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Autumn's Sonatas by Celestie

Format: Short story
Chapters: 7
Word Count: 11,478
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature, Contains Spoilers

Genres: Romance
Characters: Molly, Teddy, Victoire, OtherCanon
Pairings: Other Pairing, Teddy/Victoire

First Published: 03/05/2010
Last Chapter: 08/06/2010
Last Updated: 07/01/2014

Summary:
stunner by afterglow @ TDA // rewritten August 2013



It's that time again. The leaves turn orange and songbirds filter through the woods. Perhaps this year, she'll come to terms with the present. Perhaps he'll let go of his past. Perhaps they'll take small, shaky steps into their futures -- together. Autumn is, after all, a time for change. Teddy/Molly


Chapter 1: (winding road)
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winding road






She stands and watches the waves break.

It is autumn and the world is a flurry of leaves and wetness and gray skies. Gone are the eternal star scattered nights of the summer where the air burned with dreams. She is left with the embers of happier days and she watches as they slowly burn into silence.

The waves break and lap, form and fall, push and pull, trapped in their own dance. And she watches, marveling.

Behind her, her family and cousins are dispersed throughout the lakefront laugh and talk and live. She overhears bits and pieces of their conversations. 

There is something tragic about autumn, she thinks. But she can't quite place it. In autumn,  the world is quieter. It prepares itself to slip into the dark and coldness of winter. Perhaps that's it, she decides. After autumn, there's nothing to wait for but winter.

The cool air whispers back all her insecurities, all her fears. The air is laced with the comfortable sting of yesterday and childhood. Cotton and air mixing, fields ripping, umbrellas held against the sky. She breathes slowly, feeling every alcove of her past greeting her. Worn books, piano keys, saccharine, two Knut candies...she is home. 

Above her and her laughing cousins, the thunder breaks, spasming, cracking, and the leaves follow in response, falling off their branches and weaving through the cloud tops.

Thunder. Wind. Leaves rustling. The faint murmurs of her family. 

Then, footsteps.

“Molly?”

She smiles before turning, even though she does not recognize the voice. “Yes?”

“You’re home? When did you get back?”

 “Teddy?”

Teddy’s eyebrows rise. He always was a little sensitive - a little on edge, as if he was perpetually waiting for someone to offend him. “Were you expecting someone else?”

He looks older, she notices. Not taller or bigger. Older in unexpected ways: more tired, with a deeper voice. Gone are the old, ugly jumpers he used to wear. Instead, he's wearing a collared shirt and trousers, looking very much his age and very unlike himself. 

“No, no,” she adds hastily. “It’s not that. I got back three days ago.”

“Oh.”

Silence descends upon them, painted in by time and distance and a hundred other little things she cannot be bothered to remember. A strand of hair falls into her eyes.

“How’ve you been, Teddy?”

“All right, I suppose. Finally got a job and a flat a few months back, so at least my grandmum doesn't have to worry about me anymore.” He runs a hand through his cleanly cut hair and Molly’s eyes waver, falling instead to the scene behind him. Dominique sits reading quietly, unaware of the wind hassling her, and Lucy stands in the distance, splashing water onto Louis’s face and Molly marvels at how much things have changed, at how much their lives have moved on without her.

“And you? How’d your music career work out?”

“I’m back, aren’t I? What does that tell you?” She didn't think it would sound so bitter. She's rehearsed the same lines in front of her mirror at him, knowing that her relatives and her schoolfriends would pounce upon her with the same question. She'd practiced until she was sure she sounded indifferent about being back.

Apparently not.

“S – sorry.”

“No, it’s okay. How’s everyone else? How’re you and Victoire?”

He grimaces.

“What?” Molly laughs. “Oh come on! I thought you two were all for getting married. Right before I left – remember what you said – and what Lily – “

“Merlin, Molly!” Teddy reddens considerably, his features wilting downwards. He checks behind his shoulder, inspecting the general vicinity. “We agreed not to discuss that again!”

“You honestly expected me to listen to you?!”

She smiles and time turns back three years. It is as if they have accidentally forgotten that he grew up and became Quiet and Mature and an Adult, and got the flat and the Ministry job and the girlfriend that his grandmum had always wanted for him. It is as if they have forgotten that she ran off to pursue her dreams and came back defeated.

They’ve slipped into conversation, like boats swaying and children playing. So many things have changed, and yet, she still stands before Teddy Lupin, laughing as she did when she was five or fifteen. She adopts a deep voice. “Oh Molly - I think I love – “

He looks so scandalized that she laughs. "Molly, please."

"Okay, okay, I’ll stop." She's still wearing an enormous grin. She doesn't feel as though she's smiled so much in a while.

“Thank God.”

She takes a moment to look at Teddy briefly; she knows that he is went off and grew up in her time away, but he doesn't seem so different. He'd had a bit of a wild phase in Hogwarts - the pranking, the girlfriends, the detentions - but all the boys in her family had it too. After seventeen, he'd calmed down a little - become kinder and quieter. She thought about their Hogwarts antics briefly for a moment: the pranks, the silent nights at the library, his overwhelming need to show off in front of Victoire...they had had two polar personalities. He had been Ted Lupin, the star, the prankster, the godson of the Boy Who Lived, Quidditch extraordinaire, boyfriend of the most beautiful girl in school. And she had been Molly Weasley, bookish, the first of the Weasleys to be tossed into Hufflepuff, with average marks, painfully shy and perpetually living her life as if she'd wandered into it by accident.

Those seven years had come and gone. They had emerged out of them as merely Teddy and Molly. Amidst the patronizing, the arguments, the Christmases and summer breaks, they had accidentally become closer than they had ever intended to be.

A new wind breaks and washes over them, showering leaves and dust and old memories into their face. And Molly smiles, watching the leaves reach their crescendo, twirl and swirl.

“I’ll be going, then. Take care, Molly.”

“I will.”

“Be nice to your parents. And your sister. They’ve missed you.”

She suppresses a frown. “I know.”

As he turns to leave, she feels a small part of her lifting, walking with him.

 “You’ve grown up, Teddy.” She says it quietly, but he hears. And suddenly, she feels those three years in which she'd left rush between them. A small sadness seems to seep through her lips, through her words, to him, to the air between them and the leaves and trees around. Yesterday, she was Molly and he was Teddy and they were children. Today, she stands in front of him like a stranger, echoing words so many forgotten relatives have given to her. A vast whiteness seems to stand between them, rolling and rolling.

She had left everybody behind and run off. 

But slowly, he gives a reluctant smile.

Because he is not a stranger.

He is Teddy Lupin, after all.

Her best friend.

He pauses before he continues. “Thanks.” He rounds the corner and disappears among the thicket of trees bordering the lakeside.

The voices of her sister and mother float down to her.

Lucy Weasley!”

“I was kidding! Honestly, ask Lou – “

“Like I’m going to help you!”

Teddy Lupin had grown up. Molly took a deep breath.

Now it was her turn to.









Author's Note (08/10/13): The lovely chapter image above is by the_terminator at The Dark Arts. This story is dedicated to Rachel (PenguinsWillReignSupreme) for supporting this ship so ardently and for encouraging me ever since one of my very first one-shots. I also owe my thanks to Elysium for making the first banner for this story which inspired it in the first place.

This story is undergoing some rewrites, mostly because I really feel it doesn't reflect much on me as an author. The rewrites aren't major (some lines have been added to help with characterization) and some lines have been pulled if I found them a little overwrought or too flowery. If you're an original reader returning for a reread, I do hope you find these changes to enhance the story rather than detract. I've tried my best to refrain from deleting lines.

Thanks so very much for reading and I'd love to know your thoughts.

Celeste


Chapter 2: (flavour of life)
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flavour of life




It is an overwhelming feeling.

It threatens to slip forth, from centers of her eyes to her lips. It is Saturday night. So remarkably unremarkable. The night had long slid into the sky, ink upon glass and the world was resoundingly silent. It was the sort of silence that strung through tree branches and kissed the air to move curtains. It was the sort of silence that molded days together and splattered them across the back of her mind along with toys she had once cherished and butterflies that she had once seen fly.

Molly thinks she is waiting, though she isn't sure what for. 

It is Saturday evening and the trees outside her window scratch the glass and two floors down, her mother is making dinner. Her father is on the same shaky chair that he adores, reading. Life is at a standstill. It is as though three years haven't passed at all.

Molly brushes her hair, frowning as the ends of her brush snag on her auburn hair.

She pulls at her features. Her skin is pallid – overly so – with the smooth texture of paper. Her eyes are too small and her smile too big. There's nothing left, she thinks bleakly. Nothing left to comfort her. She has neither talent nor beauty. And unlike the millions of people who similarly have neither, she isn't happy.

It is an overwhelming feeling. Being back here, at the beginning of all things and knowing that it is not the beginning this time. Every crevice and hole of the house seems to whisper to her. You've failed. You ran away to follow your dreams and you've failed. Now what?

She stares at her reflection, lost in the small space behind her and before the wall.

It frightens her. She feels like no time has passed between the last time she set down her brush – was she seventeen? – and now. And that after everything, nothing has changed. Perhaps nothing really has. She's still the same person, isn't she? Filled with the same, stupid, silly hopes and dreams. Perhaps with one less dream now.

Her room is bare, made more of memories than of materials. Where she made Rosie cry that one time. Where Roxanne gave her her present three Christmases ago. Where her mother whined futilely about her daughter’s messiness.

She feels as though if she turns around, a younger version of herself will stand placidly, smiling back up at her.

“Molly?”

Lucy opens the door a crack and peers in.

“Yes?”

“Can I talk to you?”

Molly smiles a little. “You already are.”

“Uh – “

“Just come in.”

“Okay. Thanks.”

The silence of the world outside seems to creep through the open window.

“How are you?”

Molly resists the urge to push away her sister, though she hopes she doesn't sound it. “Fine.”

“You can drop that tone,” Lucy says coolly. “I haven’t talked to you in a while. I wanted to see how you were. That’s all.”

“No – no – it’s not that.”

“Well?”

Winds roll outside. The lamp flickers feebly and her sister’s face is draped in shadows.

“Sorry, Luce.”

Lucy rolls her eyes. “Whatever. God, you’ve changed.”

“I have not," says Molly slowly, though the prospect is alarming. Could she have changed without noticing? "If anything, you've changed. Remember the day I left? You cried.”

Lucy sticks out her tongue and Molly laughs.

More silence.

“I’m glad you’re back, Molly. Even though you’re annoying and bossy and nag a lot.”

Molly pauses. "You give the worst compliments."

The curtains fall and rise, lifted with the undulations of the breeze. The world is cast in the darkest blue, which darkens as it moves away. The wild grass that surrounds her home ripples and rustles and breathes.

Molly hears her mother call for her and her sister feebly. Audrey Weasley’s voice filters lightly through the house and it strikes Molly again – she is back, she is back.

A new wind breaks and washes over her and tinges her skin lightly with the scent of the night. 

Lucy begins leaving. She turns and pauses by the door, her palm resting on the heavy wood. This is her sister. Eighteen and loudmouthed, bold, and free. Never having to once question herself or her future. Perhaps Molly doesn't need to imagine a younger version of herself anymore. Not when she has Lucy to remind her.

“Coming, Molly?”
 







Author's Note: The lovely chapter image above is by Musicbox at The Dark Arts. Thanks so much for reading -- I'd love to know what you thought of the chapter.

Celeste


Chapter 3: (merry go round)
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merry go round




Sunday comes and brings with it wet winds and terse words and emptiness.

The skies are as devoid as they have always been. The world is as she remembers it - unnervingly bleak and cold. All talking suspends momentarily, broken in by a coincidential, swelling silence.

It is Sunday with the Weasleys. Talking, food, family.

The silence breaks and out of it pours small chatters, which fan out through the rest of the room. Molly sits by the window of her grandmother’s house. That has always been her seat. Just close enough to see the world, but not feel the wind.

Everyone bursts out at once, talking over the other. She shrinks back slightly, playing with the few remnants on her plate. After all this time away, she feels like a stranger. The sky outside is a quiet black. Within the texture of its fabric lie inkier pools, interlacing tresses of hollow gray, she thinks she can hear crickets chirp and garden gnomes run about. The world – time and words and emotions – seem suspended.

Someone briefly mentions her name and she fixes the general direction the necessary smile. She does not think it matters to whom.

Victoire catches her eye and they both look away quickly. They know that any eye contact would result in a forced attempt by their grandmother to talk. Molly has nothing against Victoire, but thinks with a small smile that Victoire is as easy to talk to as a chair. Perfect people are always difficult to talk to.

Louis and Hugo are arguing again. Molly grins. Most of the family is arguing at one time or another.

“It’s obviously the Appleby Arrows – “

“I don’t know what you’re on about – the Arrows haven’t won a game since – “

“Care to bet on it, then?”

Victoire drops her spoon and looks toward Teddy, who wears the light shadow of a grimace. She nudges him and he pushes her away, his grimace darkening. Victoire frowns and he pushes back his chair and walks away. Aunt Hermione and Uncle Ron are standing some distance away, holding a full on shouting match, complete with spectators.

“I – cannot­ ­– believe you!”

“What?” Uncle Ron asks defensively.

“Ron, you know perfectly well how I feel about this – “

Molly doesn’t suppose she can laugh aloud at them. She turns, instead to Rose, who is conversing with Lysander Scamander. Rose’s ember eyes are focused downwards on her own hands. Both she and Lysander are decidedly avoiding each other’s gaze. Clearly, they both still remember last week’s fight.

Rose speaks first.  “Gamp’s theory states that to successfully Vanish something, you need at least – “

“ – yes, but that doesn’t discount the existence of the viper.”

“There’s no way something like that can exist, Lysander! Its entire existence is self-negating! If it does exist, how on earth could it keep itself alive?”

“Stranger things have happened.”

“Yes,” she said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. “You certainly can attest to that.”

Lorcan picks at his food with a distinct disinterest. His voice is as airy as Molly remembers it to be, like a summer breeze. “Keep it civil, Rose.”

“I am civil.”

A lamp bulb flickers. Molly can hear a soft thumping noise from the ceiling; she vaguely registers that there were people smart enough to eat dinner quickly and escape upstairs.

“Say what you want,” Lorcan says lightly, “but last weekend ended with me wearing parsnips. Someone clearly has bad aim.”

Molly looks away, momentarily disinterested from their perpetual arguments. Lucy, who has been watching the argument from a distance, wanders over, her brunette locks bouncing. She looks at Molly and both of them laugh quietly.

“Are you sure about them, Luce?”

“Absolutely,” Lucy whispers back, her eyes flashing with amusement. Besides Molly, who looks pale and gaunt and listless, Lucy looks young and vibrant. Nearly anything has her brimming with energy, ready to burst at the seams. “My tea leaves've never been wrong."

“But it just seems kind of – “

“ – impossible?”

“Well, look at them. They keep arguing.”

“Just trust me." Lucy's superstitiousness and her belief in her tea leaves and crystal balls and playing cards have been something Molly can no longer understand. She remembers herself at fifteen, constantly brewing tea and checking her palms and reading candles with excitement. Now it seems so silly...

Trying to push away the sad conclusion of her thoughts, she murmurs, “But I think she’s more likely to murder him than marry him.”

Lucy twirls her glass lightly and grins. “That’s the fun part. I know the ending already. Now we’ve just got to watch it all work out. Rose Scamander. Well, it does have a certain ring to it.”

“Are you ever going to tell her? You know – beforehand?"

“Are you mad? She’ll have me sent away for St. Mungo’s before she’ll believe me.” Lucy throws her head back a little and laughs. There is a call from upstairs and she pauses. “Lily’s calling me, Molly. I’ll be back later.”

With that, Lucy rises and floats away, into the indiscernible pool of redheads that is gathering by the front of the kitchen. Molly looks around herself.

She is nearly alone. She hadn’t noticed. Save for Albus, Aunt Fleur, and Dominique, she is nearly alone. Albus notices as well – he pushes everything into his mouth quickly and walks away. Dominique frowns at her mother, who is once again pushing more food towards her. She reaches for her parchment.

Maman, she writes, stop.

Dominique cannot speak. Some small part of Molly loves her the most for it – more than all her other cousins. Sometimes, she thinks, almost as much she loves Lucy. In a family of stars, they are part of the darkness. But they are not the same - not completely. Dominique is mute, but Molly - however rueful, however self-pitying - thinks she is the one without a voice.

Dominique too runs off and her mother follows her, plate and disapproval in hand.

Again, the memories resurface. They begin to pull her back. A violin and a piano. A small flat. One bedroom, with a broken stove and a leaky roof. Playing on the streets, waiting to be discovered, but feeling the months slowly break her. Desperation, hunger. Disappointment. But she wouldn't go back home or write for money. She couldn't, she knew. Not when she'd nearly broken her mother's heart by refusing to settle down properly. And not when she'd inherited her father's sense of pride.

That last summer took nearly everything. 

And finally, it forced her back home.

Molly is not ungrateful for her life. She supposes that all of it – the suffering, the anger, the sadness – have all brought her to this point. To this night, to this table. And, for that, she is not ungrateful. She looks outside the window by her side and sees the star brushed darkness. The vastness of the black – the rolling hills somewhere beyond, the tufts of grass that have been gently parted by the tidings of daylight – all hang suspended. Everything – sound, color, noise - fades.

She loves her family. Sometimes, her father drives everyone to wit's end with his overprotectiveness. Sometimes, her mother is too disciplined for Molly’s tastes; she lives a comparmentalized life with certain expectations for everything. Sometimes, even Molly thinks Lucy really ought to stop being so whimsical and start being more responsible.

And Molly still loves her cousins. Even if Fred still isn’t passing Transfiguration and Rose gets on everyone’s nerves and Lily shows off too much. They make her laugh and keep her days vivid with the brightness of living. She isn’t perfect either, she knows. She isn’t good with people. She gets angry when she doesn’t get what she wants. She can be selfish. She doesn’t like talking. Molly doesn’t hate herself for it. Life and living, she thinks, is like the ocean. Waves come, overlap, and part. Life is storms and sea breeze, love and loathing, passion and placidity, always and arbitrary, eternal and ending. 

She is not ungrateful. She looks outside the window and sees everything blooming. Crickets chirping, fireflies breezing through the loops of grass, the moon serenely smiling. The elongated figures of her cousins reflect onto the glass. One, two, one, two. The world tilts, like merry go rounds and Ferris wheels.

But those years ago, when she still lived in the perfect universe of her childhood, she had seen more. Happiness. Fulfillment. Accomplishment.

She is not ungrateful.

It’s just that she thought her future would be so much brighter.











A/N: The gorgeous chapter image above is by Musicbox at The Dark Arts. This chapter's for Rachel (PenguinsWillReignSupreme) and Molly (SnitchSnatcher). who convinced me to save this story and continue it. You might've noticed that the title of the story went from 'Autumn Sonata' to 'Autumn's Sonatas'. The change was made to avoid copyright infringement. Also, I know that the British equivalent of "Merry Go Round" is likely "carousel", but the chapter title comes from the name of a song, so I felt kind of strange about changing that.

Celeste


Chapter 4: (oasis)
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oasis



She thinks she is living her life by Sundays. The days pass breathtakingly quickly. Helping her mother clean the house. Listening to her father drone on about his work. Walking every evening with Lucy, discussing living and life and loss and all the things she could think of. Every weekday blends into the other, from waking to feel the morning cold engulf her to lying down to sleep, watching the black of the sky clash with a deep, dark red. Her days are quiet.

Cousins flit between the empty days and rain and almost-storms. Fred came last Tuesday and Dominique and her father on Friday and Aunt Ginny with a reluctant Lily yesterday. She half wonders if her aunts are marching in and out because they pity her. But either way, Molly has grown accustomed to their voices stringing throughout the house.

She wishes something - anything – would happen. There is solitude and solace and silence, but she wishes for something more. A small, secret part of her wishes she could take to the cold of the streets again with violin in hand, but she knows how that turned out last time. She stands on her doorstep and watches the stars rise and a light turn on and a car drive by and she wishes for something, someone to come and change everything.

Invariably, Sunday comes. She wishes she didn’t have to go, but knows that she must. It is family and duty and today.

This time, it is by afternoon and lunch and again by lakeside. Almost everyone is here again, save for Lysander and Lorcan, who are out of town with their family, and Louis, who is at home sick.

It has been the year of no summer and only storms, but she does not mind it much. She is one for coldness. Though, by the lakeside, it is almost more than she can bear. The water is a sleek, placid grey, reflecting the cloudy sky.

From a short distance away, she sees Teddy walking alone. Reminded of a previous day, she walks towards him faster, eager to break the monotonous loneliness.

“Teddy? TEDDY!”

He stops. It occurs to her how hassled he looks, like he hasn’t properly slept for a few days. He is scruffy hair and rimmed eyes. He passes a hand over his face. “Oh. Hi.”

She smiles at him, but as she nears him, her smile falters. “Is something wrong?”

“No.”

“Are you sure?” She’s caught up to him now. In the few seconds before, she had worried whether he would want her there, but she is fifteen again and he is Teddy and she is Molly and they are friends. He might not want her, but if he needs her, she will be there. 

“It’s…nothing…”

Molly nods, understanding. She has never been one to probe more than needed. Silence descends upon them and he looks away, a pained look in his eyes. She wonders if she ought to leave.

And then, after a good few minutes of nothingness and waves and trees, he says, with an air of reluctance, “It’s Victoire.”

“Did something happen?”

The anger in his eyes returns. “I don’t know how much longer I can deal with her, Molly. She’s so – emotional all the time – it’s impossible to keep her happy – “ He gives a grand, old sigh. "I think at this point, we want very different things in life. And we're turning out to be really different people."

“Well, if you feel that way, there's always an obvious solution."

“But – “

“Do you love her?”

A cloud rumbles faintly against a mass of grey. The sun is hidden from the world.

“I'm always going to love Victoire," says Teddy. "She's been there with my whole life."

So have I, says a small part of Molly.

Molly understands. If it is one thing about Molly Weasley, she always understands.

"But I don't know if what we have is healthy anymore," says Teddy reluctantly. "I'll always love her, but I don't know if I'm actually in love with her. We argue all the time now. Sometimes it's about her wanting me to get a different job or how she thinks I'm wasting my life in Magical Equipment. But I can't just leave her. Her family and my grandmum've been building up this fantasy for a decade now about how she and I are going to get married or something."

“Don’t overthink it, Ted. I mean, relationship or no relationship, no matter what, you've got to look out for your own happiness."

His smile flickers like a light against a storm. “You think so?”

“Of course I do. And besides, you’re the persistent type, aren’t you? Remember your fifth year, during O.W.Ls? We all told you not to take Divination, but you did.”

His features pull up very slightly. Molly grins at the small progress. It is the talk of better days. “I still failed, though. I got a P.”

“I’ve done worse.”

“You have not.”

“I got a D in Transfiguration.”

“You’re joking.”

“I wish I was,” she says, wondering if he will see through her.

“No, you’re definitely joking. You told everyone you got an E!”

“Everyone was comparing results – you know I couldn’t have just told the rest of the family – “

“Merlin,” he says quietly, but he looks considerably more cheerful. Molly grins at this and thinks of how easily he can be fooled.

After a pause, she says, “I do hope things work out between you two. But – in case –“ (he flinches at this and she ignores him) “ – you know – you leave her, then don’t feel bad about yourself. If it’s meant to happen, it will.”

“I guess so.”

“And even if you two break up and my whole family loathes you, I’ll still think you’re great.”

“Really?”

She blushes slightly and looks away. “I always have, you idiot.”

He laughs at this and throws an arm around her shoulder and steers her away from the lakeside. She didn’t know she was so close to the water, but he pulls her away carefully. “Thanks.”

“Just don’t let her get you down.”

“Do you think I should try to stay with her?” He gazes off into the distance. A brief interlude of lightness illuminates where they stand.

“I don’t know. You tell me.”

“I don’t see the point of it. Today, we’ll be happy again and tomorrow, it’ll be back to the same thing. But – “

Molly resists the small urge to roll her eyes. The conversation is back where they began. She shakes his arm off.

“I don’t really think it’s in my place to tell you whether or not to leave her. That’s up to you. But you guys’ve been together for ages.”

“We have.” The time clouds him. “It’s been a few years.”

“I think you guys would’ve given her parents a run for their money.”

“We could have.”

Again the sorrow.

“Don’t worry about it, Teddy. Just don’t think about right now. You can get it all fixed with her later.”

“We were supposed to be so much more, Molly. Everyone always told us that we’d be together forever. It'll be such a huge disappointment.“

“That’s not true,” says Molly, thinking of her grandmother and her aunts and biting back the truth. “And forget about them – my family’s known for being a bit crazy anyway. Do whatever you think is right.”

They’ve walked the perimeter of the lake already. Molly stands in wonderment. How did time pass so quickly? The memories of lunchtime have already sunk past. The waters of the lake are reflecting the light yellow of deep afternoon and almost twilight. Somewhere beyond, a flock of birds take flight.

“It’s kind of nice talking to you again,” he says, not quite meeting her eyes.

She smiles at this.

“And it’s nice having a friend who’s a girl, sometimes.”

“Yes, I doubt James would’ve been of much help here. Unless knowing the entire history of the Ballycastle Bats would've helped you decide whether to stay with Victoire or not.”

Another comfortable silence falls between them. She counts the seconds that fly past. Time seems frozen when she is with him, wrapped in his troubles. They walk and walk. The woodland beyond is engrossed in sound: birds taking flight and falling, trees rustling, songs being sung and forgotten. A breeze falls into her face and blows over her hair and into her eyes. She shivers, refreshed and freezing all at once.

She wishes he would say something. And he does.

“Molly.”

“What?”

“You’ve changed.”

“You think so?” She is staring at the ground, which has been made soft by the wishes of the water. Yesterday’s footprints of children still lay grazed. The sun has emerged now and bathes them all in a soft, speckled sunlight.

“Definitely. You’ve grown up.”

He throws his arm around her again and pulls her closer. She sticks out her tongue. “I have not.”

“No, you have. You’re not the same little girl who needed help getting on a broomstick.”

An embarrassing memory from her first year resurfaces. She blushes deeply at that. "Oh no. Please don't."

“What? You can tease me about Victoire and I can’t tease you about the broomstick?”

“Shut up, shut up! I’m not listening!”

He takes on a high pitched voice and she crinkles her nose. “Teddy – what if I fall off? Teddy, I think I’m going to cry – “

She hits him with the side of her arm. “Well, when you were fourteen, while you were trying to ask out Emily Goldstein, you vomited on – “

“Oh God, I remember that.”

“I ran into her when I got back. She still hates you for it.”

“Remember your date with Andrew Wood?” He bursts out laughing at this.

Molly says indignantly, “I thought we agreed never to mention him! He was a raving lunatic! Honestly, what I was thinking I’ll never know.”

“Definitely not as bad as Albus with that crazy fangirl of his, though. How they're getting along, I'll never know."

They both cringe at the mere thought of this.

“Yes, definitely not.”

She cannot bear herself to look at him any longer. It is an age-old secret, crinkled parchment and old bedrooms and Wednesdays. To her, he is butterflies that lie dispersed to the fifty winds. Together, she thought they could've been something beautiful. She fancied him, once. Fancying Teddy, as Lucy put it, was like a Weasley coming-of-age ceremony for all the girls. Everyone, save Lily, to whom he’d always been only a brother, had been there.

He had never noticed. Teddy had always had two roads he could've traveled down and two girls he could've chosen to love. He had never noticed the second.

And the stars had fallen apart and fallen away and the leaves had wilted and she had moved on. She had always remained Molly. His friend.

She tells herself that she had forgotten, but some small part of her has not. You can never completely forget, she thinks, when what you saw before has not left. A small tinge of bitterness, like all the flowers with no scent, tinges her.

But she is Molly and he is Teddy and after all these years, they have remained friends. Not just friends, but wondrously, incredibly, amazingly, friends. She was the quiet girl in Hufflepuff and he was the popular Gryffindor Quidditch Captain with a million friends and even years later, they are friends. She was the one he'd moped to over his first break-up, she was the one he'd gone to after receiving a Howler from his grandmum, she was the one he'd confided to about his growing feelings for Victoire...

She does not resent him for it. They talk with the ease of a river slipping through the rocks.

He finally says, “To be honest, I wish Victoire could be more like you.”

A secret for her ears only.

“You’re being silly. Victoire’s really beautiful," says Molly earnestly, "If I looked like her – “

“It wears off, believe me. Especially when you live with her.” He looks away. "She has a trillion expectations for what everyone has to be like. What they have to look like, what job they should have, how much money they should make...Being beautiful...isn't everything..."

"I guess.” Molly is reluctant to bad mouth her cousin and feels a flush of guilt along with the small sparks of happiness.

Her mother once again calls her name. Teddy frowns a little (is he sad to see her go?) and says, “Looks like you should go.”

“All right then. Take care, Teddy.”

“Thanks for listening.” He slumps a little and raises one hand in farewell. She grins and walks away, her red hair swimming through the undulations of the wind. She smiles because she has always listened and always will. She thinks he smiles back because he knows.

She walks, feeling the mist of the lake water hitting her softly. The clouds have almost completely disappeared now and sunlight is amidst everything – the chatters and chirps of the wildlife and the dances of the waves. A beautiful, brief interval of light and shine and sun.

He stands there, watching her, his hand still up, stuck in careful consideration. The sun shines and shines.







Author's Note: The beautiful chapter image above is by Musicbox at TDA! Thanks so much for reading and please don't forget to review!


Chapter 5: (two paths)
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two paths


Time passes. He comes and goes with the strips of sun that fall and flee. Autumn is at its peak now – birdsongs string through the woods. They are light on water, breath on fog, footprints on sand and all the things that could have been their own. There is something about the songbirds; their birdsongs elicit something visceral from her in the morning. They seem as though they force even time to stop and admire their simplicity. 

The early mornings and the songbirds have been making her think. Lately, Teddy has been flitting in and out of her thoughts -- and more so than usual. She remembers their times together in Hogwarts and them together just a few weeks ago and wonders if that much has changed at all. She's heard from her mother who heard from Aunt Fleur that Teddy's left Victoire and feels like she's been holding her breath for ten years without realizing it. And she thinks tentatively perhaps now, she can learn to exhale.

She isn’t in love with him. But she could be and secretly, she wants the chance to know.

She sees him sometimes – here and there. Laughing with Lucy. Dancing with Dominique. Talking loudly to Albus. He is always full of life. Barely a few weeks have passed since Victoire and he is again brimming with new vigour. She knows he sees his life as before Victoire and after Victoire, but one day, she will change him.

Teddy and Molly. To her, it sounds like all the things that make up someday.

On misty mornings, a bird outside her window sings against her window. She can hear it every day. A sweet song like dusk and rose petals. Molly wonders why it is alone so much. Molly knows how that feels. A life by the windowpane is not an easy one to live.

She tells herself to forget slowly.

But she can’t. Life is beautiful like that. It is winter mornings alone and swallows and being halfway there.

Days pass. 

And then, him.

He comes and goes and they are waves by the beachside, push and pull. He makes her laugh and she makes him forget. It is slow and simple. She has small, niggling doubts here and there when she laughs with him and feels fifteen; what would her mother say? What would her aunt think?

But it is happening. It is happening anyway.

She wants him to look at her more. She wants to make him laugh just once more.

Molly hopes that he will notice. They start to spend more Sunday evenings together. He rants about working in Magical Equipment to a table full of her cousins; after fifteen minutes, neither of them realize that she is the only one left, still rapturously listening. He tells her about his plans for this and that -- he wants to transfer to the Magical Law Department, wants to someday go to countries like Angorra and Belize. It is the kind of wishfulness that she thinks frustrated Victoire to no end. Victoire who is practical and down-to-earth. But Molly, after three long years of being trodden on the ground thinks taking off on a whimsical dream sounds beautiful. Teddy makes her feel new again.

One Sunday, they argue at her grandmother’s house. Dinnertime and outside and wet grounds and leaves everywhere. It’s something silly and stupid and they argue and he sweeps her off her feet. He’s always been good at that, but only this time, he does it literally.

Teddy! Put me down – put me down!”

He laughs it off. “Scared, are we?”

“You’re going to drop me! Put me down!”

Molly squeals in terror. By now, her cousins have assembled around and most of them are grinning. They’ve all been in Molly’s position before as children, but laugh. Victoire wears a nonchalant expression on her placid features, but her eyes look murderous.

“Say sorry or I might just drop you.”

“No!”

He pretends to fall over and swings Molly dangerously close to the ground.  She screams when she nears the ground and he pulls her away.

“Teddy Lupin, you absolute – “

“Wouldn’t want that happening again, would we, Molly? Now say it – “

She does. Reluctantly and biting her tongue. “Sorry.”

“What?”

“I said sorry! Now put me down!”

He does and the moment ends. Some part of her wishes he had never let go. But in front of him, she is loud and herself and Molly-the-friend and she thinks perhaps another ten years may go before he ever notices.

The nights fade into the air. Stars appear and disappear and Molly finds and loses. She is contented, she tells herself. But that does not mean she does not want more. They are sea breeze and foam and all the beautiful things that the world does not need. Her days feel emptier by the minute. She talks to her family and is grateful that at least they can see her for what she is. She serenades the woods outside her home with her violin, watching the melancholic echoes stain the silence.

The next time she sees him, it is in her Aunt Angelina’s rose garden. Dominique has walked with her and the two of them stay in a warm silence. There are more words to be wished for than said between them. Sundays are now her favorite day of the week. He stands among the dead and dying flowers, which have been stripped of their vibrancy by the coming cold.

Molly bites back the urge to approach him. Within a few seconds, Victoire appears from the other side. A thorn has scraped her cheek and she holds her hands to it, grimacing. They stop and stare at each other. They have seemed to have reached an understanding. Victoire looks beautiful. Her blonde hair is slightly curled and furls beyond her shoulders.

A few vibrant orange leaves fall off from the tree above them and float to the ground. Looking like something out of a photograph, Victoire holds a hand out and catches a leaf, a small smile flitting on her face. Then she looks up and catches his eyes.

“Teddy,” Victoire breathes and it is hope and the past, present and future. 


Molly fades back and Victoire seems to rise forth, like the dawn rays by the ocean. She walks to him, with a small, knowing smile on her face. A breeze passes between them all, looping through the bare stumps and deadened leaves on the ground to the roses before Molly.

She pulls him closer. 

“I need to talk to you,” she whispers. “I – I’ve missed you.”

“I don’t know about this, Vic -  “

“You know how I feel. Give us another – “

Molly hopes for it and he says it and he ends all things. “No.”

And Victoire who is and has always been victory and winning and conquest is finally defeated.

Dominique frowns in disgust and a small, burning glaze of happiness spreads throughout Molly.

“Come on,” she tells Dominique, “let’s go. We shouldn’t interrupt them.”

It is insignificant. It is fireflies to stars, but it is resoundingly, unforgettably, a small step. Molly knows it is wrong to feel happy when her own cousin lies fallen only a few feet away, struck dumb. She thinks it is wrong for her to want Teddy to be hers.

But is it? She wants to be happy. And she thinks he might be her first step towards it. When she and Victoire were fifteen and Teddy seventeen and Teddy had fancied Victoire and she had fancied Teddy, she had always encouraged him to face Victoire. She had egged on Victoire, helped convince her to see that Teddy - then loudmouthed and rash and perpetually in detention - could be the solid, responsible type that Victoire liked. She had helped set them up, so was it wrong to be so happy to see them fall apart?

Dominique walks before her, as placid as ever. Molly keeps her eyes on her feet as she walks, feeling her heartbeat rise with the rustling trees.

It is some kind of beginning.






Author's Note: The lovely chapter image above is by visenya @ The Dark Arts!

This chapter's for Rachel - for the unyielding support and kindness. :)


We're almost done! There's only about one or two more chapters to go! For those of you who have constantly been supporting this story, I cannot thank you enough. 

Thanks so much for reading! Please don't forget to review! :D

 


Chapter 6: (reaching)
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reaching





Molly waits and watches as ever.

One more Sunday. One more monotonous Sunday in the fan of her days.

Once, she looked forward to them. But now, her days are passing bleakly and she counts them as she does a rosary, prayerfully waiting for the day that she can smile again. She talks less and less because she is saving all her words, funneling them away for that one meaningful moment that may someday change it all.

She watches her sister from the corner of her eye. Lucy takes a sip of her butterbeer and turns back, a shadow of a smile on her face.

“What is it?” she whispers. “Is something wrong?”

“Nothing,” Molly says. And it’s true.

Nothing is wrong. Really.

Lucy smiles and pats her hand and Molly manages a faint trace of a grin.

Molly looks at her sister and tries to feel happy that Lucy’s found a job in Diagon Alley. She tries to remember what that light, bubbly feeling used to be like – butterflies stroking the sides of her stomach, enveloping her in a warm glow and pulling up the sides of her mouth. Lucy is bright, young and full of life. Lucy has everything in front of her. Lucy is lucky enough that her dreams are not already extinguished and that the one boy she has always fancied has not been someone else's for the majority of his life; Lucy has nothing set in stone and therefore, she has everything.

She knows that she should be happy for her sister, knows that her silly jealousy is tomorrow’s laughter. But none of will change the fact that she has to stay home again and watch everybody else be happy.

Molly carries her empty plate and puts it in the sink. On her way back to her seat, she passes Victoire, who gives her a small smile. Molly looks at her cousin, whose beautiful face has been marred by exhaustion and wonders what is happening to all of them.

“You okay, Molly?”

“Yes,” Molly whispers. “I’m fine. You?”

“I’m here and there,” Victoire says, her voice sounding like carousels and Ferris wheels and all the things that spin without reason. “Life’s been…hard…”

She trails off, looking lost. Molly feels a twinge of regret looking at Victoire. She feels a little regretful that Teddy's left her. And more than anything, Molly regrets that they have never been closer. Looking at the girl in front of her, she no longer sees the overachieving, stern Head Girl, but someone lonely and a little afraid. It is a pity, she thinks, that their whole lives they have been unwittingly competing with each other, keeping each other at arm's length on some excuse without ever realizing that perhaps they could've had more than an obligatory relationship. Perhaps they could've been friends. 

Molly sighs. “I know.”

“Still haven’t found a job?”

“No.”

There is a pregnant pause.

“You and Teddy are – “

“Nothing,” Victoire says harshly. “We’re nothing, actually.”

“I’m sorry.“

But Molly is slowly learning not to be.

“It’s okay,” Victoire says. She grabs her wand off the counter and begins walking away. Victoire may be too demanding, may be too much like Molly's mother and father, but if she is anything, Victoire is strong.  Even among a chaotic family, even with a million voices always chiming in, telling her what to do, trying to influence her in a thousand ways, Victoire has always stayed quintessentially herself. And that, with all her listlessness and insecurities, Molly can appreciate. “It’s nothing now. I’m okay.”

Molly watches her cousin disappear into the folds of their family, gliding past Freddy and Aunt Angelina until she is completely out of sight.

She sighs and begins walking back to her seat, feeling at a loss for what more there is to say. Her mother comes to her with a grim smile.

“Come on darling, finish eating.”

“I’m not hungry, Mum.”

Her mother fusses briefly. “You’ll be hungry in an hour if you don’t eat.”

“Stop it. I’m okay. I'm not twelve years old.” She turns away quickly; a small flush of guilt washes through her as she catches a glimpse of her mother’s wounded expression. She knows that her mother only wants her to be happy, but it stings Molly to see herself like this.

Twenty years old and still living with her mother, still depending on her for a future.

Molly walks resolutely out of the kitchen and downstairs. The Burrow, the place of eternal Sundays. Everyone is five and then fifteen and then twenty five and nothing at all has changed. Rose still fights and Uncle George still makes everyone laugh. Molly catches sight of her father standing next to Uncle Bill; both of them are laughing at something Louis has done.

At least her family is still happy. At least they still have each other.

Molly takes a deep breath.

She keeps walking downstairs, bits and pieces of other people’s conversations floating down to her.

“ – and then he said that I wasn’t – “

“ – Victoire, could you pass the – “

“ – the Muggle Malice Act of 1905, proposed by – “

She finally reaches the place she did not know she was looking for: a chair by the window-side downstairs. Outside, the sky is a hazy mass of clouds; flecks of sunlight dance at the bottom, reflecting onto the field beyond her. The grey skies seem to make everything brighter – the plants swaying in the winds, the flowers that are losing their petals one by one. A clock chimes somewhere and Molly breathes. One, two, one, two.

She can hear the soft rush of a footfall near here.

“James?”

“It’s me.”

Teddy.

“Oh.” Her voice automatically raises an octave. “What do you want?”

“Are you okay?”

She turns to meet him. There is a strange expression on his face. In his hands, he holds an orange and she rolls her eyes. He’s always eaten too many of those things. Her mind unhelpfully chooses this instance to remind her of a thousand little things about Teddy; a thousand little things that anybody would've forgotten if they hadn't secretly considered them important and chosen to remember. A thousand little things that had taken ten years to learn. He ate so many oranges that he could get himself sick on them. He liked angsty, broody poetry. He supported the Montrose Magpies; Molly had let her drag him to a game so she could sit next to him for a whole three hours even though she couldn't tell apart a Bludger from a Quaffle. He wanted to have two daughters someday so he wouldn't have to choose between naming his child after his mother and grandmother. 

“Yes. Why?”

“You were sitting alone all through dinner, Molly.”

At this, some irrational thing in Molly snaps. She feels it break inside of her; and out spews the memories of the thousand litlte things. The oranges, the Montrose Magpies, Andromeda and Nymphadora, the colour chartreuse, aubergines, his allergy to cats, that one time Madame Hooch had yelled herself hoarse, walks by the Black Lake at midnight... "Just leave it."

His eyebrows rise. “If I’ve done something wrong, you can just tell me.“

“It isn’t that." She exhales. "You wouldn’t understand.”

He takes a seat next to her and Molly looks pointedly away. Outside the window, she can see the faint outline of gnomes running through the wild grass and snorts lightly. Her grandfather never can keep them away for long.

“Is this about your family or something?”

“No.”

“You’re making this hard, aren’t you?” He gives a shadowy sort of grin. Molly's in no mood to smile back. She feels her head pounding and something inside of her continues heaving and giving way. She feels a shot of cold nerves pulsate her and she wonders if this is it. If something is about to finally change and break.

“Nothing’s wrong. I told you. So you can just go now. Really. I’m okay.”

He snorts at this. He could always see through her, but he turns to rise.

Only after she hears his footsteps spin into the blur of sound and voices does she feel a heat spike to her cheeks.

Again. She’d messed it up again.

The first time they’d been alone for a while now.

She wants to tell him. She has already tried more times than she can count. But she knows he does not feel the same. He does not blush or look away or twist his hands. He does not look or smell or act different. There are no flowers in his hands or change in his eyes. He is Teddy Lupin, her friend.

She does not love him. She knows that it is not love with towers or princesses or roses. She does not need him to rescue her. She does not need a prince. It is not chocolates or tears or passion. It is laughter and gentle autumn days and lake breeze.

It is not forgetting. It is never forgetting.

She does not love him. But she is Molly and he is Teddy and she thinks that she one day will. 

And for that, she knows she must try.

To her, autumn once meant orange leaves and crumbling trees and the faint promises of springtime. Autumn now means Teddy Lupin. Autumn now means that she might be brave enough to do anything.

When she had first started fancying him in Hogwarts and he had fancied Victoire, she had known then that he had split his life into two possible paths. Victoire was a path filled with promise and beauty. A part-veela Head Girl with top marks didn't exactly need to compete with a bushy-haired redhead who had always been too timid. So Molly had encouraged him down that first path, thinking it for his own good. 

To her, Teddy has remained a constant. Her friends from Hogwarts have come and gone. But Teddy has remained. To Teddy, she can be his second path. One that is not clean paved and built with clean, even bricks. One that has bumpy cobblestone on top of dirt, with vines scattered all about. Second paths will never buy back lost time, nor can they necessarily promise anything better, but second paths can let you traverse them with more confidence, with more experience, with more maturity.

She rises from her seat and turns towards the door.

She walks down a narrow hallway, her heart racing. She opens every door slightly until she reaches the one near the stairs. On the front of it, a sloppily written piece of parchment charmed to the door proudly proclaims that it’s her Uncle Ron’s room.

She pushes it open gently. There’s a burst of laughter from a floor below.

And there he is.

He sits on the bed, his head in his hands. He looks up when she enters, his expression unreadable.

Molly does not know much. She does not know much past her violin or her mother’s piano. She does not know of the world much past the winters spent in isolation, the days without heat, the nights without love. She knows of family and friendship and that they are the lone suns in the darkness.

“What is it?” he asks.

She does not know what to say. She catches sight of his disappointed expression and does not know what to say. 

He has never understood or known or seen this – them for what they could be as she does.

He has always been her friend and she has always fancied him, but they have been oceans apart. She has waited and waited for him. For weeks and months and years, but possibly her whole life.

He stares at her and she stares back. She hears nothing – nothing of the shouts below or the wind playing through the trees – nothing more than her heart pounding against her. Ten years, it tells her, as if she needs reminding. Ten years...

Be brave, she tells herself.

He rises and stands over her. He has always been taller than her, too tall for her short frame.

She feels electricity settling on the layer of her skin. She feels as though if she really listens, she can hear stars being born and fireflies learning to fly and rain giving way to sun.

They have always been oceans apart, but now, finally, it draws to a close.

She stands on the tips of her toes and presses her lips gently to his. She feels him stiffen.

She is reaching over to him. She is reaching over ten years and down one whole road and informing him that another awaits. And she is at last, reaching him.






Author's Note: The lovely CI above is by Lady Asphodel @ TDA!


We're very nearly there! One more chapter to go! Again, I'd really like to thank everyone who has read/reviewed/favorited - it really does mean a lot. 

Thank you for all the support!




Chapter 7: (winter music)
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winter music





He looks like he is going to pull away.

For a brief second, her heart beats until it distorts all feeling and sound and touch. There is only him – his confused expression, his blazing eyes.

She finally pulls away, biting on her lip. “I’m – that was – sorry – ”

But she isn’t. Molly has been sorry for many things – dead butterflies and broken glass and forgotten words – but this and them was something she could never regret.

His face is unreadable. “What was that for?”

“I – “

“What?”

“Fancy you.” She clears her throat. "And maybe I always have."

There is a tense silence; Teddy looks stunned. Outside, the autumn gales are reaching a crescendo;  leaves fly into the air in wayward spirals. The curtains flap and she watches her feet, waiting.

And finally, he speaks. “I’m not sure what to say.”

“I know you don’t feel the same way,” Molly says carefully. Her voice is tinged with disappointment and she smiles up at him.  No matter what, they will still remain friends, she tells herself fiercely. “It’s okay.”

“It’s - not that,” he says quietly.

Her heart thuds loudly; her body reacts in an orchestra of feeling. Her head pounds, her heart beats and she can feel her pulse ticking in time with her breath.

She bursts into a wide smile. “Really?”

"I..." he murmurs and then stops for a minute. "I...mean...I've always been with you and Victoire my whole life, you know. So back when I started to fancy Victoire, of course I wondered...because to me, it's always been you two...why Victoire and why not you. I had my reasons for it then. Obviously, they're not really here anymore. But I've...wondered before..."  But his expression sobers immediately. “We can’t. Imagine that we were to – you know – have a relationship – but we can’t – ”

“Why?” She cannot – will not – fathom coming this far only to fall away.

“Family,” he murmurs, looking distant, a figment of ice and marble. “Victoire.”

“Does it matter?” she says, her voice equally hushed. “Does it really matter?”

“Molly, we’re friends. We've been friends for years. What if something goes wrong and we ruin it – “

For the first time, she finds her voice. It is music and birds chirping and flowers blooming and she finds her voice as paint finds canvas. “Do you want this?”

“I don’t know.”

She looks away, frustrated. “Let’s try. Let’s try – this. Whatever it is.”

“What’ll your family say?”

“Whatever they say, I’ll just take it, I suppose. But this is up to you, Teddy.”

Molly loves her family. She knows there is nothing past life than family and friends and him, which is why she knows they will one day understand.

He is silent.

“Take a chance. What’s the worst that can happen?”

“I loved Victoire,” he says. “I always thought we would get married. Everyone said so. Even you.”

“Yes.”

“So what happened?”

“You moved on and she moved on.”

“I moved on?" he asks doubtfully. "Doesn't quite feel like it.'

"You could move on," Molly amends. “I know I’m not your Victoire. I know – but – “

He says it. She waits and it comes easily, easily, like storm clouds and rain. She calls it hope and he calls it doubt, but it is the truth, fostered by the experiences of a lifetime.

“Maybe you could be.”

And there it is.

He looks at her and for the first time, she knows he sees it too. He sees over ten years of happiness and friendship and laughter, spent in the forgetfulness of childhood. He is Teddy and he had his Victoire and she is Molly and she and him were wishes waiting to breathe.

There is a pause.

He recollects having a similar conversation to himself a decade ago, frustrated by Victoire's constant refusals to go on a date with him, It had been Molly who had gently intervened on his behalf, spoken to a cousin she wasn't particularly close with, puffed him up until Victoire had finally acquiesed. And he had wondered then -- for a few quiet, secret moments -- why Victoire? She was smart, she was beautiful, and she was distantly perfect. But why not Molly? Molly wasn't as beautiful, but Molly was intelligent in her own way, understanding and kind, and moreover, always there. Now, after an age of stagnatio, he thinks he is ready to explore.

Molly once meant five foot tall and flashing auburn hair and friend. Molly looks at him like she now wants to be a blank slate. And Teddy too, after eight years with Victoire, could use a new start; Victoire has tangled herself into his blood and mind and veins and he can feel bits and pieces of her still floating around. There were two paths and he had chosen the first; a decade later, he knows he cannot backpeddle but perhaps, it's never too late to have an adventure.

“What now?” asks Teddy.

“I guess this is like starting over,” says Molly with a nervous laugh. She feels her hands trembling slightly, but it is with a reassuring hope. "Weren't you ever curious? Even just a little?"

"Yeah," he says and he visibly relaxes. "So, if we're really starting over, do I have to reintroduce myself, then?”

Molly laughs – the sound is the daydream of ten years. Everything seems blissful and free and bubbling with potential. She marvels that in an autumn, everything has changed, but nothing really has. She is Molly and she is still timid and nervous and she still does not have a job. Her violin still creaks slightly and her sister still talks too much and Molly’s bed is still unmade.

But she is Molly and she is beginning to take the first steps forward again. Everything was gone just three months ago in August; now, slowly, it may just be wandering back. Maybe she is starting to be brave again. Maybe for once, after a long time, she is looking forward to the future.

“You’re Teddy,” she says, feeling a smile form on her face, “and I’m Molly. And this was supposed to happen.”

*



Autumn was once listening to her mother’s battered radio sing into the niches of an empty house and watching her sister dance around in her room, her arms aloft. Autumn once meant the beginnings of drafts and wetness, orange leaves soaked to the surface and stuck to the hardening earth. Birds took flight and nests lay empty and the sky was covered with wings. Autumn was listening to the songbirds and wondering what exactly they were singing.

She laughs and he laughs and days slip by and weeks pass. Some days, they breathe in unison and she forgets what it is to be alone.

He is autumn now. Just as home once was a small room and no more words and empty nights, home is now the toss of an orange, sunlight flooding new walls and him. He sees the frosted ground outside their home and says that orange trees will spot the horizon one day. She sits in her room, watching the white curtains undulate with the last of autumn’s dying breaths. Rasps of wind will soon fade into sheets of fresh snow.

When she hears the songbirds now, their songs tell her that they were waiting too; that this is a story they've seen and heard many times, so they sing along too.

The skies fan out with the hundred strokes of the sunset and she lives through nights of nebulous clouds.

She tries not to remember her cousin’s venomous face and her aunt’s angry shout. She tries not to remember how it felt to see her mother’s confused expression. He tries not to remember what the stings of first love were – the bare emotion, the hazy predictions for the future. She tries to let go that she will always be his second love – always filling in footsteps that were someone else's. But together, they can forget everything.

First love is as first love goes – it is passionate, it is immature, it is innocent and youthful and wild. It is begging and pleading her for eight months before she reluctantly accepts. It's charming roses to fly to her at breakfast for weeks. It's being entranced by every small, unremarkable thing she does: the way she enunciates, the way she flicks back her hair. It is sneaking around the Astronomy Tower and the library and behind empty suits of armour. It is never having to feel like you will one day grow up and argue about things like jobs and mortgages and when to get married and bills. First love, like pressed flowers slipped in journals, like birdsong, like autumn itself, is beautiful, but transient. It is a beautiful beginning that is aware at all times that it will have an end.

And what an end. They ended like a supernova. And they each walked their separate ways. 

Molly is his second love but second love is as first love could have been. Molly becomes the quiet love. The one he didn't know he fostered on lakeside walks, on talks about life, on comforting conversations, on her listening, on him listening, on them growing together with time and not apart. She can live with being a second love and exploring trodden ground because with her, it becomes familiar and safe, as if she is the one he has been in love with for ten years.

She laughs and he laughs and days slip by.

Every sunset is vivid with what it is to live and every night is painted with what it is to lose.

He peels oranges and she dances on street curbs and she is learning what it is to be him. He forgets Victoire and finally knows victory.

Autumn fades away and takes with its beautiful birdsong sonatas, its extravagant orange landscape, its moist, heavy weather and leaves simply, stark beauty in its wake. She stands by her window, watching the earth fall to a gentle freeze. She closes her eyes and memorizes every crevice of the dirt, every swipe on the windowpane, every leaf on every tree.

He holds her hand as they await the coming winter. Winter will bring new music. Not birdsongs anymore perhaps, but she will hear trees rustling, flowers losing each petal, and skies storming over. She will hear the symphony of the rain, the thunderstorms, the weeds tumbling across barren grounds.

She has him and he has her and at least for now, that is everything.

Through the sheets of snow and the rumbles of thunder, she realizes that she has grown brave, that he has grown up and that together, after being static and still, they have finally moved forward. Shakily and quaveringly, but forward. And together, they wait for spring.


Fin.










Author's Note (08/17/13): The lovely CI above is by Lady Asphodel @ TDA!


I started this story in March 2010 on a whim, never imagining I would ever finish it. But it's finally come and gone.
I have a lot of people to thank here. First of all, thank you to Rachel (PenguinsWillReignSupreme) for her unceasing support of this story, even pre-rewrite, with its many unnecessary metaphors and rambling descriptions. Thank you to Molly (Snitchsnatcher) for persuading me to continue writing. Thank you to Musicbox for some of the loveliest reviews I've ever received and for three very beautiful chapter images. Thank you to Elysium on the Dark Arts for making the first banner for this story that inspired me to write it one very boring day in school. Thank you to dust&decay for making the second banner that inspired me to keep going. And thank you to afterglow for the last banner, which made me realize it needed a rewrite.

Lastly, if you want to see how the Molly/Teddy journey turns out in a few years, (and the one-shot that inspired this story in the first place), check out my one-shot 'orange groves'.

Again, thanks for everything! When all was written and done, it was an enjoyable journey!
I hope you felt the same! 


Much love,
Celeste




 


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