White, white as a sheet
I saw a ghost, I think it was me
I've got to get out.
“I barely know your family, Rose. They – they won’t want to spent Christmas with me! I’m a stranger!” I stammered, unable to cleverly think up an excuse for getting out of living with Rose’s beautiful, wonderful family for a month.
“Oh hush, it’s a big Christmas this year – which means all the family and friends included!” Rose exclaimed, uncharacteristically flamboyant – it was beginning to freak me out just a little bit. “And anyway, don’t be ridiculous, you know my family and they know you! You’ve met my parents before – don’t you remember?”
“How could I forget?” I muttered, grimacing slightly. “Your dad stared at me the whole time as though I were about to bite him and kept asking me if I was completely one hundred percent sure I wasn’t the next heir of Slytherin, Draco Malfoy and future threat to the fruits of his loins.”
“Yes – but, my mum, she wasn’t like that at all. She loved you.” Rose was struggling now, wincing in memory of her father’s comedic, yet offensive antics over lunch that had taken place six years ago after I had been sorted into Slytherin.
“Yes, your mum absolutely ‘loved’ me. If you can recall, she made a list of all the decent Slytherins in history on a napkin to make me feel better, yet only managed to come up with about three or four.” I retorted dryly, unable to control myself.
“Well, c’mon, they liked you before you were sorted into Slytherin and will be over the moon when they see you again. I mean, I am sure that they missed you. You used to come over all the time and play in the garden with Hugo when I couldn’t be bothered. See, there’s another person you know. My brother! Hugo loves you!”
“Hugo loathes me, Rose. I accidently outed him to the entire Slytherin population that night in fifth year when I tried that weird Muggle mushroom stuff.” I smirked in memory of that evening, despite being slapped by Rose’s fourteen year old brother; I had thoroughly enjoyed my experience.
“Uh, yes – well, that was a long time ago and y’know, he’s probably grateful that you... you made him see that he was... you know... and yeah.” Rose’s eyes were unable to meet mine and she kept shifting her weight from one foot to the other. It was beginning to annoy me.
“Whatever. I just – it’s not a good idea.” I was slurring my words, and so I closed my eyes. I couldn’t have Rose knowing I had been out drinking, and was half-drunk, and was without a nail on one finger and had kissed her cousin twice that day.
She couldn’t know a lot of things, it seemed.
“Shush. You’re coming, it’s final. I have already asked my parents and contrary to what you may think, they said that they would be delighted to see you again and that we should leave here as soon as possible. I thought it would be best if we went tomorrow though – so would it be alright if I slept here tonight? I don’t really fancy staying in any of the Muggle accommodation places around here, and London’s too far to go at this time at night.”
“’Course...” I mumbled, and Rose’s face lit up. “It’s no problem.”
“Wonderful! Everything will go swimmingly, I know it.”
Only Rose, and perhaps a ninety year old woman decked in doilies, said things like ‘wonderful’ and ‘swimmingly’ and ‘spiffy’.
“So does that mean you will be joining me for the holiday?” Rose asked, finally back to her usual, and reasonably introverted self. The girl who signed her full name and ‘H.G’ – the girl who happened to be, for reasons I could not comprehend, the closest thing I had to a sister, and a ‘best’ friend.
“I didn’t think there was a choice.”
“There is always a choice.” She mumbled, something about her tone and the queer expression that flickered momentarily in her eyes catching my attention.
“Rose?” I touched her hand, and she frowned.
“What?” Rose responded, the expression was gone and she was sounding as she always did.
“Nothing.” I replied dismissively, and she smiled faintly. “Does Scorpius know you’re here?”
“S-Scorpius? Yes – yes, of course. It was mostly his idea for me to come here and personally drag you to mine for Christmas. I was planning on writing a letter, you know, it’s so much more polite.” Rose’s cheeks had flushed pink had the mention of the blonde haired Slytherin, and it humoured me.
“Well, for what it’s worth, I’m glad you came, Weasley.”
“Aw, thank you, Delacour.” Rose retorted brightly, her arm suddenly coming about my waist. “Now, be a good girl and show me where your kitchen is – I am famished.”
“Who the fucking hell says ‘famished’ any more?”
“Where’s your mum? I haven’t seen her in years. I can’t actually believe how long it’s been.” Rose exclaimed as we descended the stairs, still sleepy from the short lived night, in which we had talked, like children, until we were both ‘just resting’ our eyes.
“Asleep. She’s – uh, got the flu.” I lied, poorly but nonetheless effectively. Rose murmured sympathetically as she pulled open the cupboards, believing foolishly that anything edible would lie there.
“Where’s all the food?” She cried incredulously, examining the ‘pantry’ with judgemental little eyes. I smirked, unable to help myself.
“My mother has certain tastes.” I responded, hunting quietly for the backup alcohol I had hid in various areas around the kitchen.
“What? Meaning nothing at all?” Rose snapped, and my eyes rolled uncontrollably.
“No, silly, she just likes to have expensive food – in other words, French food – and we’re hardly big on the Galleons around here.” I muttered, dragging out an ancient looking box of cereal from underneath a very old copy of Witch Weekly. “Here, eat this and stop your complaining. You’re giving my headache a headache.”
“Good Lord, how old is this?” Rose hissed with her upper lip curling in disgust. “That’s it. We’ll just eat when we get to the Burrow, alright? My grandmother will take one look at you and will have you eating nonstop for a week.”
“Wait – what?” I exclaimed, looking up at Rose. She was looking down at me – crouching and rummaging – inquisitively and so I stood up quickly, tugging my bunched up skirt down.
“She’s a feeder.” Rose mumbled, turning away from me, giggling behind her hand.
“Please tell me you are not taking me home to a family that is just an insane as mine.”
Both Rose and I raised our heads in surprise, Rose’s hand dropping from her still grinning lips.
“Is that-?” She began, and I nodded curtly.
“Maman? Is that you?” I called, my thin eyebrows raised. I could see, from the corner of my eye, Rose looking at me curiously. I chose to ignore her.
“Who else would it be?” I was met with, sharply, and I rolled my eyes.
“I’ll be right back.” I muttered to Rose, and I left, despite her wanting me not to.
My mother was sitting at the foot of the stairs, her long hair tousled in messy waves about her face, and she was dressed only in a silk blue slip that showed off the long legs that I would never have.
Her face tilted upwards, towards mine, and she frowned slightly. She had but a single wrinkle upon her face; a small pucker between her brows that showed only whilst frowning. She was any women’s’ dream, and yet, in every other possible way, she wasn’t.
Most women did not have that much sadness in their eyes, even if they were impossibly beautiful.
“What is it?” I asked, lowering myself onto the step beside her.
“Why are you speaking in English?” She asked me, however not as sharply as she usually did when asking that particular question. She was merely curious now. “Who were you talking to?”
“My friend Rose is here.” I said, expecting even the tiniest hint of recognition – but alas, there was nothing. “And she doesn’t speak French.”
“Oh.” Her face had fallen, but I knew it had nothing to do with Rose Weasley.
“What’s wrong, Maman?”
“Everything. I have failed you as a mother.” She murmured in English, her charismatic accent broken with her sorrow. “I have loved so much in this life of mine, but I have not shown it to you – not enough. I’m sorry. I should have told you this long ago – this is something that I should not have kept from you. It’s... it’s...” She trailed off, her eyes – with a colour as deep and as beautiful as the ocean – dropped from mine, to her unadorned left hand.
“You haven’t. You’ve done nothing wrong.” I mumbled stubbornly, frowning down at my own hands. “But – but what do you mean? What have you kept from me? What’s so bad that it’s making you say things like this? Because you haven’t failed me. You couldn’t. You’re my mother.”
Never had I ever known something to be truer in my heart than now.
My mother’s eyes, filled with tears, rose to mine.
“Your father.” Was all she said, and I heard my breath intake sharply. They were two words I had not heard her say - not without me bringing it up first - ever before.
“What do you mean ‘my father’? What about him?”
“He’s what I have been keeping from you.” She murmured sadly. It was only then, as I followed her gaze down to her hands, that I realised it was the man’s Muggle communication device she held in her hands. Perhaps she had loved him. Perhaps she knew I had chased him away and was punishing me for it.
“I don’t understand.”
“No – I know.” She brushed the unshed tears from her face and sniffed delicately. “I have been telling you I do not know who he is – but I do, my darling. I have always known.” Her hand was cold as she placed it over mine.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked, my voice small, just like a frightened child’s.
“I did it for you – but mostly, I did it for him.” A ghost of a smile touched her face fleetingly, and her fingers threaded through mine in a manner that was intended to be comforting. “He – he was wonderful. We were so in love but there were... complications.”
I knew that word.
It meant he was married.
But considering he was my biological father, I’d go for him being married.
“I know what you are thinking – no, he was not married. He – he was eventually though.” Her eyes dropped my gaze, freeing me, and it was then that I realised I was chewing on my already split lower lip. It had gone numb, so I resumed my nervous habit. “And still is, maybe.”
“We met when I was visiting my sister – your aunt – and it was all so lovely. It was summer, I had one more year of school and he was in training to be a Healer. It was so perfect; I know I would not change any single moment of it for anything in the world. Then it was time for me to go back to France and time for him to go back to Hogwarts. We said we would keep in contact and see each other over Christmas. It was... coming close to Christmas when I discovered I was pregnant with you.”
“Maman-” I tried. I saw her grief and I wanted to protect her from it. Just as I always had.
“No, let me get this all out or – or I don’t think I ever will.” She attempted a smile, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “I didn’t know what to do. I was a child. I was sixteen; I didn’t know how to face anything besides what was normal for someone my age. I told my parents and they were disgusted in me. They told me they didn’t want to see me – and that they never wanted to see me again.”
“So I travelled to London and somehow – miraculously – managed to get to Fleur and Bill’s. My sister, of course, took me in, despite her being heavily pregnant with Dominique. I don’t think Bill wanted me there, but he never said anything. He was always kind nonetheless always pressed me to tell the father and – and so I did.”
“I went to London, looking for him without any idea where he was or what was happening in his life. I hadn’t heard from him for two months before I found out I was pregnant with you.” She paused to sigh heavily and continued, however without as much sadness in her eyes as before. Now there was only regret. “I found him in St. Mungo’s – or whatever that silly place is called.”
“A woman – a Healer – told me that he was out with his girlfriend – that he was introducing her to his parents for the first time. It was that that broke my heart. He had wanted me to meet his parents, but ‘no’ I had said ‘we can’t’. I wanted our relationship to be secret, so that no outside force could break its perfection. Oh, I was such a fool.”
“So I went back to Shell Cottage, and that was that. Fleur had Dominique and showed me how frightening child birth was and then I had you – and then things weren’t as bad. You were six months old when I heard, one day at the Potter’s, that Harry and Ginny had been invited to a wedding. His wedding. I had been thinking about him so much that it was like that day in London all over again.”
“Every day I would see him in you. You have the same hair – the same shaped face and the same smile. Oh, at first, how it was like having him back again whenever I looked at you. But then I realised, you were mine as well – you had my eyes and you had my family’s beauty and you were my daughter. Not his. I didn’t need him because I had you.”
“I never told you about your father because I – even after all this time – still have so much love for him and his happiness means – I just – I couldn’t be responsible for him being unhappy – and not just with me. I knew he’d want you and he’d ruin his marriage because I – I knew he was that kind of man. A good man.”
“Why are you telling me all this now?” I inquired acidly, unexpectedly angry.
“Because Roy wrote me – he told me that you came and visited him and – and I realised how badly I have been in raising you. You’re perfect, but you did that on your own – I truly have failed you, my sweet darling.” She reached out to touch my face, but my flinched away. Her hand dropped, her face pale, and I stood up.
“I’m going to Rose’s today. I will be spending Christmas with her. I bought you a present – it’s in my room, on the window seat. Happy fucking Christmas, Gabrielle.” I hissed in her face, feeding off of the surprise and hurt that flashed across her face. I spat out the final four words with more venom than I had expected, and I watched as she struggled to remain in control. I turned on my heel, leaving the room; before I could see her lips quiver any more, or see the tears finally run down her perfect porcelain cheeks.
“Em?” I was immediately met with as I entered the kitchen. Rose was leaning against the counter, casually nibbling on a piece of cheese. She looked more at home in my house than I ever had done. “Is everything alright?”
“Yeah, everything’s fine. My mum just wanted to know how long I was planning on spending at your grandparents’ and whether I was going to be here for New Years. I told her I wasn’t – that’s okay, right?” Lying came easiest when I was in this mood – hateful, spiteful, full of darkness and loathing.
“Oh, of course that’s alright. Shall we get going then?” Rose smiled, oblivious to my inner turmoil, and I nodded eagerly.
“Yeah, I just have to go throw a few clothes and toiletries in a bag. I don’t fancy burrowing any of your clothes ever again– I felt like a right twat – I felt like a Hufflepuff.” I exclaimed and Rose, despite her laughter, rolled her eyes.
“Don’t be so mean. There are lots of slaggy Hufflepuffs – you’d be surprised!”
“I’m going to apparate upstairs, I can’t be bothered walking. Do you want to come?” I lied, smoothly as always, and my mind did not once wander to the mystery mother who was sitting, crying, on the steps. Abandoned by me, like she had done to me all my life.
“Sure, why not?”
And it was as easy as that – things were, especially when you were with Rose.
Her control made life clearer, or at least, it did for me.
The world was a blur, and then it wasn’t, and we were in my bedroom.
Rose summoned my old, ratty duffel bag and I began plucking mindlessly at the clothes that were on the floor and throwing them in. I didn’t care. They were just clothes after all.
They were only good for taking off, anyway.
The Burrow was just as I had always pictured it in my head.
It was this perfect place that made the idea of a safe, warm, loving home seem real. Even to someone like me who grew up on a foundation of lies, scandal and vulnerability.
“It doesn’t look like much, I know, but its home.” Rose murmured, her whole face lighting up with her smile. Her hand squeezed mine, and I grinned so I wouldn’t seem like the sad git I felt I was turning in to.
“It looks lovely.” I muttered in response, tightening the grip on my duffle bag. It felt like I was still spinning, that I had no ties to the earth – that gravity had abandoned me too.
“Come on, let’s go inside. I think I can smell breakfast!” Rose tugged on my hand, dragging me to the threshold eagerly. She was so excited it radiated off of her like light, and suddenly, we were children again. Rose was nine, and I was convinced I knew how to fly because I had seen her do so out of a tree.
She’d been so proud of herself, so very happy with her magic.
Even then she had shined so much brighter than I.
All I had ever been able to do was burn things, and turn off the lights.
“Rosie!” A friendly, though rather loud voice exclaimed the minute that Rose and I entered the towering building that was the original Weasley hive. A cheerful woman with hair that was both red and grey, seemingly, at the same time, met us and immediately went to hug her granddaughter. I hovered beside them awkwardly, unsure of my place in Rose’s grandmother’s home.
“Nana, this is Em – remember? She’s the one who is going to be spending Christmas here.” Rose said excitedly the second her grandmother withdrew from their embrace.
I barely knew my own grandmother, even though she had revoked her banishment of my mother when I turned four and she caught sight of me playing in the garden when she visited my Aunt Fleur.
“Of course, of course, your mother wrote and told me that she would be coming! It’s Emily, isn’t it?” Molly Weasley chattily said to me, her kindly eyes taking me in. I smiled out of politeness.
“No, my name is not Emily.” I responded, unintentionally coming off as rude. Rose squirmed beside me in reaction to her grandmother’s surprised expression.
“She prefers Em. Her actual name is –” Rose began, making up for my bluntness; however was cut off by someone clearing their throat. Rose’s grandfather had appeared, and was standing by the stairs, in his pyjamas still, and beaming at her.
“Granddad!” She exclaimed, running into his arms like a small child.
The look of love – the pure adoration – was like a stab in the heart. I found myself turning away, looking down at my scruffy shoes in complete awkwardness. I felt like such a mong, like such a sore thumb, like a rain cloud ruining a beautiful day.
“So you’re Gabrielle’s daughter then? Fleur’s niece?” Molly Weasley asked civilly, her bright smile making her look so much younger than she actually was.
I had always been good at spotting the things people wished to hide – like Veronica’s eating disorder and the affair between the Muggle studies and Transfiguration professors – and I could see, that beneath all the warmth and love of Molly Weasley, that there was a sadness hidden in those brown eyes and in that welcoming smile.
“You’re very pretty, just like your mother. I remember meeting her when she was just a little girl, during the Tri-Wizard tournament. She was very sweet – and didn’t speak a world of English. It was really quite funny seeing all those people talking to her and not knowing she didn’t understand a word of what they were saying to her.” Her eyes sparkled in hindsight, and I smirked. My mother had not changed, except perhaps that now she chose not to understand instead of being helpless to it.
“Aunt Fleur was in that – the tournament – wasn’t she?” Rose suddenly asked, her eyes shining.
“Yes, yes she was. She did very well considering...”
“A Death Eater made it so she had no chance in succeeding?” I muttered, unable to stop myself, and only Rose’s grandfather cracked a smile.
“Yes, well... there had been no way in knowing that.” Mrs Weasley murmured, abruptly awkward.
As of late, that seemed to be my permanent effect on people.
“How about some breakfast?” Mr Weasley piped in, attempting to diffuse the slight tension in the air. “I’m sure the girls haven’t had anything to eat yet.”
“We haven’t. Em’s house has nothing in it.” Rose muttered. Her eyes were narrowed when they met mine, and I smirked, tempted to stick my tongue out at her and pull the finger.
But I didn’t.
I wanted her grandparents to like me at least a little bit.
Upon the kitchen table, there was what appeared to be a small feast in my eyes; toast, scrambled eggs, bacon, baked beans, sausage, several muffins, a croissant, cereal and two jugs of what happened to be pumpkin and orange juice.
Rose and her grandparents sat down as though it were a common sight to behold. I shrugged, still in awe, and sat down beside Rose. She grinned at me brightly before tucking into a large helping of bacon and baked beans.
“It’s so nice to have you here, Rosie. I have missed having young people in this house.” Mrs Weasley remarked with an affectionate smile. “And you too, Em, of course.”
“It’s nice being here. Last Christmas was rubbish. We went skiing and the whole time Dad and Hugo were messing about and laughing at me and Mum for trying.”
“Yes, well, what isn’t ‘rubbish’ about hurtling down a mountain like a lunatic with sticks attached to your feet and only two other sticks to support you?” Obviously Mrs Weasley had never been skiing and did not know the joy of ‘hurtling like a lunatic’.
“How’s your mum doing?” Arthur Weasley asked of me, and I winced slightly.
“Fine.” I murmured, helping myself to a muffin and a piece of toast. “She’s going to spend Christmas with some of her friends.”
Whether that was true, I did not know.
“That’ll be nice.” Mrs Weasley murmured, smiling at me softly.
Then it was suddenly awkward again, and I was helping myself to more food.
The week passed by easily, and pleasantly.
I would wake up and go to sleep in the same room as Rose, listen to her talk in her sleep and then be welcomed over and over again by her lovely, doting grandparents.
I had taken to her grandfather, Arthur, in what seemed like a heartbeat.
He and I shared a common interest in the amusing, albeit strange, antics of Muggles.
Instead of sitting beside his wife, or granddaughter, he sat next to me at dinner and in great length we discussed what the function of a rubber duck was, and how many Muggles it really took to screw on a light bulb. For neither of those topics had we decided on an answer.
That morning, however, things were different.
It was Sunday, and it was sunny.
Which is odd, considering it was the end of November? And we were in England, where the sun seemed to hide constantly.
“Hello.” I murmured quietly as I descended the winding staircase and entered the kitchen. Rose was still in the shower, and I had heard Mr Weasley leaving the house quite early that morning – which I had considering strange, considering he was retired.
“Good morning, dear.” Mrs Weasley said over her tea, smiling contentedly.
“Where’s Mr Weasley?” I asked respectfully, trying not to sound intrusive – as I always seemed to do.
“Hm?” Mrs Weasley murmured distractively, her eyes having been staring at the strange looking clock on the wall behind me. “Oh, Arthur has gone to pick the children up from the portkey.”
“Portkey? The children?” I repeated the words in confusion and Mrs Weasley set down her tea so she could help herself to some buttered toast.
“Yes, normally they’d have gotten the train, but since they’re all coming here we thought that using a portkey was so much more practical. Besides, Arthur loves them. Goodness knows why.” She replied, oblivious to my horror, and nonchalantly offered to make me something to eat.
“I’m fine, thank you. But um, who is coming here, exactly? I thought it was just going to be us, and Rose’s parents?”
“Oh no, it’s going to be a big Christmas this year. Everyone. I’m so excited.”
“Including the- the Potters?” I stammered, handing to sit on my hands to stop them from shaking.
“Yes, of course.” She finally looked up, only now seemingly realising that I hadn’t just been making conversation. “Listen dear, Harry is lovely. He won’t mind that you’re in Slytherin! Anyway, you’re family.” She smiled at me and pushed a plate of muffins towards me, knowing how much I liked them.
“Which reminds me, your aunt and uncle will be arriving tomorrow and I was wondering if your mother was interested in coming. It would be so lovely to see her. It has really been far too long considering how close we now live to each other.”
“Oh – um, no. I don’t know so. She seemed adamant that she would be spending the entire month with a group of friends. But I’ll send her an owl, just in case she decides to change her mind.” I wouldn’t really, of course, but Mrs Weasley didn’t have to know that.
I couldn’t afford to think of my mother at that point.
I had bigger problems.
“Excuse me.” I muttered, excusing myself from the table.
And then I ran.
Up, and up, and up the many stairs until I crashed, gasping for breath, into the room Rose and I both shared.
“Rose – Rose – Rose – I need you. I – I – shit.” I’d run into Rose, whose hair was dripping wet and was wearing only a towel. She flushed pink momentarily before grasping me by the shoulders roughly and yelling in my face.
“What? What’s the matter with you? Are you having a fit?” Her hand collided with my cheek, and I froze, my mad panic ceasing. We both stared at each other in a shocked silence.
“I have to tell you something.”
“So tell me.”
“I don’t know how.”
“Let me guess - you’re in love with my cousin?”
I stared, my eyes wider than I’d have thought possible. “What? It’s pretty obvious.”
“He loves you too, you know.” Rose declared with a faint smile, her hands dropping from my shoulders. “I could see it all over his face that night at the party and when he found out that you’d left. He looked destroyed, Em, like a part of him was missing. It didn’t take me long to realise that that part was you.”
“Rose, I – I don’t know what I am going to do. He’s coming here. I can’t stay. I can’t bear to see him hate me.” I sank onto the bed, my head pressed in my palms. I could feel my nails digging into my forehead, but I didn’t care.
“Hate you? Why would he possibly hate you, Em?” Rose asked softly, though her disbelief was apparent, and she sat down next to me. I felt her hand upon my shoulder and it made me sigh.
“Because I am a bad, bad person,” I whispered, my voice thick. “And he’s too good for me. He deserves so much more – so much better.”
“Don’t say that.” Rose’s hand tightened on my shoulder, and I could feel her face close to mine. “You are a good person, whether you want to believe it or not.”
Oh, Rose. If only you knew.
‘Merde’ – ‘Shit’, or ‘damn’.
‘Maman’ – ‘Mum’.
Finallly, I have been procrastinating so much, I thought this chapter would never happen! I sneaked in a Philosopher’s stone quote in there – haha, and poor Mr Weasley. It’s been years and he still doesn’t know what a rubber duck does. I am currently serious considering, once this is finished, moving onto doing a prequel – of which being the story of Gabrielle and the mystery man (who shall be revealed soon, I promise). But I don’t know. Besides that, I don’t have much to say except that I hope you enjoyed it and that the next chapter will, hopefully, be up soon. It is already written and full of all the drama that this one lacked, I am pleased to inform you (:
Lyrics : Falling out of trees – Barcelona.
Please leave a review, I love hearing from you guys.
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