Title: New Leaves
Summary: "The leaves settled, leaving two girls holding hands outside a world they couldn't hope to understand." Lily, Roxanne, and being too young to fall, or fall in love. / One-shot, for Paula.
Prompts: HPFC gift-giving challenge - LilyiiRoxanne, Andrea Gibson, weak, failing, "We were too young, Lily. We still are."
Recipient: Exceeds Expectations (Paula)
Notes: Well. Paula. What can I say? She's a fabulous author (though getting on a bit in years) and has introduced me to Andrea Gibson, who is now a theme for all of my GG fics. Thank you, so much. (I'll edit this all in the morning, as it's currently 2am and as always, I am late posting). This is for you, old girl! On with the show!
"Autumn is the hardest season. The leaves are all falling, and they're falling like they're falling in love with the ground." Andrea Gibson, Photograph.
A Weasley and a Potter.
Maybe you could say it was meant to be.
Should we start with Lily? Little Lily Potter.
Lily Potter was a cartwheel, you could say. A back flip. You could watch her tumble and fall for hours, and still applaud when she jumped back up.
She never performed the same act twice; she was unpredictable and she was gorgeous. Everything was planned. And nothing ever faltered. It meant her insanity wrapped itself around her mind and she needed those bits of rebellion, because who was Lily Potter to be normal?
Because Lily Potter was hoping for an explosion and still flinching away from the light.
You could say that she sometimes pulled the covers straight over her head, blocking out the sunlight.
You could say that sometimes Lily stood outside in the back garden at two in the morning, bare feet clenching around the blades of grass, breathing in the moonlight and the crickets and the loud Muggle music blaring from next door.
Maybe sometimes her brothers pulled her from her place on the roof with snarls and whimpers.
Maybe sometimes her mother slapped her across the face and sobbed, "Grow up and smell the nicotine, Lily, please."
And maybe sometimes she looked towards her famous father for guidance, approval, disappointment, anger, and maybe a little bit of love. And every time, her father stayed silent but his eyes - his eyes screamed at her.
Maybe Lily's family was made up of contradictions.
And then, of course, we move on to Roxy. Radioactive Roxanne Weasley.
Roxanne Weasley was a sparkler, you could say. A firework. You could set her alight in a second and make her burn out just as easily.
She lived and she loved and she laughed like no one else; she was bright and she was beautiful. Nothing was subtle. But everything was brilliant. It meant she lost and cried and she felt like no one else, too, and sometimes, ordinary seemed a little too appealing.
Because Roxanne Weasley was treading the line between not caring, and caring far too much.
You could say that she sometimes baked in the kitchen, next to her mother, and decorated the cupcakes with ease and diligence only for them to be eaten up by her brother and father. You could say that sometimes she didn't mind.
You could say that she sometimes painted her bedroom, without magic, in a clash of colours and a whirlwind of nonsense, blocking out whatever was left behind.
Maybe sometimes her brother failed school and got wrapped up in things best left alone; every time, she healed the bruises and let everyone say, "That Fred Weasley, he's really something, isn't he? Just like his uncle, isn't he?"
Maybe sometimes her father locked himself in the joke shop and didn't come out for days; every time, she repaired the paintwork and let everyone say, "George is so strong, isn't he?"
And maybe sometimes her mother cried into the cupcake mixture.
Maybe Roxanne's family was made up of masks.
But the thing was, Lily's contradictions were weak - weak, because they were not so different, and insanity never quite does have a norm, does it? - and Roxanne's masks were failing - failing, because you could look at Roxy and know her life story, from her brown hair to the paint on her fingertips.
You could say that Lily and Roxanne weren't like their families.
You could say that Lily and Roxanne weren't even alike.
After all, Lily was the youngest and Roxanne was the eldest; one with brown hair, another with red. One with green eyes, another with brown. But then again, they were both explosive; insane and rebellious and smiling their way towards victory.
Victory over what, they couldn't tell you. Victory over who, however...
It was a gradual decline, at first. A mutual appreciation for the other's cause. A friendly gesture, a helping hand, and a free seat in another's compartment. A train ride spent together, a morning, a weekend. A batted eyelash, a raised eyebrow and a quirked smile.
But then it was joking in the Great Hall, flirting in the hallways, visiting each other's dorms and sneaking into common rooms late at night.
It was kitchen runs and sharing one slice of chocolate cake, painting Hagrid's Hut (as per request) and standing outside in the pouring rain to feel the grass between their feet.
They were radioactive Roxanne and little Lily, and they were a little bit in love.
If you looked outside, one autumn morning, you would find the leaves dancing around two girls - one auburn, one brown. The leaves would smother their laughing faces, their robes flying in the breeze, until they were part of the forest, part of the autumn.
They weren't princesses, in a fairytale land; nor were they warriors, in some far off country. But they were two beings, for once, who merged and didn't need names or freckles to tell them who they were.
They were Roxy, and Lily, and darlings, if they wanted to, they would float with the leaves.
But then the leaves settled, leaving two girls holding hands outside a world they couldn't hope to understand.
"Do you love me, Roxy?" Lily asked, bravely, looking Roxanne in the eyes, emerald to brown, summer to winter. A leaf was still stuck in her auburn hair, blending with the colours she inherited from her mother. Lily's mother. Roxanne's aunt.
"Come on, Roxy," she taunted, stepping closer, kicking up the leaves and breathing into Roxanne's ear. "Come on, tell me you love me. Three little words."
If tears pricked in both their eyes, it was just the bitter autumn wind. Wasn't it?
"I can't say it, Lily. We're too young," she whispered, cradling Lily's cheek, the porcelain skin that was turning red with cold, and windburn, and maybe a blush, creeping up from her neck. Lily shook her head, her mouth moving wordlessly.
"We'll always be too young," she choked out eventually, tearing her head and her eyes away. "No one is old enough for love."
Lily stormed away, crunching the leaves beneath her feet with relish. Roxanne watched her go with pity, and regret, and yes, maybe even longing, and yes, maybe even love.
But Lily was too young for her and Roxanne was just too young. Couldn't she see that?
The leaves around her rustled, voicing their disagreement, their hatred, and as they fell to the ground, Roxanne fell too.
"A Weasley and a Potter. It can't happen, Lily," Roxanne begged, her back against the bark of the tree. Lily scowled, and pushed her harder, standing on tiptoes to brush her lips against Roxanne's ear.
"Says... who?" She drawled, and her lips caressed Roxanne's cheek, piercing and poisoning the skin, turning her blood into a river of gold that felt so good, but would weigh her down and drop her. Gold was oh so pretty, but it had never been meant for little girls who played with fire.
"You're too young," she stressed, but her hands reached up and coiled themselves in Lily's fire truck hair, the fingers twisting and knotting themselves into little nooses around the strands.
Because Roxanne was a seventh year, now, off into that big wide world, with her paints and her magic and only a little brother left to protect. Lily was just a fifth year, a fifth year with two old brothers who would tear Roxanne limb from limb, family or not, for touching their baby sister.
(Or maybe James would be too wrapped up in Dominique, with all her dreams of Paris and golden hair and maybe even escaping the mother that went insane.)
(And maybe Albus would be too caught up in royalty, with all its promises of riches and gold and maybe even the drugs that kept Lily awake at night, and him blissfully unaware when the nights were too long. He was kind and he was sweet and they were going to eat him alive, out there.)
(Maybe Daddy had found another - being saviour of the Wizarding world, it ruins a person, and Roxanne would know.)
(But maybe, Mummy didn't mind because she had always had her lifelines, (her bits on the side) and princesses weren't born in Burrows, dear, and their princes were always whole. Didn't Auntie Ginny know that? Roxanne wouldn't have the heart to tell her.)
Lily was just as broken as the rest of her family (of Roxanne's family) and Roxanne was just too caught up in trying to save her to realise that she was too.
"We've always been too young," Lily murmured against her lips.
Then she kissed her.
There weren't fireworks - why would there be? - but there were Lily's hands grasping at her shoulders, then skimming down her sides to rest on her hips, clenching at the skin, leaving marks the colour of fire.
Roxanne, never one to be underestimated (remember that), slipped her tongue between Lily's lips, battling against her, and winning. She flipped her girlfriend so that she was pushed against the tree; Lily lifted one leg slowly until she wrapped it around Roxanne's waist.
They parted, sticky with sweat and lips gleaming and bruised, their eyes shining and regretful. Roxanne rested their foreheads together.
"Do you think I don't know about falling?" Lily whispered.
"I think you forget you can fly," Roxanne said slowly, and Lily chuckled darkly, slipping one of her hands under Roxanne's skirt. Her fingers crawled, lower, lower... They both gasped. Once more, she flipped Roxanne against the tree, then sunk to her knees.
The trees stayed silent and shielding around them; winter was coming.
"You're really leaving then," Lily remarked, leaning against the Burrow's kitchen counter. The house was otherwise silent, the rest of its occupants squished into various rooms upstairs, much to their discomfort and annoyance.
"Of course I am, Lils," Roxanne muttered, stirring a cup of lukewarm tea absentmindedly. Her pyjamas were ruffled, and her feet were cold against the tiles, but she couldn't bring herself to move.
"Didn't think you'd have the guts," she sniffed.
"I know when you're angry, you know." Lily's eyes widened, but Roxanne stood her ground. Outside, it began to rain. "And you're not angry right now. You're upset. And scared."
"It wasn't supposed to go like this!" She screamed suddenly, hitting her hands on the wooden table and leaning forward to meet Roxanne's gaze. Her hands trembled. "You weren't supposed to fucking swan off to America to take some fucking art course that Muggles do."
"What was I supposed to do, Lily?" Roxanne squared her shoulders and stood up. "Run away with you? Get a goddamned Muggle civil partnership, because wizards still won't let us marry? Is that what you wanted? 'Cause that's a shit life, and you know it."
Lily opened her mouth, then closed it again. Timidly, she stood up straight, and bowed her head.
A leaf stuck itself to the kitchen window.
"Don't leave me." Her voice shook quietly, and she was not looking Roxanne in the eyes anymore.
"I have to," she replied, taking a sip of her cold tea. She scowled, and set it down with a bang. "Don't you understand that? You're sixteen, Lily. And yes, yes, I know you're seventeen in a few weeks, but that's not the point! I'm eighteen. I'm going to university. We're cousins."
"I thought you loved me," Lily pleaded, walking around the table to press her forehead against Roxanne's. "You told me you loved me!"
"Maybe we were in love once," Roxanne snapped, and Lily seemed to choke, backing away and clutching at her throat as it betrayed her and whimpered, like a puppy left out in the autumn rain. Her eyes were dead and her lips pale; she moved as if every twitch hurt.
"We were too young, Lily. We still are."
"I don't care. I never cared."
Slowly, Roxanne took her mug to the skin, her hands shaking - but she felt calm. The kind of calmness you reach once you've cried for hours, unable to stop, and finally the tears have dried up and the ache in your chest has left, leaving you empty, discarded.
Just an echo.
"Maybe that's the problem."
The thing is with circus acts; there may be fire and gymnasts, but you can't expect to be brilliant without a few burns and bruises.
"You have an accent now," Lily drawled accusingly, leaning against the doorway of the living room with a scowl.
"Barely," Roxanne replied, looking nervously towards the kitchen, where the rest of their family were gathered, for some reason celebrating her return. "I still get mocked for my pronunciation of tomato. And bottle. It's... odd."
"But not odd enough for you to leave."
The tension was almost palpable, like the autumn breeze returning and blowing away the hints of summer. Roxanne sighed.
"We're too old to play this game, Lily. What are you now? Eighteen? Nineteen? You don't need to pine after some haphazard twenty-something with a low paid job, a pinch of talent and a distinct family resemblance," she growled, readjusting one of the coasters on the table absentmindedly.
Lily laughed humourlessly. "Too old."
"Yes. We're too old for this."
"I think you spent two years telling me we were too young. And that didn't work out so well, did it?"
"Bullshit. Don't do this, Lily," Roxanne pleaded gently, leaning forward and placing a hand on her cousin's cheek. "I've been home a few hours, and I miss my family - my friends. Don't fight with me now."
"How is it?" She asked, leaning into the soft palm. "America?"
"Amazing," Roxanne sighed. "But terrible, too. You're not there, to tell my if my art's good or meaningless or, "Dear God, Roxanne, whatever they tell you, don't go into all that modern rubbish, it automatically turns your artistic skills into that of a four year old who's made a misshapen pile of blocks and is congratulated for it." I miss you."
It took Roxanne a minute to realise that Lily was crying.
Outside, the summer leaves hung onto their branches, looking longingly towards the unforgiving ground. They didn't let go, though. The tree remained the same.
Roxanne had always found summer depressing.
"I miss you too," Lily sobbed, clutching at Roxanne's hand. Her fingers shook.
Roxanne was reminded of her mother's stories over the Muggle phone - how the Potter children had fallen victim to "hard times"; how no one saw James anymore (Roxanne knew that he was currently on a plane to Paris) because "all the lights were on but there was nobody home"; how Albus went through girls (and boys) like there was no tomorrow and wrote on walls and spent two nights out of five in a foreign prison cell.
(The other three were spent in the prison cell he called home).
She told her how Lily would come home at all hours of the morning, high as a kite and muttering about leaves and fireworks and god knows what else.
"I could have protected you," Roxanne whispered into Lily's fire truck hair - shorter, now, and sadder. "I should have protected you." Her hands clenched around the scarlet strands and she breathed in deeply, remembering times when they could fly.
The thing is, with Neverland, is that one day, you always have to leave.
(And leaving means growing up).
"I'm so sorry, sweetie. I am so, so sorry," she said, and her voice broke halfway through, and she cried with Lily, wracking sobs to her cousins' empty tears. How was this love?
"Please don't go," Lily purred softly, stroking Roxanne's face, her eyes still shining, tear tracks still marring her pale face. Battle wounds. Scars. She leant up, and pressed a kiss to Roxanne's lips, in a promise, in a plea, in a word. One word. "Stay. For autumn, at least. You don't need to go back just yet; just... stay. For a little bit. Stay."
Roxanne hesitated; oh, how she hesitated. Her tears stopped, but she didn't feel calm, or empty; she felt alive, as if Lily had kissed her and planted a fire inside of her, itching to get out, threatening to destroy her whole.
"Stay and you save me," she promised.
And how could Roxanne refuse?
"He was a great man," Lily said sadly, looking out over the crowd, her voice projected and ringing through Roxanne's ears. "He might've even been a good one."
She only came home from the funeral; they had had their fleeting months of summer, and one weak week of autumn, and Roxanne had left again, for an art exhibit in New York and a promise of a whole section in one of the local galleries.
There were two things that Roxanne could never refuse; an opportunity, and Lily.
And for once, both warred on the same side.
"Go," Lily had whispered, her skin smooth under Roxanne's touch, the old duvet covers scratchy under her fingertips. "I can put up without you for a few months; no matter how good you are at appeasing the family, I doubt anything important is going to happen. I doubt you'll need to save anyone. As you always do." Roxanne had chuckled, then, breathy laughs in the hollow of Lily's throat.
She wasn't laughing now.
"But despite that," Lily continued, her eyes trained straight ahead, not looking at her parents or her friends or especially Roxanne, "Despite that, he was still my brother. My big brother."
She took a deep breath, and Roxanne's shoulder began to shake.
"And he was an idiot."
The gathered crowd were silent; if any protests were made, they were quelled immediately. This was not a time to deny the man that Albus had become; but to celebrate the boy that he had been.
"He broke into Hogwarts - Hogwarts, the most protected place in the country, with some of the most brilliant witches and wizards inside - and I won't sugar coat it, ladies and gentlemen, because Al was nothing if not blunt and nothing if not honest." Her hands shook, and she looked down at the ball of paper in her hands, the words unrecognisable, twisted into some unfathomable shape no one could hope to untangle.
"He broke into Hogwarts and he threw himself off the Astronomy tower because he thought he wasn't good enough."
Someone breathed in sharply, and diagonally in front of Roxanne, James started to cry quietly in his pew. Dominique lay a comforting had on his arm, and surprisingly, he let her.
"I won't deny that Albus made some horrible decisions in his life, but I loved him; we all did. And I hope, I really hope, that wherever he is now, he's happy, for fuck's sake, because he's never been in his life and I'd hate for him to die and still be sad and angry at the world."
Lily took a little bow, but when she stepped away from the podium, she didn't return to her seat.
She made a motion for the official looking men in black robes to stay sitting, and drew her wand.
Wordlessly, she levitated the body of her brother down the aisle, looking straight ahead, ignoring the autumn breeze that wrapped her fire truck hair around her shoulders like a shroud.
While the other mourners followed after the red-haired wild child, Roxanne stayed in her seat, looking down at her fingerless gloves with a sort of longing. If she had thought Albus was in need of saving, she would have rescued him. They weren't necessarily close, but she would've tried.
If there was one thing Roxanne hated, it was people who thought they didn't need saving.
"You left!" Lily shouted accusingly, when they were standing in the gardens of the Burrow, ankle deep in autumn leaves that had started to lose their crispness. "I needed you, and you left me!"
"No, you didn't!" Roxanne replied harshly, taking a step forward. "No, you didn't need me, Lily, you needed to mourn your brother. Your big brother who bloody well left you, and you needed time, not a shoulder to cry on and - and a body to fuck so that you didn't need to remember!"
"That's - that's not true, Roxy-"
Roxanne's hands shook at her sides, and she turned. She punched the tree beside her as hard as she could, making sure the bark was unforgiving, making sure her blood still ran fire truck red. "I was only ever a distraction, wasn't I?"
"A distraction from what? Roxanne, if you could hear yourself-" Lily begged, stepping forward, arms outstretched but eyes running away.
"From yourself!" She screamed, not even bothering to nurse her broken knuckles. "You spent your whole life looking for distractions, you know? I was easiest, of course I was. Not only was I older than you, not only was I a girl, but I was your cousin too! And when I left, what did you have, Lily? A failing father who kept missing his sessions with various psychiatrists. A weak mother who couldn't help him and didn't try to.
"Your last broken brother, who you didn't see because he hated your parents and was probably schizophrenic and was smitten with his cousin. Followed in his footsteps, eventually, didn't you? You looked up to him more than you think.
"And finally, a pathetic little gravestone on the outskirts of Surrey that you still believed was Al."
"Shut up!" The voice was torn from Lily's throat, raw and loud and honest. She had started to cry. "Just shut the fuck up, Roxanne, you don't know anything! Anything!"
"So, naturally," Roxanne continued emotionlessly, looking past Lily and at the gardens behind he. "When I went to America, you turned to drugs; they reminded you of Al, of course, even when he was alive. You ignored Auntie Ginny, who still believed she could fix you. And you scorned Uncle Harry for trying to pretend there was nothing to fix."
"Shut up," Lily whimpered.
"Then - then Al died and James got submitted into a mental hospital and Mummy moved out and Daddy moved on."
"You spent the whole time trying to save me!" Roxanne fell silent. "You can't save everyone, Roxanne! Do you think I wouldn't have saved Al if could? Or James? Or Mum and Dad? Or you? But I couldn't. I couldn't Roxy, and I don't hate myself for that."
She breathed slowly, trying to calm herself, because Lily had lit the fire again, and it was breaking through her eyes, her throat, seeping out and poisoning the air around her. "I want to help you."
"Then stop trying to save me and start trying to help me save myself."
"They're not the same thing, are they," Roxanne said belatedly, phrasing it as a comment rather than a question. Lily sighed and smiled weakly at her.
"When did I become the mature one, eh?"
Roxanne kicked up the leaves at her feet, marvelling at the way some stuck together and others crunched apart. "When we stopped thinking we were young enough."
Lily dragged her inside, out of the bitter wind that pulled at their hair and tried to rip the seams of their clothes like a desperate lover, and into the kitchen, where the family were gathered. (The family minus James, and Dominique, and Victoire, and Rose, and Al-)
Roxanne panicked as Lily threaded her fingers threw her own, her bright, fire truck nails scraping briefly against her skin.
And then, the shorter girl pulled Roxanne into a show-stopping, heart-pounding, teeth-clashing-against-teeth kiss.
The family watched them; half of them were disappointed, half of them were happy, but they were all shocked. Lily threaded her arm around Roxanne's waist protectively, and Roxanne pushed her girlfriend's hair back with her injured hand.
"Shit, Roxy, what did you do to your hand?" Fred shouted across the room, and the adults tittered as the cousins all laughed outrageously. Roxanne blushed.
And that was that.
There were no passionate speeches made, no pleas, no arguments, no dramatic fights or storming offs. They were all quiet, at first, but Harry was the one to stand up, and whisper a heartfelt, "Congratulations." Everyone followed suit, after that; but Lily spent a good few minutes hugging the father she had neglected.
They agreed, later that night, that neither of them were going to play the hero; nor were they going to play the damsels in distress.
They agreed that they were never too young.
They were going to be Lily and Roxanne, made up of cartwheels and fireworks, autumn leaves and fire truck hair. Roxanne never did go back to America, or finish her art course, and in return, Lily visited James in hospital and stopped the drugs cold turkey.
(They even went together to James and Dominique's wedding, which Lily organised and Roxanne photographed. New leaves settled outside their new apartment, and Lily trod on every one.)
I could tell you that they lived happily ever after; I could tell you that Lily got over Albus' death, or that Roxanne never cried herself to sleep over all the people she couldn't save. I could tell you that they stopped falling.
Or I could tell you the truth; that they were happy. I could tell you that maybe, just maybe, Lily and Roxanne were meant to be.
And that was that.