notes: This was originally for a forum collab on NGF (the collection is titled rising from the ground, go check it out!) and written for Ellie (with the monsters) and I thought it was high time I posted it on my actual account since I have this thing where I like to keep everything I've written in the one place. I hope you enjoy it!
Some Meaning I Can Memorise
Love's an excuse to get hurt, and to hurt.
Do you like to hurt? I do, I do. Then hurt me.
Lover I Don't Have To Love by Bright Eyes
Lily Luna Potter is completely alone.
That's the first thing you notice when you step into the crummy bar that seems to have been just shoved into the street corner like it doesn't really belong there. It's cramped. There are lots of people. They are all clutching glasses like they are lifesavers. Lily is too. But she's alone.
You don't know all the pubs that she frequents, though God knows you've been to most of them, so you guess that since she's got her chin in her hand and is staring blankly at the glasses in the cabinet behind the bar, this isn't somewhere she comes often. It must not be, for there's no one flocking around her, hoping to get some tiny piece of Lily Potter, famous Harry Potter's fucked up, tragic wreck of a daughter.
You approach her warily. One can never be too cautious when it comes to Lily. She's like a coiled spring and she never relaxes. She never smiles. She doesn't smile at her parents. She doesn't smile at the attention. She doesn't smile at the pretty boys that swarm around her like moths to a flame. She doesn't smile at you.
"Fuck off," she says automatically when you get a little too close. Her eyes glitter in the dim lighting. She doesn't turn around. She just takes another drink.
"It's me," you say monotonously. Here to fucking rescue you, you think. Like she's some damsel in distress, but the only one causing her distress is herself. You hate her, sometimes. You hate her when she's cold and unresponsive. You hate her when she's angry at everything. You hate her when she's not even looking at you because she's too damn proud to admit she needs anyone. To admit she needs you.
"Oh." She's still not looking. LOOK AT ME, you want to scream. But she'd never. Not if you asked her to. "It's because your hair's not blue."
And that's her used up her quota of words for the night, you suspect. "I don't like to stand out like a beacon everywhere I go. Unlike you. Clearly." The sourness in your voice is more than obvious. You don't even make an attempt to hide your feelings towards her anymore. It got too tiring trying to cover up all the irritation, the contempt. The bitterness.
"Fuck off, Teddy." She waves a hand as if to dismiss you. Unwillingly, you notice that her carefully applied makeup is smudged at the bottom of her eye, like she's been crying. But you shut that out before you can dwell on it. You can't let yourself feel anything when it's Lily. She'll rip your heart out. Cut it to pieces in front of you. Laugh, maybe. If she's feeling particularly sadistic. But that's just who she is. You gave up trying to change that long ago.
You grab her wrist. It's chalk white. Skin and bones. "Come on."
She's not going to come. You can see it in her eyes. Plain as anything. Tonight, she is going to be stubborn. Tonight, she is going to cause a scene. Sometimes, you hate Harry for even asking you to "keep an eye on" his daughter. Because of course, that means drag her home every night without fail and listen to her incessant bitching at you.
She meets your eye. Clenches her jaw. Says, very calmly, "No."
It's hard to hide your sigh. You're getting sick of her stupid antics, night after night after night. It's been bloody weeks since you've had a good few days to yourself to just relax. If you're not cleaning up other people's shit in the Auror Office then you're cleaning up your godfather's shit in various pubs and bars every goddamn night. It's hard not to hate what your life has become lately.
Lately, she's gotten pretty fucking good at evading you. She's been turning up at new pubs rather than her old haunts, always sitting in the corner alone with a half empty glass in her hand. That's one thing you have in common. The glass is always half empty to them. Never, never half full.
"Why not?" you challenge. Hell, she's coming whether you like it or not. She has no say in the matter. She never does. She just likes to think she does. Harry would kill you if you left her here until the bar closed and she was kicked out to the streets. Because then, then there would be no guarantee that she'd ever actually go home. At least if you're retrieving her then he knows where she is.
"Mm." Lily swirls her drink around before downing the small amount that was left. "I don't really want to, to be quite honest with you." She looks you dead in the eye. You're not really sure if you want to hit her or kiss her. Either could be potentially very dangerous.
"Do you want me to call your father?" Your tone is bored. If you want to get to Lily Potter, you have to act like you don't give a fuck. About her. About her life. About anything. It's kind of hard when all you seem to do is give a fuck. Shouting is no use. She likes it when people shout, especially you. It shows her that she's gotten to you. You never let her see that. No matter how much you want to throttle her.
"Lily." It's five past eleven. Not the latest, but you'd love to just get home and go to bed at a reasonable time for once in your life. "Just because you're eighteen and out of Hogwarts doesn't mean you can just do whatever the hell you want. You've been an adult for a year. It's time to start acting like it."
Maybe you're letting your frustration show. Just a little bit. It's not that you mean to. It's just that she has this way of getting under your skin that you can never quite pinpoint, but it makes you want to scream at her until your throat is raw and you can't scream any more. You want to hate her. You really, really want to hate her. But you can't hate her when she's looking at you like, well, that – with her eyes so sad that it makes you feel lonely and her hair tangled and knotted by someone else's fingers running through it. Someone who wasn't you.
"How many times are you going to give me this rant, Teddy?" She smiles and arrogance resides in the upturned corners of her mouth. Satisfaction. "Goodness, that's, what? Every night for the past two weeks? I love your originality. It's doing wonders for me, really. Thank you so much. You're really helping to turn my life around, Ted." Her grin grows bigger. You want to hate her.
"Fine!" you exclaim. You're done here. Done with Lily Luna Potter and her bullshit and her stubbornness and her tangled hair. "Just – fucking, fine. I'm leaving. Make your own way home. Or don't. The only person who's going to care either way is your dad. Maybe your mum, too. That's it. No one else." You turn on your heel and, very melodramatically, you march out of there.
"That's a lie," you hear her call after you. You pause at the door, waiting. "You'd care, Teddy."
You slam the door.
She must have found her way home eventually because Harry doesn't come after you with the intent of murdering you in your sleep.
You don't really care, though. Or at least, that's what you're trying to tell yourself.
She's laughing. It's not a nice laugh, full of mirth and happiness. It's a harsh laugh, full of bitterness and contempt. A bit like you, you suppose. She's laughing, and you're staring at her like she's lost it. She probably has. She probably lost it a long time ago. You find yourself wondering what a normal Lily would be like. A Lily who liked to go out with her friends and dance rather than sit and drink in lonely street corner pubs with other lonely, desperate people.
The horizon is almost invisible. London's tall, rectangular buildings block it out from where they sit on the rooftop of a derelict old block. The sun is setting. You don't find it beautiful any more. You find yourself wishing you did. The Thames sparkles in orange light. Once, you would have admired it. Now, you do not.
She's laughing. She takes a drink. She doesn't offer you any. "Do you think I'm crazy?" she asks. Still laughing. Still drinking.
You don't answer immediately. Either answer could offend her. Either answer could lead to her pushing you off the side and result in you smacking off the ground and most likely dying. It's not really worth the risk.
"I think," you say, letting the words linger, "I think everyone's a bit crazy."
"That's a shit answer," she tells you. Still laughing. It's not a nice laugh. You get the feeling she's laughing at you. Ten years younger than you and laughing at you. It doesn't fill you with great feelings about your life, honestly. "You can do better than that, Teddy. It's not a hard question." She puts the bottle down so hard the glass almost broke. "Do you think I'm crazy?"
You sigh. "Yes. A bit."
Her eyes narrow. "Does everyone else?"
"Pretty sure they do," you answer nonchalantly. You pick up the bottle. Take a drink. Getting really drunk sounds appealing right now but you haven't done that since you were twenty four. Three years down the line and you think you've learned a bit better. The hangover's never fun. Neither is trying to work out just what the hell happened the previous night and finding out from someone you don't even know that you got off with some random girl that you're never going to see again and then started a fight with a guy at least three times bigger than you. At least it explained away the black eye, though.
Lily doesn't reply. Her eyes are fixed on the distant sky, darkening from a burnt orange to purple. "Think we'll ever get out of this shitty city?"
"You might," you say. "I won't."
"Why not?" She scrutinises you, like she can't believe you just said that. Like she can't believe that you actually have ties to things. "There's nothing here except lonely people and buildings."
"I hate to burst your bubble," you say, "but that's kind of what it's like everywhere else in the world too. Lonely people drinking and pretending they're not losing it and waiting for something better to come along. Lonely people who don't really give a shit about anyone else except themselves and the person they love that will never love them back." You shrug. Take a drink. "Everywhere's lonely. You've just got to make the best of it."
"That's a better answer." And she sounds almost approving when she says that. Like – wow, Teddy – you've finally grasped the concept of human nature! The world goes round and everyone is so fucking lonely all the time and everyone loves people they shouldn't. Oh, and might as well add that everyone dies in the end as well, as if the concept wasn't already depressing enough.
"Thanks," you say sarcastically.
"Why do you hate me?" she asks.
You have to admit, you're a little taken aback by that. No one except Lily would ask something so straightforward and blunt. No one except Lily could make you feel so uncomfortable. You want to hate that about her. You really want to.
"I don't," you say automatically.
"Yeah, right," she snorts, rolling her eyes. "And the sky is pink and the grass is blue. You can't stand me, Teddy." She points at him accusingly. "Don't bother lying. I can see it in your eyes when you look at me every night. Like you're thinking, great. I have to pick up this stupid bitch again. I wish she'd just drop off the face of the earth. Oh god, why is my life so hard. I hate her so much and I wish she would just shut her stupid mouth because I'm getting really sick of her shit."
"That's not true," you deny as quickly as you can. Too quickly. Heat rises to your cheeks. Being almost reprimanded by an eighteen year old is not something you had imagined when you pictured what your life would be like after school. "What I mean to say is – yeah. I get sick of it. I fucking hate it sometimes. You're so stubborn. All the time. And if I don't get you home safe then Merlin knows Harry will castrate me and that's before Ginny runs through me with a knife herself. I don't know why they just can't keep you on house arrest or something. It would make my life a hell of a lot easier."
"Finally," says Lily. "You're being honest. Now we're getting somewhere." She sounds satisfied with herself. God, how you want to hate her guts.
"But," you say, raising a hand to stop her going any further. "But – I don't hate you."
She looks at you, like you're some puzzle she's trying to work out. Which is silly, because you're the simplest guy in the history of the world.
"I want to hate you," you continue. "You have no idea how much I want to hate you. It would make everything so much easier. I wouldn't go to bed at night thinking of your stupid eyes and your silly hairdo and the way you do your makeup so it makes your eyes look twice the size. And oh. Shit. Pretend I didn't say that. Really pretend I didn't say that because Merlin, that's embarrassing."
"You think of me in bed?" Lily raises her eyebrows suggestively. "Wow, Teddy. What do you think about in particular? Tying me up? Fuck—"
"Fuck off," you say, your voice like ice. "Fuck off, Lily. This is why I want to hate you. This is why everyone does hate you. Because you can be such a bitch sometimes."
"Whatever." She waves you off like your comment means nothing to her. And it probably does, you realise a little too late. You could say anything you want to her and you doubt she'd care. People say Lily is like fire, that she burns everything she touches because she's so destructive, but you know better. Lily is ice. Just as destructive, just as deadly. And everything bounces off her. Nothing is absorbed. Hating her is so easy, so why can't you bring yourself to do it?
"Fuck this." You get to your feet carefully, cautious not to lose your footing. You're halfway down the ladder when she calls out a soft, "Don't go." You hesitate, your knuckles turning white where you grip the rungs too tightly. You've always been weak-willed. Your grandmother used to say it was your worst quality. It's always been hard for you to resist someone when their voice is pleading.
"Teddy?" comes her voice again. You wish you could see her face.
And of course, you climb back up the ladder and go and sit with her until dawn because this is the way it always ends and your life is one big routine as of late. Why break that now?
You hate Lily Luna Potter. Or at least, that's what you're trying to convince yourself as Harry waves you over in Diagon Alley with a smile on his face. Undoubtedly, he will ask about her. Like he doesn't see her every other week or so now she's moved out. You hate her. You hate her. You hate her.
"How are you?" Harry greets, shaking your hand. His eyes are exactly like Lily's behind his glasses. You hate her, though. So that doesn't matter.
You mumble a reply that sounds a lot like, "M'fine. You?" and barely listen to his reply. He's talking about something that happened in the Ministry the other day that you vaguely remember hearing about and then promptly forgetting since it was nothing to do with you, really.
"Teddy?" he asks, waving a hand in front of your face. You come back to the present with a jolt and find your godfather staring at you with concern. With those bloody eyes. You hate that shade of green. The kind of green that looks like a dull, unpolished gem. Lifeless and flat.
"Sorry." You flash a grin at him. Pretending to be okay is one thing you're good at. "What were you saying?"
"Just wondering if you've seen Lily lately," he says. "Ginny's worried about her. She's not been returning her Floo calls and – well, you know what mothers are like." Harry rolls his eyes and you could almost forget that this man grew up an orphan. "She forgets what crazy teenagers are like." His tone is light, but you get the feeling it's not just Ginny wondering where she is.
He's staring at you expectantly and you say, "Well, I saw her yesterday. She was fine. Just... being Lily. As she does, you know."
"At some pub?" Harry's mouth is a hard line.
"Uh, no, actually," you say. "Just... we were hanging out."
He visibly relaxes. "That's fine then. I'm glad she's found a friend in you, Teddy. Someone I can trust not to – well, you know. Take advantage of her. Merlin knows she needs someone like that."
You swallow. "Yeah."
He gives you another concerned look before saying his goodbyes and disappearing off into Quality Quidditch Supplies. You raise a hand in farewell and then lean against the wall, breathing out in relief.
"Shit," Lily smirks, appearing from a small alleyway with a cigarette poised in her fingertips. "That was pretty close."
"It's not funny," you reprimand her. "He'll kill me if he finds out about this. About – whatever the hell we're doing."
She raises her eyebrows. Takes a drag. Breathes out pirouetting smoke that dances high above her head. "And what exactly are we doing? Sneaking around? It's not like we're fucking, Teddy. It's not like we're in love."
You pull the cigarette from her and drop it to the ground, stepping on it. "Smoking's bad for you."
"I'm going to die anyway," she says, her voice bored as she looks at the crushed cigarette stamped into the ground. "It's not really going to make a difference if I do it or not, you know. You can't protect me from everything, as much as you'd like to. The world doesn't work that way, Teddy." She smirks again. "Hate to break it to you."
You just shake your head and pull her back down the alleyway. "Shut up," you say. The pale curve of her throat is tantalising. "Shut up."
"Fuck, are you going to just look at me?" Lily stares at you. "Just because my dad showed up doesn't mean what we were doing was horribly wrong and immoral. We were just kissing, Teddy. That's it. Stop looking at me like I'm some sort of forbidden fruit, alright? God isn't going to smite you if you kiss me."
"You're eighteen," you say, though it's more of a reminder to yourself at this point, really. "And I'm – older. We shouldn't. Not just because your parents will bloody murder me for it."
"Then why not?"
"I'm ten years older than you," you say pointedly. Her eyes are shining green, that exact green you love. Glimmering and glinting like a polished gem. Lively and laughing. You want to hate her. It would be so much easier if you could just hate her.
"And I don't really care." She's still looking at you. God. "So. Kiss me again. Like you did before. Drag your mouth down my neck. Stop at my collarbone. Kiss me there. Bring your head up and kiss my lips and I'll kiss you back. Then we'll half-undress one another and realise we've gone too far. We'll stop. Go for a drink. Kiss again. You'll tell me you hate me because you're drunk, but then you'll laugh and kiss me and tell me you don't really. You'll tell me you're actually rather fond of me."
You would love to wipe that knowing smirk off her face.
"Well?" She taps her foot.
You raise your eyebrows. "What if I said no?"
"You might." Lily tilts her head. The corners of her lips quirk upwards. "But you won't." Her lips are at your ear now. Her breath tickles you. "I know you won't."
"How do you know that?"
She pulls back and grins wildly. "I know you too well, Teddy Lupin. You never say no. Not to me."
Fuck. She is young and tempting and completely in control and you are really quite helpless. Pathetic, you think to yourself. Outwitted by someone ten years younger. She's not just anyone, though. She's Lily and she's a bit crazy and you can never help but give her what she wants.
So you don't say no. You kiss her. You drag your mouth down her neck. You stop at her collarbone and kiss her there. You bring your head up and kiss her lips and she kisses back. Her hand is in your hair. Your back is against the wall. Damp. Her fingers tug at the buttons on your shirt and you pull her top over her head. You kiss her again. Again. Then you stop. You go for a drink. You kiss her again. You both laugh because you've had a bit too much by this point. You tell her you hate her but then you correct yourself and say you don't really. You tell her you might actually love her.
She laughs at that. She thinks that's hilarious. She kisses you again. Says, "That's cute." You tell her not to be so fucking patronising. She laughs.
You're not sure how that night ends but the last thing you can remember is her hair threaded between your fingers.
"So." Lily drags the syllable out as long as she possibly can. There's a cigarette at her lips. You wonder how she grew up quite so fast. It seems like it was yesterday she was crying over scraped knees and pulling faces at neighbourhood boys that so much as looked her way. Now she is crying over God knows what and throwing herself at those neighbourhood boys she once turned her nose up at. Life has a way of doing that to people, you muse.
"So what?" you ask slightly impatiently. You met her straight from work for some crazy reason (it wasn't the way her voice sounded on the phone, cocky and arrogant and full of knowing or anything. Really) and now you're here, back on that derelict building that's close to being torn down by the Muggle government because it's such an eyesore. You'll be sad to see it go. Maybe.
She smirks. Flips her hair back. "You might love me, Mr Lupin."
There's not even any point in denying you said it. That she was too drunk and must have made it up or distorted it somehow. You know as well as she does that that's what you said.
"I was drunk," you tell her, like she doesn't already know. Like it explains everything away. "You can't believe things that drunk people say."
Lily raises her eyebrows. "Actually, the truth tends to come out when you're," her eyes run up and down the length of your body, right down to your legs that dangle over the side, "slightly intoxicated. Didn't you know?"
"The truth comes out when you're angry," you defend automatically. Who are you kidding?
She shakes her head. "An exaggerated version of the truth comes out when you're angry," she counteracts, like she's full of knowledge and wisdom and God, you want to hate her. "The real truth comes out when you're drunk. You have no idea the things people tell you at bars when they don't even realise who you are." She smirks and takes a drag. Something about the way her lips curve around the cigarette makes you feel like you're nineteen again. You sort of wish you were.
"You're so full of shit," you tell her. It would be so easy to push her off the edge. You don't, though. Of course you don't.
"Maybe." She inclines her head, smiling slightly. There's an odd glint in her eyes. "You like it, though. I can tell. You don't do a very good job of hiding things, you know."
"Thank you," you say through gritted teeth. It would be so easy to push her off the edge. No one would even miss her.
It would be just as easy to throw yourself off. No one would miss you either.
"Teddy," she says, and her voice is much softer than it's been all day. All week. All year. She sounds like she's fourteen again.
"Yeah?" you ask somewhat warily.
"Do you love me?" Her tone is sincere. You meet her eyes, expecting to find them mocking and jeering. They're not. They're that bloody emerald colour you insist you hate but it actually might be your favourite colour ever. After scarlet, of course. After every bright, blazing colour that reminds you of her.
You hesitate. Either answer is dangerous. Either answer could lead to your ultimate destruction.
In the end, you go with your heart. You look Lily straight in the eye. You say, "No."
Her eyes are gleaming as she calls you a liar.