He was late.
There was no getting around it, now. Earlier, he was just maybe out of sight; lurking somewhere behind the many guests milling about the venus. Forty-five minutes ago, and he was probably in the powder room; thirty minutes and he was running tardy, perhaps stuck in conversation with some middle-aged, already tipsy Avery - there were always at least three middle aged, already tipsy Averys - but by now, an hour after the unofficially late start to the event (one could never arrive to such a party on time, of course), he was late.
And I couldn’t even rationalise his lack of attendance to myself anymore, because he was never late. He was almost annoyingly responsible and reliable; the kind of student that always had an extra inkwell on hand and who ironed his shirts the night before he wanted to wear them. Plus, he knew I hated events like these, with their pompous atmospheres and phony dispositions, so, quite honestly, unless he was dead, there was really no viable excuse for-
“Sit still, Cornelia. Cross your ankles, not your legs. And stop slumping your posture. It is most unladylike.”
Suppressing a sigh, I met the disapproving watch of my Grandmother, Esmeralda Carina Burke. Named after the hue of her glinting eyes - the only similar traits between us - my grandmother had never been someone to ignore, much less to defy. I grew up both fearing her and despising the way she always seemed to point out every flaw no matter how small, and tonight was no exception.
“Sorry,” I said quickly, smoothing out the creases that had worked their way up my deep purple dress. It was a wonderful piece of fabric; made from satin and embroidered with minuscule floral designs, it hugged my slight curves perfectly and spilled out like a waterfall. I would have enjoyed wearing it at any party but this one.
The Amesbury Gala was an annual event hosted by two of the most prominent Wizarding families: the Yaxleys and the Rosiers. Held on the Rosier Estate’s rooftop in Alderley Edge, the Gala was one of the most important social events of the year for Pureblood witches and wizards. The premise of it was always to raise money for something completely useless and irrelevant; this year, it was to commission a new sculpture for the Ministry of Magic lobby, even though there was already a perfectly good one in place.
“What did you just say?” My grandmother’s thin eyebrows twitched slightly together as her gaze sharpened and displeased lips curved downwards, making her resemble a hippogriff zeroing in on its prey.
“Sorry.” I worked hard - so hard to keep from rolling my eyes back up to the expansive sky, but it clearly was not enough of an effort for Esmeralda. Nothing ever was, really, but I honestly couldn’t care less about truly pleasing her.
“Speak in complete sentences,” she snapped, the severity in her eyes intensifying, if possible; she now looked like a hawk, an eagle, about to swoop down and devour its target.
“I. Am. Sorry.” Every word was enunciated separately with rather the same bluntness of a fist banging onto a table.
“Better.” Esmeralda said severely, then rose, her navy blue robes shimmering gently, reflecting oil lamps and candlelight off of the beading. “Now, come. And fix your dress. It looks much too short.”
How a floor-length gown could possibly look too short, I’d never know, but I obliged her order anyways, even though if he were here like he was supposed to be I would probably be off skiving the event with him, and at this point, I started thinking about all of the possible things that could have happened: maybe his father fell ill, maybe he was sick, maybe they fucking both were - but soon there was no time to overthink, because a gratingly adenoidal voice came from behind my grandmother and I, commanding our attention.
“Ah! Esmerelda, I have been looking for you all night!”
“Beatrice,” Esmeralda turned around to face the two women who were approaching, her features attempting to transform into something friendly; rather, the expression just made her look much older than she actually was. “It has been much much too long.”
“It really has!” The woman who called out placed her hand on her heart, no doubt in an attempt to showcase the large, ostentatious rings she was sporting on each finger. Her obviously dyed blond hair was blown into a rather unattractive bob, which was so full of hairspray that when she moved it remained completely still; she resembled one of those ridiculous women on Keeping Up with the House Witches of Oxford - in fact, maybe she was one.
“You look radiant.” Nodded the second woman who still stood slightly behind the one named Beatrice. I had never seen her before, and with her dark skin and strangely accented deep voice - French, maybe? - she was a stark contrast to the first woman’s shrillity.
Esmeralda inclined her head slightly- the most response I’d seen her display for a compliment in a long while - and then stepped aside to reveal me. “You must remember my granddaughter, Cornelia.”
“How lovely!” Beatrice squealed, leaning in to inspect me further. “Oh, she’ll have no trouble finding a suitable husband.”
“She has your eyes.” remarked the second woman, her own deep browns focusing on mine intently, as if she was attempting to discover some truth in them. I stared back at her, and as I did this strange, almost foreboding sense of uneasiness came over me, like this woman who I had never met knew something about me that I didn’t. We didn’t break our gaze, either of us, and out of my peripherals I saw my grandmother glance to the unnamed woman and then back to me.
“Cornelia,” Esmeralda snapped after a pause. “Go to the powder room at once and fix your hair. It looks dreadful.”
“Oh, I think it looks darling!” Beatrice gushed, clutching my arm with her long, deep red fingernails, and as she did the mysterious woman finally broke eye contact with me. “You don’t need to fix anything!”
Esmeralda swiveled her head to gaze sharply at Beatrice until her smile faltered, then turned back to me.
Without any more prompting, I turned on my heel and escape gratefully into the bathroom nearby. Since he wasn’t here yet, I would take hiding in a lavatory over interacting with stuffy people any day. And, as a bonus, it was an extremely well kept bathroom - ornately decorated, gold trimmings and white roses upon every surface - but I didn’t notice much of it as I leaned my elbows against the cool marble counter and gazed into the mirror.
There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the way my hair looked, or at least I didn’t think so. It was its usual golden-brown hue, falling in loose waves just past my breastbone. However, the rest of my face looked foreign and unfriendly, since the second Esmeralda saw me when I arrived at her estate this afternoon, she called upon her stylist, Madame Cruz, to fix me up to her liking. Now, my eyes were layered with thick lashes and dark colors; my tan skin buffed to be rather pale without a hint of life, making me look fierce and rather cold. This was Esmeralda’s- or, rather, the Pureblood - way: tough, flawless, unemotional. To have any pink on my cheeks would be a sign of weakness.
As I surveyed myself in the mirror, I pinched my cheeks hard, just to spite her.
The powder room door swung upon with a crash, and without preface I found myself surrounded by the proclaimed Hogwarts trio of wealth: Lyra Rosier, Calliope Yaxley, and Sephina Selwyn; all three exclusively friends with only Purebloods and forever attempting to add me to their little entourage as well. But they knew by now that it was futile; even if I still came to events like these I was never really there, just like my brother hadn’t been, and I think they wrote me off as a lost cause long ago.
“We saw you come in here and we knew we had to say hello!” Seph Selwyn squealed, pulling me into a delicate hug. She was a talker, the sweetest out of all of them - but, that wasn’t exactly saying much, considering that they basically ruled the Slytherin House as they pleased.
“We weren't sure if you would come,” said Lyra, haughtily, as she looked me up and down and then glanced towards the mirror to adjust her cleavage.
“We weren’t.” Calliope affirmed, raising an eyebrow carefully. She was the undisputed leader of the group - not just because she was a Seventh Year, but because she exuded the quietly dangerous power of an Alpha.
“But you did,” Calliope continued. “How has your summer been?” The intonations of her phrasing didn’t meet the coldness of her gaze, and it was so fucking fake that I wanted to tell her off for it right then and there. But while I knew I could do what I wanted over the safe roof of Hogwarts, I had to play the part here.
“So fabulous, and yours?” I replied, just as insolent and proper, like I had been raised to do.
“Adequate,” Calliope pronounced unemotionally, glancing around the powder room. Her midnight black hair was curled perfectly down her back, and with the contrast against her alabaster skin she looked absolutely lethal.
“Until this party, of course,” Lyra jumped in, not to be overshadowed by Calliope. “Honestly, it's so much work I don't understand why our mothers put up with it every year.”
“Everything looks lovely,” I said, because I had to, and Calliope nodded once in approval of my statement.
“Anyways. you have to come sit in our train compartment tomorrow, Nellie.” said Lyra, and although she made it sound like an invitation, a friend reaching out to another friend, it was a thinly-veiled order. But Lyra wasn’t dangerous; rather, she had the means to be, but was always too preoccupied with the latest gossip or Witch Weekly magazine to ever really fit the part.
“She has those other friends, remember?” Calliope’s lips curled into something awful, and I again had to fight the overwhelming sensation to tell her off or slap her or something radical. Lyra may not have been a threat, but Calliope - like I said, she was lethal.
“Well, we’ll see each other in our NEWTs, right?” Seph asked cheerfully as Lyra pushed open the powder room door, either not understanding the tones her friends were using or choosing to ignore them - I could never tell with her.
“Of course,” I simpered, as Seph followed Lyra out the door, waving her hand in an enthusiastic farewell.
“We will see you around this year,” Calliope said, low and forceful, stopping the door from falling shut with the heel of her stiletto. “After all, you really only have two years left. Don't you, now?”
I knew exactly what she meant. Two more years to have my fun, to do what I wanted before my grandmother tightened the noose-like leash around my neck and pulled, hard. But I already knew that I’d go down fighting, just like my brother had. No matter how much Calliope threatened me, I had nothing tying me to this life.
When I finally emerged from the powder room some minutes later, a quick glance over to the corner told me that Esmeralda was still occupying the same vicinity as before, allowing me to duck behind a large statue of Helio the Helpful and escape being caught by her omnipotent eye.
For a moment, hope surged through me - that is, of course, until my brain deciphered the voice and determined that it wasn’t him, but Christian Flint, a Slytherin in the year above me. With his gelled back honeycomb hair and piercing blue eyes, it was undeniable that he was attractive - extremely so, in fact - but I was always turned off by men that Esmeralda approved of, and even more so by those who acted as though this type of life was desirable.
“Christian.” Nevertheless, I extended my hand to him, just like I was taught. As he grabbed it and pressed his lips gently onto my skin, it took all I had not to burst out laughing at the ridiculosity of this role I was playing, or retching with disgust at the fact that I as even playing it at all.
“How has your summer been?” He handed me a glass of champagne, and I eagerly took a large gulp, and Jesus, why didn’t I think about alcohol before? I was going to have to be much more than tipsy if I was going to survive the rest of the night.
“Fine, thank you. And yours?”
“Fine,” nodded Christian. “Can I just say that you look absolutely stunning in that dress?”
“I don’t know, can you?” I shot back, then immediately a rush of mortification and heat spread to my cheeks. “Oh, my God, I’m so sorry, I-it’s a Ravenclaw reflex. Thank you. For saying I look fine. Or nice. Or whatever you...” I trailed off, filling the abruptly painful silence with another sip of my drink.
But Christian only grinned, his formal demeanor relaxing ever-so slightly; enough that he suddenly seemed like just any old guy I went to school with. “It’s no problem, Cornelia.”
“Nellie,” I said quickly. “I mean, you can call me Nellie, if you’d like.”
“Nellie, then,” he replied, raising his champagne glass. I busied myself with picking up a new chute of bubbly, glancing furtively around the venue, searching in vain for that one particular face - God, was I going to murder him-
“Maybe I’ll see more of you this year,” said Christian, then, in response to my confused expression, added quickly, “Because we’ll both be in NEWT level classes, of course.”
“Oh, right,” I said, albeit slightly relieved that he wasn’t insinuating that we would be spending time together. “Of course.”
“Christian!” A booming voice called from a few feet away, its owner obscured by the impressive statue I had been hiding behind.
“I’d better go. Later, Nellie.” Christian called, any signs of a forced formality forgotten as he smirked at me and disappeared from view.
And so, I was left alone again, but thankfully not for long, because-
“Wotcher, Corn.” Someone tapped my shoulder, and I whipped my head around so fast that my hair hit me in the face.
“Where have you been?” I hissed, stepping backwards slightly so I could dig the heel of my shoe into his foot.
“Millicent Avery caught me,” Scorpius Malfoy winced, his usually neat white blonde hair slightly askew, as if someone had just ruffled it. “You look like you’re holding your own out here, anyways.”
He was right, but I glared at him anyways. Scorpius Malfoy and I were distantly related - as all Purebloods are, I suppose - but he was more family to me than anyone else. Our mothers, when they had been around, were best friends after they met at a Hogwarts and Beauxbatons mixed event at age twelve, and as a result they raised Scorpius and I together like siblings. Scorpius was one of the only people who still called me Corn like my mother had; everyone else stuck to Nellie besides Esmeralda, who insisted that Nellie was repugnant and sounded like the name of a horse, and my father, who probably wasn’t even aware that I had a nickname in the first place.
“Well, I’m not,” I huffed, secretly only relieved that he had finally shown up. “I had to have a conversation not once, not twice, but three times! Can you even imagine how traumatised I am? Do you have not a shred of regard for my mental or emotional stability?”
“Come off it, you almost never have to do this!”
He was annoyingly correct again, but I still scowled back, too stubborn to allow him the satisfaction of an admission. Esmeralda only plucked me out of my usual lifestyle twice a year - once during the summer and once during the Christmas holiday - to parade me around at social events like a show horse; after the nights were done, we went back to our separate lives and pretended the other didn't exist until the next party. Scorpius, however, was forced to endure many more hours of polite small talk and blatant illiberality, and I was thankful that my appearance was only deemed necessary once in awhile.
“Besides,” continued Scorpius. “This one isn’t so bad. At least the Mulcibers aren’t here.”
“But, what fools these mortals be!” I gestured around me. Everyone seemed to be incredibly irrational, and for a brief moment it reminded me of A Midsummer Night’s dream, one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, when all of the characters were drunk off of fabricated love and the chaotic, elusive night.
As if to prove my point, a man suddenly stumbled face first into me, pouring his glass of red wine straight onto my chest.
“Oh, darling, I am so sorry,” he grinned rather sloppily. As he looked up, I recognized him immediately; Damien Rosier, the brother of Lyra, who graduated the same year as my brother.
“Here, love,” Rosier advanced closer to me, his smirk widening. “Let me help clean you up.”
“No, it’s fine,” I hastily took a step back as Rosier whipped out a handkerchief and attempted to pat the front of my chest with it.
“We’ve got it, thanks.” said Scorpius firmly, his wand materialising into his hand.
“Well, what’s going on here?” Pansy Zabini stopped to observe the scene, her puckered face contorting into an expression of horror. “Oh, no! You’ve had an accident!”
“Yes. Perhaps I should go home, get cleaned up…” The hopefulness in my voice was much too transparent, and Scorpius elbowed me sharply in the back. Luckily, Mrs. Zabini seemed too drunk to notice.
“Nonsense, go on and use magic! With all these important people around, it’s not as if you could get in any trouble!” she winked and then cackled, as if what she said was absolutely witty.
“One sees more devils than vast hell can hold.” I muttered as Mrs. Zabini teetered away, her margarita spilling slightly over the edge and splashing onto the marble tiles below.
“What is it with you and Shakespeare tonight?” Scorpius chuckled as he led me to the side of the balcony, cleaning my outfit with a simple wave of his wand.
“I’m feeling poetic,” I said. “Or angsty. Either way, I’m in the mood. Did you finally get to reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream?”
“Honestly, it was just a lucky guess that it was Shakespeare,” said Scorpius, rolling his eyes slightly. “Usually when you sound that weird it is.”
“Shakespeare was first on the recommended Muggle literature list!” I protested weakly, knowing full well that Ravenclaws were the only students who were even aware that there was suggested reading, not to mention amongst those who actually did it.
“Anyways. How’s the rest of your vigilante summer been?” Scorpius asked. After staying alone at my house for two weeks, forced to do nothing but take long, lonesome walks and catch up on my reading at a local cafe, I journeyed to Malfoy Manor to visit Scorpius. However, I could only stay for a week, because Scorpius went to spend the rest of his summer with Albus Potter, his best friend, in the Potter’s summer house in Australia. So, my best friend Mia Templeton came to my rescue and invited me to live with her for the rest of the summer in London. Although Mia’s parents are Muggles and there was no magic anywhere we managed to entertain ourselves completely. The majority of our days were spent shopping and frequenting restaurants; our nights consisted of bad romantic comedy movies and homemade ice cream. We even journeyed to France for a few days, just the two of us, entirely because Mia wanted to see if voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir would work as a suitable pick-up line (it did, but only because Mia was wearing a low cut tube top and jean shorts smaller than those of a primary schooler).
“Great,” I smiled affectionately. “Although, being in a Muggle house for so long certainly rubbed off on me. Are you acquainted with Netflix?”
“Er, no, never heard of him,” said Scorpius as he glanced around furtively. “But Corn, this certainly isn’t the place to bring up anything to do with Muggles.”
He was right, of course. Nothing relating to Muggles - including Muggleborns - would be an appropriate topic of conversation at an event such as this one. Maybe that’s why my brother was never mentioned anymore. He had associated himself with taboo, and as a result he had become one.
“How was your summer with Albus?” I asked.
Scorpius snorted. “Eventful. His family is insane; I don’t think I’ve had more than a minute to myself in two months.”
“Lucky you,” I said, rather bitterly, because even though I was happy for him for having a fun summer or whatever, I was insanely jealous he spent two months in freaking Australia. “Excited for tomorrow?”
“As much as I’ll ever be,” said Scorpius sarcastically, but I could tell he that he really was looking forward to returning to Hogwarts. “Are you?”
“It’s hard to be excited when you’re stuck doing something so fucking boring,” I said, but from the way he smiled at me, it was obvious he knew I was eager as well.
“It’s only a few more hours. Cheers?” Scorpius held out another flute of champagne - an invitation to our fate.
“Cheers.” I said glumly. I accepted the glass.
By the time Esmeralda deemed my presence appropriate enough to allow me to leave the Gala, it was well past midnight. Scorpius’s father apparated me to the end of my driveway, saying nothing more than a few words as usual. With only a brief well-wish for the year and a hug goodbye, Draco spun on the spot and disappeared, leaving me to walk through the looming wrought-iron gates and up the winding entrance alone.
Where I lived was small, for a Pureblood manor. There were only three stories, and the separate wings were relatively small and secluded. Nevertheless, the house was a cold, unforgiving place. It was a labyrinth of hallways and locks; a maze of unknown rooms and empty walls. For years, I tried to understand the secrets of it; I peeked under doors and through windows, I used spells and physical force, but it was to no avail, and eventually I stopped trying.
Being raised by my father - or, rather, existing in the same space - had taught me that it was futile to pose questions about anything potentially considered private: the past, the rooms, the war, my mother. Esmeralda simply pretended the questions weren’t there in the first place, allowing unfinished business and loose ends to occupy the space around our conversations constantly. In my father’s eyes, however, every fact of life was “privatised,” or “classified,” or “Ministry knowledge only.” As an Unspeakable, he pulled out phrases similar to those like change from his pocket - always at the ready, jingling around in the air, utterly worthless. And I never pressed him further. Just like our house, we tiptoed around the secrets of each other, neither of us courageous or concerned enough to cross the line.
So now, as I carefully padded through the empty foyer and ballroom towards the East Wing - the only place in the estate that resembled some sort of home - I didn’t bother to wonder whether or not I was alone. Even if my father was here, I wouldn’t see him much less speak to him, so it didn’t really matter.
I walked through the informal living space, passed the kitchen and servers quarters, until I reached the end of the hall, where dark stained double doors marked ‘library’ dominated the walls.
It wasn’t really much of a library, I suppose. There were only a scattering of books, and even those were written in ancient text and layered in dust as old as the Chamber of Secrets. But it was my favourite place to stay. It was conveniently next door to my bedroom, allowing that I only had to venture a few feet away from my comfort zone each time I was home.
Slowly, I sank down onto one of the velvet sofas, pulling off my shoes one at a time and massaging my aching feet gently. When I was around six or seven, I watched my mother do the same thing after events like the one tonight; her dark hair spilling around her shoulders as she looked up at me to smile tiredly. I would always imitate her, pulling off my trainers in a similar fashion; one by one, just as slowly, as if each tug was painful and the success of removing the shoe an unparalleled relief. But I didn’t like remembering things like that - in fact, I only did think of her when I was less than sober - so I busied myself with the threads of the carpet beneath my feet, exploring how they weaved in and out of each other like waves in the sea; riding out to the tide of the fabric where they stopped their pattern without any warning or indication at all.
A faint noise comes from across the room jolted me. The dark brick fireplace seemed to be quivering slightly, sending faint vibrations through the floorboards and shaking every surface subtly. Without warning, the fireplace burst into green, flickering flames, and for a split second, I wondered if it was my father returning home from work - but that thought was soon cast away, since I knew my father hadn’t been to this corner of the house in years. I snatched my wand off of the end table I placed it on, preparing for the worst, just as a dark figure tumbled headfirst out of the fire.
“Stupify!” I shrieked, sending a red beam careening off towards the intruder, where it ricocheted off the siding and smashed into an empty vase, exploding shards of glass into the air.
“Jesus Christ, Nellie!” My brother flung up his arms to shield his face as I sent another spell towards him.
“You almost fuckin’ killed me! What the hell?”
“Well, it’s not like I was expecting you,” I said defensively, sinking back onto the couch in an attempt to calm my racing heart. “What are you doing here?”
“I was just picking up some stuff. Christ, Corn, you look skinny. Have you been eating?” Adam asked, stepping closer into the light to inspect me. His chestnut hair was tousled by his recent Floo journey; the trip had also left some dark soot on his skin, covering the delicate freckles that dusted his nose. He appeared taller than usual - perhaps since it had been over two months since I’d seen him last - but everything else looked the same: his wide shoulders, his light blue eyes, the pale scars that tattooed his tanned skin.
“Yes,” I said defensively, crossing my arms over my unfortunately small chest. “You haven’t been back here in a year and you’re just ‘picking up some stuff?’”
“‘Course,” said Adam casually, as if absolutely nothing was out of the ordinary. “Listen, is he home?”
“Probably not,” I said. “I mean, he works twenty hours a day, and even when he’s here I never see him, so how am I supposed to know where he is? It’s not like when I hear a potential burglar I think, hey, where’s my father right now? since he wouldn’t be much help in a situation like that, anyways - he’d probably just say, ‘That information is top secret, Cornelia,’ as I got stabbed, or something…”
Adam suddenly grinned. “Are you under the influence?”
“What? You haven’t seen me in months, and instead of asking me how I am or anything you accuse me of being inebriated? How dare you, honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been more offended in my life-”
“Oh, you so are-”
“I can’t believe I’m even entertaining this notion, but...how would you be able to tell, anyways?”
“You get really chatty,” said Adam. “Is this what you’ve come to? Drinking by yourself the night before school starts?”
“No,” I scowled, gesturing to my dress. “Do you even see what I’m wearing?”
“Ah. Rosier’s Gala?”
“Unfortunately,” I muttered as he crossed the room in two long strides and flung himself on the sofa next to me. “How’s Annabelle?”
Adam graduated from Hogwarts three years ago and immediately moved into a flat in Soho with his Muggleborn girlfriend, Annabelle. Since then, he had only been back to the manor twice - once to pick me up for back-to-school shopping, and another time to retrieve some of his old Quidditch supplies, since he claimed they had sentimental value and would probably be displayed in the Quidditch Hall of Fame one day, or some hogwash like that.
Adam smiled widely. “She’s great. Almost done with preliminary Healer training.”
“That’s good,” I said. “I’m staying with you for Christmas holidays, right?”
“Of course,” he nudged me. “Except for when Grandmother kidnaps you for the Ministry Ball. I have no control over that one.”
“You could come,” I suggested hopefully, and he snorted with sort of a cynical derision.
“What, and have her try to kill me again? I’m dating a Muggleborn! I’m not welcome anymore! Besides, to get out of it you just have to snog a Muggle or a blood-traitor in front of her. Simple as that.”
“As long as you’re good at dodging curses, then, yeah. Simple.” Adam laughed once, but his finger ran down the length of his scarred arm, and my stomach clenched at the thought enduring what he had.
“Anyways, I doubt she’d do to you what she did to me. You were always the favourite,” Adam stood, stretching his arms towards the vaulted ceilings. “Being in Ravenclaw somehow isn’t as offensive as Gryffindor.”
“I wonder why?” I asked sarcastically. “At least we’re not a bunch of obnoxious attention seekers-”
“At least my typical insults don’t come from the fifteenth century,” retorted Adam, walking to the large shelf across the room. “What did you call me last time? A venomous hunchbacked hog?”
“Poisonous bunch-backed toad.” I muttered despite myself.
“You are such an undercover nerd.” Adam shook his head. He began fingering through the assortment of books, finally resting upon one large volume bound in ancient, crackling leather.
“What’s that?” I sat up a little straighter as he pulled the book out of its case.
“Just a little light reading I never finished.” He made his way back to the couch, but I was staring at him incredulously.
“A book?” To my knowledge, Adam hadn’t willingly read anything not pertaining to Quidditch since he was ten. “You came back here for a book?”
“Annabelle wants to read it. ‘Parently it’s really rare or something.”
“Let me see, then,” I reached for the book, but he slid it behind him just as my fingertips came close.
It was that simple motion that changed everything. One moment Adam was here grabbing some stuff on a social call, the next there were ulterior motives - deception, things to be hidden and kept secret - and Merlin knew how sick I was of the goddamn secrets in this house.
“Give me the book, Adam.” I locked eyes with him - and then he knew, he knew that I knew something wasn’t right.
“Another time,” Adam smiled slightly, but it was clear he was only doing it to keep up the appearance of casualty, even as it was so obviously and irreparably shattered.
So I asked why, and Adam said because, so then I told him that that wasn’t a real answer, and he told me that it was a dumb question, at which I then lunged towards the book, but he managed to shield it with his body, as if he were a bodyguard and I was some desperate groupie trying to get onto a band’s tour bus, and I kept trying to grab the stupid book, but he kept on blocking me with his stupid, strong, Quidditch-built arms, so at long last I gave up, resolving to scoot as far away from him as I could and ignore his presence.
After only a few moments of complete quiet, Adam sighed. I knew he would break easily; he never had been one to allow silence to not be filled with something or other.
“Just - please, Corn - trust me. You don’t want to read this. Not yet. In a few months I’ll send it to you, okay? When I’m done?”
I continued to stare stonily straight ahead of me, sending daggers at the hand-carved rocking chair opposite.
“I will give it to you. Just not now. Trust me, alright?”
It’s not like I was one of those people who was always emotionally guarded and couldn’t trust anyone with even the smallest things like a grocery list - I wasn’t - but I also wasn’t exactly jumping at the opportunity to take everyone’s words for truth. But it was Adam, my brother, and I decided it was better to let him win this one than to continue fighting. I would probably lose, anyways; quitting while I was ahead was the smartest move in the scenario.
“Okay.” I said finally, allowing him to pull me into a final hug, the prize stashed safely behind him.
“You should really get to bed. I’ve seen your eyes droop like that; it’ll only be minutes before you’re out cold.”
“I am not tired.” I scorned, but Adam merely laughed and tousled my hair affectionately, rising as he did so.
“See you for Christmas, Corn. Don’t do anything stupid this term.”
“Don’t worry. I’m not a Gryffindor.”
“You wish you were that cool.” he chortled into the darkness, grabbing a handful of Floo powder from the bowl next to the remnants of the vase I destroyed.
As I sleepily watched him leave, I was comforted by the remembrance that while my mother would take off her shoes wearily, Adam as an exuberant nine year old would run around the room with his trousers over his head, oblivious to the fact that something could be wrong in the world. That’s what occupied my thoughts as I drifted off to sleep; not my mother or the shoes or the weariness, but Adam, happy and carefree, like he had somehow always managed to remain.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything you recognise here. Also, A Midsummer Night's Dream belongs to Shakespeare!
Track This Story: Feed
Write a Review
JOIN HARRY POTTER FANFICTION
Get access to every new feature the moment it comes out.Register Today!