A/N: This is cousincest, so please don't read it if that or the use of alcohol/tobacco makes you uncomfortable. In reality there are so many other things I want to be writing instead of this, but I entirely blame Pearl (lydiamaartin) for putting me in a Next–Gen mood. Also, this contains a few references to The Hour that I won't apologize for, because I miss that show more than words can say and nostalgia has been destroying me lately.
YOU THREW IT ALL AWAY
"We'd be happy. We wouldn't want to be anywhere else; with anyone else." ––The Hour
We're all the gods of our own stories, take it or leave it. That is what James Potter believes in – his constant, his motto, the first rule of life and journalism combined.
He snaps photographs from time to time, moments he wishes he could be a part of in another world and era if he were allowed. There is only one person permitted to look at the negatives, partly because everyone else that comes to mind would chide him for using ancient Muggle technology, but mostly because none of the above could even begin to understand his deepest longings.
"You've done it again," Rose says, pulling out a pack of cigarettes, "Proved that you don't belong in this generation."
"Neither do you," he points out, offering her a light that she gratefully accepts and further affirms his accusation, "You and I both know that we should have been born in a different time period."
She shrugs, exhaling smoke and tapping on the photograph in question. "This needs a caption."
"Write one, then," he tells her simply, so she does.
Later when they lie together she brings up what angle he wants her to take with the accompanying story because one caption is likely not enough, and regardless of the high chance it won't get published anywhere, there is still beauty in the thrill of chasing activism. That's how they roll, Rose and James, always in control, simple where it's wrong to be and complicated where it's right. The majority of the occasions either can recall, though, they just are and that's exactly why they're so perfect – the lone wolves, breathing in their glory days because they made themselves this way and there is no better emotion in the universe to rejoice in. It's infectious, and Rose can't recall any point in her life when she realistically would've been able to say no to him.
Some nights she stays up late, watching dawn break through the half–drawn curtains, prose pouring out of her like writing is the only thing that exists, solely what she was brought onto earth to do. Every phrase is an enigma paired with carefully placed word choices that she knows are terrible but beautiful nonetheless, weaving herself and her cousin into articles of confession which won't be glanced twice at by anyone other than who they are written about.
"Rose?" comes an overdue whisper from behind her, "What're you doing?"
"I'm not too sure," she turns around briefly, handing him a very rough draft of what she's kept herself awake well past 5 AM to accomplish, and then adds, "Don't laugh."
"When have I ever laughed at you?" he perks up despite himself, and she snatches the parchment right back from him.
"Go to bed, James," she says, avoiding the memory of the last time he had laughed at her, wanting to forget about the girl of barely seventeen who didn't believe in herself enough because there were standards and rules and expectations to live up to that she hadn't and never would.
"Not without you," he states, a bit baffled by his hands which had held something other than air a couple seconds ago but don't any longer because she has always been too quick for him.
"You've been asleep for the past six hours."
"You promised you'd be there in five minutes," he sighs, rubbing sleep from his eyes.
"And I wasn't. You didn't notice."
He puts a hand on her arm. She unglues her eyes from the quill in her hands and the desk she's sitting at. Pauses. Thinks about it. Realizes, potentially, that there's no place else she'd rather be, laughing at him every single day and getting mildly worked up when he so much as alludes to doing the same to her.
"I'm sorry," he murmurs into her ear once she gives in and wraps her arms around his neck, "I knew you weren't there, but I fell asleep to the thought that you would tell me what you're writing about in the morning."
"You already know," she replies before their lips meet, and in that moment she contemplates a lot of things, but none of them compare to the sensation of him giving her space whenever she likes even though they both know there's hardly any space between them at all.
"'What do you see when you look at the stars?'" he reads out loud, one arm draped over her shoulder as they lean against their bed–frame after dark, "'Because I see revolutions waiting to happen.' Christ, Weasley, this is about us again, isn't it?"
"When has it ever not been?" she counters, and for once he can't disagree. They fall asleep almost too easily, waking up in one another's arms like they were born in that position – breaths even, pumping adrenaline, hearts beating to the flow of the similar blood and unspoken goals and nothing else.
"I'm going to make coffee," she informs him groggily after he shakes her awake and she can't pull her pillow over her head for too long because it's going to be a long day anyway, "Do you want some now, or are you going to shower?"
"Who said anything about showering?" he says, and follows her shirtlessly into the kitchen when she finally gets up.
"You're cooking breakfast, then," she retorts, "It's only fair if you're going to keep following me around like it's all you know how to do."
"Done," he responds, not even objecting to her remark about his antics. His eyes fall upon the novels and film reels and empty alcohol bottles scattered across the flat, and it appears as the thousandth edition image of them feeling one hundred years too old for their time. "This is pretty domestic of us."
"You're telling me," she says, but strangely she's not smiling and he doesn't catch it, so she drinks her coffee in silence and refuses the eggs he makes, instead brushing her teeth, getting dressed, and heading out the door to face the world which she mentally abandoned ages ago in fear of being taunted for finding a soul–mate in her own bloodline, attempting to fight all the doubts that have clouded her judgment for countless days. When she comes home that evening, she puts her headphones in and writes about tyrants and norms of civilization and Rome burning to the ground until suddenly it's time to get ready for work again. She realizes in her sleepy stupor of making coffee that she didn't specify whether the fire was arson or an accident.
In hindsight, she doesn't think she should have to.
James is home early, about to unwind with a glass of wine to get over the way Rose tensed up like usual on another morning when he catches the knocking on their door.
"Must be the pizza we never order," he jokes as he opens it, and Rose doesn't dignify this with a response. "Oh, surprise. It's actually a bigger nuisance than Muggle food delivery."
"Shut up," Lily replies, barging in and immediately beginning to search their cupboards for alcohol, intentions that she doesn't announce but Rose and James are aware of nonetheless.
"Lily," Rose greets curtly from her spot at the kitchen table, "You didn't say you were going to drop by."
"Yeah, and have you ever heard of the Floo system?" James inquires, closing the door and following her into the kitchen, "Because I heard it works wonderfully. Last time I checked, you were still a witch. At least use the resources that you already have."
Lily ignores both of their comments, choosing only to throw her brother a dirty look before saying, "So I've heard that Parliament might get dissolved tomorrow. You two'd better get out there. That's your scene, am I right?"
"We both work nine to five office jobs," Rose reminds her, "Everything extra is just on the side."
"Not to mention that there's nothing vaguely artistically interesting about the failures of our political system," James points out.
Lily makes a face at the fact that neither seem to value her brilliance, meeting Rose at the table with a glass of orange juice after being disgusted that the only alcoholic beverage available in their kitchen was wine. "Okay, whatever. Let's just cut to the chase, shall we? Unless it's not obvious already, I'm here to ask whether you two are going to make it to Christmas this year."
"I wasn't making an excuse," James says, shaking his head, "I was starting a sentence, which you then interrupted."
"Stop being so pretentious," Lily chides, and Rose pretends like she's not rolling her eyes at them. "Both of you are coming. That's it. All I want to hear. End of conversation."
"Alright, but –"
"Not you, too, Rose," Lily interjects once again, "It's not fair. Everyone wants to see you two. No one cares anymore –"
"No one cares anymore?" Rose repeats incredulously, "That's a joke and a half."
Lily sighs. "We all miss you."
James, leaning against the refrigerator, shoots Rose a look.
"It's not that we don't miss everyone too," Rose says, "We just can't –"
"Yes, you can," Lily drowns the juice all in one go, "You can and you will."
"Let's talk about it later, okay?" James suggests, "Christmas is still over a month away."
Lily sets her glass down, distracted as she glances curiously at the edge of the table on which words seem to be etched onto it in permanent ink. "Nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands," she quotes, "What the fuck? I've never seen this before. Did you two join a cult recently when no one was paying attention?"
"Some people call it that," James deadpans, at the same time that Rose answers, "It's part of a poem."
James has to stifle a laugh and suddenly they are eleven and innocent again, sharing a meaningful look across a room that no one else could possibly understand because they are untouchable from the woes of poetry and family ties and not enough time.
Lily lets out an exasperated sound, getting up to leave only after James says that they won't be making her dinner. "Fine, fine, I'm going," she announces, wagging her finger in their general direction as she makes her way to the door, "I'll see both of you in a few weeks."
Rose leans back in her chair once her cousin leaves, making a reasonable effort to act like she's still in a bad mood. James tries his best to retain his composure, yet he still ends up laughing first.
"I'd say that went well," Rose says, raising an eyebrow, "Let's talk about it later. Merlin, you've really mastered the art of deflection."
"What was I supposed to say? 'Oh, sorry, Lily, but we can't make it. It's been quite a while but most of our relatives are still slightly sensitive over the fact that we've moved in together, and not as roommates to save rent.' Like that would've played out well. You know how she is. She pretends like there's no problem with it."
"If we went, everyone would pretend," Rose replies, "And you can't really blame them."
James sits down next to her, meets her gaze, and says, "I do not know what it is about you that closes and opens, only something in me understands the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses."
She shoots him a small smile. "Maybe if we weren't like this, they would understand."
"If we weren't like the irritating little shits we are?"
"That too," she agrees, leaning over to ruffle his hair so he will be distracted from the truth in her eyes and the faltering tone that refuses to leave her voice.
"I think I'm going to make it to family Christmas this year," Rose tells James on the 20th of December, calm but uneasy after several long days and sleepless nights of careful deliberation, and he misinterprets her entirely.
"Oh, you changed your mind?" he begins energetically, "I didn't think you would, but this is brilliant –"
"No, I –"
"I'll write to Lily right now and she'll be thrilled –"
"You're not following me," she says firmly, massaging her temples as if she's the one who's in pain rather than how he is about to be, "I'm going to the Burrow, but not how you believe. I'm keeping things the way they're supposed to be."
He stares at her, thinking she's joking. "What do you mean?"
She looks at the ground. "I'm not going with you," she says slowly, "I'm tired of this. Of everything."
"You're lying," he accuses, disbelieving, "You're kidding. This is a joke. I don't know what's gotten into you, but you're making this up –"
"I'm not. I'm perfectly fine."
He still doesn't accept it. "You're just fucking with me, aren't you? Is this payback for something that I've done recently and forgotten about? Because I'm sorry, okay, I am, and I'll apologize a thousand times over if you want me to, but please don't play these games –"
"For fuck's sake, James, I am not fucking with you! This isn't about you. This isn't about us. This is about me. This is about what I want."
The look of skepticism on his face gradually fades to make way for anger. "We both know you don't want this. You're lying to me and you're lying to yourself! How can you –"
"How can I what?" she exclaims, struggling not to scream, "How can I try to be normal? How can I make the decision that will let me breathe easily and let me meet my own eyes in the mirror in the morning without looking away because I feel guilty and ashamed of what my life has become? How can I be so selfish? Because yes, I might be selfish for doing this, but in the end, it's what's best for you, too."
"You're out of your mind," he responds furiously, "You've completely lost it! You want to leave? Fine. You don't care about me anymore? Fine. But you don't get to put a label on that choice and declare that it's what's best for me too. You don't have that right, Rose, because by the sounds of it, you don't even fucking know me."
She's grabbed her jacket and slammed the door with an unmistakable "Go to hell," before he's even done speaking. If you'd known me, you'd have known that you're my everything. He clears his throat, pacing aimlessly and after drowning down every last drop of the unopened bottle of whiskey he had bought to gift her as a treat for the holidays, seeing their flat to be emptier than it was on the day they had moved into it, bare and uncharacteristic.
He is present in the midst of the chaos that is the Burrow on Christmas day, ignoring nearly every minute of it. He looks for her, although he shouldn't, because he has a good enough idea to know that she stormed off to Molly and Teddy's when she left him and probably came to see everyone else to break the ice on Christmas Eve. So in a typical fashion that he should have expected, she finds him first instead.
"I heard down the grapevine that you ruined my life," she says casually, avoiding his eyes as she refers to the conflicting rumors that have been circulating among their cousins and elders as to who ended things between them.
"That's funny," he replies, without a hint of amusement, "Because I heard that you ruined mine."
She continues to observe the festive decorations and colorful lights in silence, taking in the comforting aroma of food that smells like home and the familiar scent of his cologne as he shoves his hands into his pockets as if everything's awkwardly normal, like they're fifteen and lonely and dancing around one another and the possibility of being together again. "You came," she finally responds – as if it matters. As if it means something. As if the cheeriness their relatives have directed in both their directions accounts for anything more than forced pity.
"So did you, but I already knew that. After all, you left me so you could come," he says bitterly, voice rising, "For what? To not be subjected to the whispers and the glares and the tortured look in our parents' eyes at the dinner table? Because news flash, in case you haven't noticed already – none of that has changed! It's still all the same. We're still the outcasts, and most of them are as cold to us now as they ever were. What's changed is that you've decided we should both lose everything – each other, ourselves, the future, and happiness. What's changed is that you threw it all away."
"Don't do this," she pleads, regardless of being the one to have approached him to begin with, "Not here. Not now."
"Did you start to regret it? Is that what happened?" he demands, unable to drop the topic, "Because I don't, and I never will. I still –"
"Yes, I did," she interrupts him icily, "I regret it – us, pretending like we were fine even when we weren't, pretending like what we did was justified. It all just got so damn exhausting."
("You'll regret this eventually, James Sirius," she'd told him once.
"Only when you do, Rose Hermione," he'd retorted, because even then it was powerful knowledge to note that it isn't possible to pick up and put together pieces that have never fallen apart. Of course he'd thought she was joking – he always seemed to think she was joking until the last possible moment when it she made it absolutely impossible to hold on to that foolish faith – but he shouldn't have, because there are some things that love songs don't tell you – love is leaving, and love is staying. Love is fate, love is coincidental, and love is a mistake. Love is the lapses of time that pass in–between the decision to start a fire and watching the world burn. Love is seeing your actions through the lens of another person. Love is not caring that you'll regret this – today, pain, the existence of the stars and the ability to become immortal through prose or photographs – eventually. Love is letting go even when there is no definable reason to.)
He turns away without responding and saves himself from a pointless fight, letting himself write his story rather than her, because they are over, and love is nothing.
A/N: I'd sincerely appreciate reviews, but please don't favorite without reviewing!