Author's Note: Although the subtitle of this is one I've had in my head for quite some time - for a short story collection - a random thought brought it to life as a story in itself. The banner came to life around this time as well, and it fueled the creation of the story, as well as its themes and characters.
Title and lyrics are from the ABBA song.
Knowing Me, Knowing You The Death of Love
It had always been another tale of Beauty and the Beast. Although she could never have a claim to the beauty of her mother, the blood of the Veela still crawled through her veins, and she never appeared older than eighteen, her skin never blemished by spots, her skin never burning in the sun.
As a beast, he didn’t measure up to much, his darker moods spent walking through the woods and fields, always waiting for something within himself to come forward, to arise out of the shadows in his soul.
But it never came, and he remained untainted, the beast who never was.
So many said that their love was perfection, that there could be no better a match, that they were the next great couple in wizarding history. He never believed it, though he worried that she did sometimes, when her fancy could not be controlled, her self-love grew beyond its borders, and mirrors became more lucrative than him. The success of their relationship was hers and hers alone, she would say, smiling at herself.
They were perfect together because they were children of the war, the phoenix rising from the ashes, bursting into flame, whole and new. They had, for a time, lived as the phoenix, the fire of their love unfaltering, never fading to embers. But what was her victory was his defeat. The failure was all his.
That was what made him the Beast.
“Have you seen my ring, Ted? I hope we don’t have nifflers.” She swept into the bedroom, her robes the stormcloud and she the lightning.
He sat on the bed, facing the window. “You probably left it by the sink”
“I already checked there.”
He let out a long breath. “Then I don’t know.”
Out she swept, and soon he heard her moving items around in the lavatory, white hands shifting the glass jars from one side to the other. There used to be fewer of them, the potions and cordials that improved the looks and whispered aspirations of beauty into the ears of pretty women. She wanted to become Beauty, but it would always remain just outside of her reach.
He wanted to say that he liked her as she was, but that would never be completely true. As with anyone, there were imperfections, little things that sparked his temper, his sharp tongue wounding her fickle heart. Never fragile, but easily turned away. Away from him, who never said he did not deserve her for all his ugliness, within and without, though others said it for him
Teddy Lupin, son of a werewolf, the beast in the night.
If it was anyone’s mistake, it was hers. Perhaps she’d wanted to save him from himself and the world that could not forget his lineage, the blood of his father, the furthest extent of corruption, a worse distinction than having a Muggleborn for a grandsire. And yet the corruption came from the man who, in the single photograph he possessed of his father, had the saddest eyes he’d ever seen.
Those same eyes would be in his own face now. The sadness was all he had, the only gift from a man who’d left nothing behind.
Except for a son. Forever lonely. Forever scared and scared.
He looked out the window at the growing storm, the wind no longer caressing the glass with its soft tendrils. Violence was all it knew now, the glass shaking in fear at the wind’s wrath, joined by the leaves and flowers. Even the grass fled those unyielding tendrils, lying itself on the ground as for protection.
But there was none. The beast was too strong, too angry.
He longed to open the window and experience it for himself, all that feeling, that power flowing within, through him. For he would be the wind, shapeless and transparent, creating all of the feeling, but feeling none himself. Itself, actually. He could not be a him, have any identity at all if he was the wind.
That was the only freedom he could dream of. There was no other sort.
“It’s not going to let itself be found.” She stepped into the room, her robes rustling as she adjusted this and that, slipping the earrings into her earlobes. “I’m just going to go then.”
“Alright.” He did not move at first.
She moved toward the front door, never stopping for long, moving, constantly moving, always in motion as is the hummingbird, flitting from one flower to the next without cease, and to catch it still is a great rarity, but that instant ends too soon, leaving no memory.
He rose, his bones creaking like those of an old man. But he was old now, wasn’t he? Old and unhappy and wishing for something more, just like every other person of advanced age. There was always something to regret, a dream that would take root and spread, overtaking all accomplishments, fulfilled desires, anything gained from life for death was no gain, only the epitome of loss.
Those days gone past were never easy to forget, the shades of him and her as they once were, happy, busy, thinking forward.
Now, the only forward he had was the single, horrible realisation, one that he had tried and tried and tried again to set aside, to pretend was not true, to run away from. But he looked at his wife of many years and felt nothing. Nothing of the dream that once was.
Her head appeared in the door. “You’ll be late if you don’t hurry, Ted. I mean, look at you.”
He looked down at himself. Still nothing. His back to the window, he could not see the wind, imagine its power, its feeling. He had no feeling left.
A joking response came to mind – getting old you know? – but that was for a happier man, one who did not wish to become the wind, ever-changing direction, never corporeal. It was not for the Beast.
He turned his eyes to her and took in the still-blonde hair, her dull blue eyes, the youthful sheen on her skin. Perhaps she was more Beauty than she’d ever been, the light from the hallway filtering through her hair, setting it aglow in shades of gold and copper. But he was sure that she would not save him with a long-last proclamation of love, real true love, the truest ever to be found.
Another look at her, meeting her eyes, and he knew that would never happen.
“Just thinking, that’s all.”
He stepped around the bed and to the door, then followed her into the hallway, down and around one corner before finding the front door, its white aged to cream, its brass knob worn around the edges.
“You and your thinking. It’s getting worse.” She stole another glance in the mirror, shifting one strand of hair from there to here, or was it here to there?
The one thing he couldn’t think of was when he’d stopped loving her.
“Have a nice day.” His words were the growl of a moody bear.
Her lips brushed against his cheek, impersonal and Continental, the salute that she gave to any and all. “Goodbye. And don’t be late.”
The door shut behind her, firm and solid, more so than any jail could offer. He could not look at it for long, but the walls were lifeless, his legs too weary to take him back to the bed, to the window, to the dream of freedom and feeling that would always lay beyond his reach, his fingers knowing its chill, its perfect coolness, but never making contact.
For love was dead, he was dead, and nothing more could exist in this world for one such as him. The fairytale had ended long ago, its ever after clashing with reality, a war that it could not win.
When he looked into the mirror at last, he saw himself, the greying hair standing on end, unshaven jaw spotted with black, his eyes empty.
He smiled. .
For there was the beast.
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