing water falling everywhere around me, and I wondered what Dominique had asked the room to become as she threw her arms around me, burying her face into my hair. Dominique clung to me like a lifeline, and I felt so useless, because all I could do was hug her back, whispering insignificant, meaningless condolences, stroking her hair.
"I'm sorry," I said at last. "I don't know what I can do to help..."
"Please tell me this is a dream," she pleaded with me. "Tell me it isn't real."
I don't think I could have hated myself more in that moment than I had ever done as I said very softly, "Babe, I can't tell you that. It's real. And I'm so, so sorry."
"A month," she said shakily. "That's all she's got left to live. A fucking month."
"I'm sorry," I repeated. I couldn't think of anything else to say, except, "Don't you need to go?"
She finally looked up at me, shaking her head.
"I can't bear to see her, knowing that her days are...numbered. It'll...it'll kill me. Trust me. I know it will."
I could see fresh tears forming in her eyes. Our close proximity meant I could see every one of them as they slowly rolled down her face, and I couldn't stop myself from pressing my lips against her cheek. It was supposed to be a platonic, friendly gesture, but we both knew that my feelings towards her were anything but, and it was pointless to think otherwise. She didn't protest as I put my hands on her cheeks and stood on my tiptoes, kissing her tears away, one by one.
When the last tear dissolved on my lips, she took my face into her hands and kissed me like she had never done before. It was like she was a drowning woman and I was her oxygen, and she needed me as much as I needed her. We fell backwards onto the bench, water from the fountain splashing us, but my lips never left hers the entire time.
And while it certainly couldn't even begin to mend the void in her heart, it did ease things a tiny, tiny bit.
Chapter End Notes:
Thanks to KarasAunty on MNFF for letting me borrow the title of one of her Celestina songs, "Boom! Boom! Boom!" The quote, "There are no such things as friends. Only acquaintances that haven't let you down yet" is from the great Malorie Blackman, in her book, Knife Edge. STD is, as you probably know, a real game, although you're probably more familiar with the Truth or Dare version, or the Twenty-One Dares version.
The story is based on some of the lyrics of Drew Seeley's Dance With Me. Namely: As time fades away/My arms will keep you safe/It's just you and me/Dancing in this dream. I'm a big fan of the song, but it's probably too Disney for your liking :P
I would really, really appreciate it if you would review. This was by far my most difficult story yet — it's so out of my comfort zone that I found it incredibly hard to write it, so I'd love it if you could tell me your thoughts in that little box down there :)