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Love. It is the obsession of the ages. I have read so many books, plays and poems, listened to wizarding music and watched muggle films, and it is always there, beckoning me with one hand, pushing me away with another.

Love. It makes no sense, it defies all logic. If it is real, which I wonder, it is bloody strange. All that they tell us, all that we expect, is at odds with all that I see. Love is fireworks, frenzy, and an all consuming passion blazing a path to eternal glory. Love is soaring ecstasies and swooning damsels. Love is listening to rants on elf rights and enduring endless Quidditch games with a smile. Love was never enough to keep my parents together. If love is real, it is beyond my comprehension, far out of my reach. I am Rose Weasley, and despite being eighteen years old, I have never loved. I don’t think I ever will. Love is for dreamers, and fools.

Looking out at the gentle undulations of white capped waves ebbing and flowing back and forth from the blinding white sand, it is not difficult to trace the roots of my wayward thoughts. My toes, the only part of my sensitive skin I dare expose to the ravage of the sun, are scrunched in too-hot sand. The stark contrast between my home, my life, my dreary grey existence and this soft embrace of paradise is one root. Another, of course is the small white house crouched several meters behind me, just tipping out onto a suggestion of sand. 

I have known the occupants of the bungalow all my life; their faces are as familiar to me as my own. I have seen them grow and change and metamorphosis into beautiful butterflies and a velvety moth. I have known them all my life. How is it that I feel nothing for any of them at all? What does that say about me?

A breeze stirs the weight of the summer afternoon, whipping the tangles of my impossible hair about me. By the time I have pulled them into a knot, retrieved my slipping sunglasses and rewrapped my kaftan around me, I am no longer alone.  This is a private beach, but access to it is not mine alone. There are three others who now roam its length, but not with me. 

Scorpius is squatting on a rocky ledge that juts out over the impossibly blue water. His gleaming hair and even paler skin, as much as the pencil flying over a scrap of parchment in his hands gives him away. What he writes is a mystery to me, for our uneasy acquaintance has never deepened to anything approaching friendship, or allowed such confidences to be shared. I highly doubt Dominique knows either, for all she is his greatest friend and occasional lover.

My eyes are drawn, as always, as everyone is, to Dominique. She is dancing along the length of the shore to music only she can hear. She is a vision, the soft folds of her scarlet dress flaring gracefully about her marble limbs, her face aglow with the light only she can exude. It is hard to look away from her, from the windswept glory of her golden hair, from the delicate contours of her perfect features, to the animated flicker of feeling across them as she twirls laughingly about the shore. Dominique makes every emotion more intense, every experience more vivid, every moment an epiphany.

It is hard to look at her for long and not be blinded. It is no wonder Scorpius, with his voracious need for beauty, is fascinated by her, as it is no secret, and part of her charm, that she does not care. A sigh escapes me despite myself, for regardless of the painstaking principles my mother has instilled in me, beauty is something I find as alluring as it is repulsive. It is not my lot, it never will be my burden to be judged as nothing more than a pretty face.. but perhaps then.. No, I will not allow myself to think like this.
 
Lying back down in the embrace of white sand, I turn my head away from my lovely cousin. On the far side of the beach I can make out Victoire’s lithe form, the rich purple of her microscopic swimwear startling against her fair skin. She is not as beautiful as her sister, as dashing as her brother, but she is the eldest and she rules over us all. Even Teddy.

He is stretched out beside her, his golden tan deepened to bronze beside her ivory, his bare arm just touching hers. He whispers in her ear as she turns the pages of her novel and she moves her head slightly. She does not close the book, or return his smile, a glimmer of mischief he cannot repress, but she turns to look at him. He is all tousled dark hair and long lean limbs and as he suns himself carelessly I cannot shake the leonine comparison that rises up before me. Victoire condescends to stretch out one fine-boned hand and trace the sloping cheekbones lightly. The sheer intimacy of this simple gesture is almost more than I can bear, and I wrench my eyes away, wondering why a simple caress should affect me. I have, after all, seen much worse from them, if not for a long time.

Salt spray has wormed its way into my eyes, stinging them furiously, swelling my dry throat and I stand reluctantly, shaking off the sand which clings persistently to me. As I begin to wander my way back to the house, a fat droplet of rain splatters on my shoulder. When I look up at the previously unclouded sky, my vision is obscured as another drop lands in one eye, followed by another, and another. I don’t bother trying to escape the deluge. No one ever outruns nature. 

Scorpius, although his nose in always in a book, has never learnt this and he manages to overtake me, clutching his precious papers to his chest as he sprints to the house. I glance over my shoulder to see Dominique still dancing wildly, lifting up her arms to welcome the downpour and when I turn back to the house, Teddy has almost reached the verandah, Victoire held protectively in his arms. He does not put her down once they are undercover, but turns to call to Dominique.

“Dom,” he bellows across the distance of soggy sand breaching them. She pays no heed, continuing to career willfully until Victoire lifts her crystal voice to join his rich baritone.

“Come back,” she demands, her voice not loud, but managing to carry through the rain to her sister. Dominique spins on one foot a final time, just to prove she can, and then she gathers her drenched skirts about her and lopes towards me. She smiles when she reaches me, tossing a brilliant smile my way before tripping along to the white house. 

I am the last to reach shelter, and by the time I have done so my hair drips in heavy snarls down my back and cold has seeped into my very bones. Victoire looks disapprovingly on as I trudge into the house, puddles in my wake and before I can reach for my wand she has Vanished them and dried me from top to bottom. 

I say nothing, not the thanks civility, if not Victoire expects, nor the retort that bubbles to my lips. I have a summer to spend with these cousins, and a summer on a private beach in France is preferable to the internships strings have been jerked for in England, or the disappointment in my mother’s face, or the bewilderment in my father’s. I will not make waves; I will keep my mouth shut and go on. It’s not as if I don’t have practice.

I thank Merlin devoutly that I at least have my own room. It’s a small blessing, considering the thin walls of the place, but never have I appreciated magic more than when I can curl up on my bed, my door warded against intrusion and sound, a book in my lap and my mind free to travel the length and breadth of the universe. Mum hates it when I do, she’s convinced the house could burn down around me and I would never notice. With her big empty house turned office, and her occasional strained Weasley Sundays, she’s never appreciated the beauty of being alone, that double edged sword that cuts me deeper the more I cling to it.

I don’t know how long I lie on my small blue bed, because I close my eyes for no more than a moment to push away broken images of the scenes played out before me at the beach, and when I open them again the room is no longer flooded with grey light but pitch black and slightly chilly. Fumbling for my wand in the dark, I light it and rummage in my still unpacked trunk for a cardigan. 

Unlocking my door, I wander down the stairs to a dark and silent house. I have no idea where they have all gone. Back to the beach, where I can just hear the crash and boom of waves slamming against the sand? They may have made their way into Nice, to mingle with the locals under the starry sky and share secret smiles when no one is looking. For all I know they are at a party, for my cousins and Teddy have always gathered people around them effortlessly, and although Scorpius is awkward in company, his rare bursts of speech can be as intriguing as the air of mystery he wears like a shroud.

As my ears grow accustomed to the sound of the sea I pick up another faint sound, laughter. I hesitate for a long moment, the familiar comfort of a night on the sofa, with a book or perhaps a film, persuasively pointing out the potential for disaster if I should leave the house. Almost I give in, but the imp sitting on my shoulder that prevented me from thanking Victoire earlier digs in its heels and spurs me to walk to the back of the house. I find them all there, gathered around a roaring bonfire that is a flickering blue bell shade that twists my lips in an involuntary smile. Needless to say, Mum would not approve.

Dominique is laughing at some witticism Scorpius has made, her head thrown back as she giggles. His eyes trace the curve of her cheek, the lines of her throat, and still she smiles, either oblivious or taking it as her due. On the other side of the fire, Victoire stares into the dancing flames, her face inscrutable as always. Teddy plays absently with strands of her long strawberry blonde hair until she gets up abruptly, rising to her feet in one fluid moment. She catches sight of me, hovering in the door way, neither inside or fully outside and her expression softens, perhaps a trick of the light or because I look particularly pathetic with my salt spray hair and incurably lost expression.

“There’s some dinner in the pantry,” she tells me, and if there is no warmth in her tone, there is not more chill than she offers to everyone.

I shrug and let her pass me by to go back into the house. Teddy follows her only with his eyes and only when she has been enveloped by the darkness does he see me, leaning against the doorway and smiles slightly. It is no more than a quirk of lips, the distant but affectionate response of an older brother, but I barely process it before my traitorous feet lead me to the chair vacated by Victoire. We sit in silence for a while, each content with our own thoughts and I wonder if this is how this summer will continue, all of us lost in our own, shared, separate, dreams. And then Teddy speaks; his voice a deep counterpoint to the soft laughter from the other side of the bonfire.

“It was good of you to come with us,” he says seriously, his warm brown eyes turned to black pools in the stillness of the night. I shrug, watching the blue flames dwindle. It was not good of me, although perhaps it was stupid of me. It had seemed a wonderful idea at the time. Teddy lifts an eyebrow at my silence; although why he should be still surprised by it is beyond me. But then, Teddy has never been able to see anyone, or anything, when Victoire is in the room, and he knows me as well as he knows Lucy, or Molly or Roxanne; that is, not at all.

“We’d all murder each other in a week if it was just the four of us,” he continues more lightly. “You didn’t have to give up your first summer out of school.”

“Anything is preferable to Hermione Granger on the warpath,” I mutter, more to myself than to him. He chuckles slightly and my eyes fly from the flames back to his face. I was perfectly serious. He of all people, one of the few old enough to remember what my mother was like when she was still married to my father and turned up to Weasley events, should know how seriously she takes career choices, and what a disappointment I am.

“You don’t give yourself proper credit,” he scolds gently. “You’re here, even though you don’t like Dom and have never got along with Malfoy,” he points out.  I blink. What? 

“We don’t not get along,” I protest, sparing a glance for Scorpius. He is pointing out constellations to Dominique, who has forgotten whatever Astronomy she ever learnt, and never knew of the legends lying behind each star, which Scorpius is apparently intimately acquainted with. Stars have never interested me, although if anyone had bothered to ask me I would have told them I would infinitely prefer to have been named for stars rather than the most banal of flowers. 

“We just have nothing to say to each other,” I finish, realizing anew how common that is.

Teddy merely shrugs and ruffles my hair condescendingly.  

“This will be a good summer Rose,” he insists, his hair turning the same blue as the bonfire, the turquoise blue of quiet serenity lapping at the shores of unexplored territory. It is my turn to shrug, to shake off the burden of cynical insight that should be his domain, not mine.

“I hope so,” I tell him, surprising myself by how much I want his words to be true. “I hope so.”


 

AN. My dear readers, I am SO sorry for how long this took. I have had an impossible block on this and had to stop waiting for something brilliant to fall in my lap and just settle. I’m not entirely happy with this chapter, so all thoughts and cc welcome! Rose will get less pathetic, I promise!

 I will be updating much more regularly, and with much less wallow-y chapters (and more shirtless Teddy. Scorpius is a little shy, but I’ll talk to him). The amazing support for this has blown me away and I will do my best not to let you down!

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