24th December 1995
“You are not to touch the drinks on the floating trays,” my father ordered. His firm finger was poking the air in front of my face, causing me to go cross-eyed.
“Sure, whatever.” I snapped back. The Ministry Christmas Gala was notorious across Wizarding Britain for being exclusive to the higher class–or should I say purebloods with more than a few galleons to their name. Hermione compared it to the Met Gala the muggles are all obsessed with. I shrugged when she said that, it was a foreign language to me, so I had little to compare it to.
“I mean it, Aspen.” He retorted. “You are not to go near the alcohol tonight.”
Feeling annoyed, because my father still talked to me like I was twelve, I went wide-eyed and nodded. “Mhm, okay.”
My mother sighed and hooked an arm through my father’s arm, using her free one to brush out non-existent flaws on her gown. Her gown was over three hundred galleons with a surplus of charms sewn into them, which did beyond plenty for her figure.
“I believe that man over there is Conrad Fawley,” my mother said and pointed towards a cocktail table not too far from the live performers. “Darling,” She announced to grab my attention, “your father is meant to strike a deal with the Fawley’s, we will be in conversation with them over there. Don’t get into too much trouble while we are away.”
I nodded in submission, again.
“Wonderful,” She brushed a delicate hand down my hairline and tucked a strand of hair behind my ear.
“We’ll find you when we are done,” my father stated and fixed the cuffs to his deep green, almost black, formal dress robes. The colour of his attire pulled the piercing green eyes I shared with him and contrasted my mother’s waterfall of inky hair, which I shared with her.
There were many times growing up when I found myself sitting and analyzing my parent’s features, pulling the small details that I found on myself. I counted on my left hand for my father and my right for my mother to keep score of who’s genetics were stronger. My mother always out beat my father. I held ownership of his eyes, lips, and skin tone. But beyond the few I shared with him, the older I got the more I looked like my mother, without the elegance. Many times, I found myself standing in front of the mirror scrutinizing my genes for failing me. I had the shoulders of a keeper, the hands of a beater, and the bone structure of a seeker. There was nothing elegant about my build, I looked more manly and muscular than toned.
“If you have a dire emergency,” my mother began to say, “summon Ponroy.”
The classic ‘we are busy so you are the house-elf’s responsibility’ card. My father could care less about being a pureblood, but my mother was slaying dragons to return to her ‘rightful’ seat at the table. Having a needy fifteen-year-old daughter would put a damper on that plan.
I again nodded in submission and then began scanning the surrounding ballroom. The atmosphere reminded me of the Yule Ball. The falling false snow from the charms on the ceiling, the string quartet playing Beethoven–who was a wizard that used magic in his symphonies, which led to his centuries-old success– and attending with Ron. My body stiffened, as I winced with the reminders of him. His foul words sliced through me like a white-hot blade, the last time he spoke to me, then not even an hour later being broken up with in the most nihilistic way.
A fucking bet.
Merlin, how did I become so expendable to these blokes.
I needed a drink…
I don’t remember how, but I had more than three drinks.
The floating trays of dragon scale infused champaign kept finding their way over to me, and conveniently when I found my previous glass empty. It grew to an extent that three drinks turned into having ten fingers on each hand.
This was great.
Why was my father so against this wonderful experience?
That sounded like fun.
I need to dance right now.
I stumbled over to the centre of the gala where many couples danced slowly and the music seemed faster than the pace of the crowd of feet.
Why is everyone dancing so slow? It’s the bloody fucking holidays.
There was an opening in the smack middle of the marked-off section intended for dancing, and I found myself moving around it to the beat of the cello. My hands ran up the sides of my flowing gown and swayed through the bubble around me, feeling ethereal.
“That’s because you are,” a dark voice whispered in my ear as hands snaked their way around my waist. His chest pressed into my back and began guiding my body as we danced together. “But you are no pureblood.”
“Stop,” I rasped.
“I’d never love you.” He dug his fingers into my hips. My heart raced and my eyes stung.
“You’re lying.” I snapped. “You’re a liar.”
“I know you are but what am I?” He taunted in a silky whisper.
“I hate you.” I whisper-yelled.
“You love me.”
“No, I don’t”
“You do.” His fingers gripped a handful of my skin through my gown. I winced as tears sprang at my eyes.
“I stopped loving you a long time ago.” I plead.
Our bodies still moved together and his fingers still sliced into my goosefleshed skin.
“Why haven’t you walked away then?” He taunted.
Because he held me in place against him. Obviously.
“I don’t love you anymore,” I stated.
“Who are you attempting to convince?” His voice was quiet and taunting, slicing each word across my wrist and letting all my heart pour to stain our shoes.
“I. Hate. You.” I gritted through my teeth. My elbow flung back to catch the bottom of his ribs but I made no contact. Then my eyes shot down to the hands around my waist and there weren’t any. I spun around and realized he wasn’t there. I scanned and scanned and scanned, but not even a member of the Malfoy bloodline was in sight.
I blinked back to reality.
You are at a ministry gala at the moment, Aspen, pull yourself together.
“Are you okay,” another hand slipped around my shoulder, and I quickly blinked to steady my vision and pull my eyes away from the floor. Theo stood in front of me with a wildly concerned expression.
“Uh, yeah… yeah I’m fine.” I threw out.
“Are you sure,” he said nervously, like one word out of line would send me to the St. Mungo’s mind healers. “You’re sort of crying.”
I blinked again and felt a tear trail down my skin, then urgently swiped at my eyes to stop from more falling.
Shit, I’m wearing makeup.
“Do you mind taking me to a washroom?”
He nodded and held an arm out for me to take, and he began escorting me. Then, as I struggled to hide my messy appearance from the crowded room, Theo tried to distract me by telling me a story.
“When I was turning seven, my mother gifted me a rabbit. I named it Esmeray, because it had this jet black fur and a patch of white on her stomach, and I had this Turkish astronomy book full of folklore at the time. My mother’s mid-wife–turn nanny because my mother had a fascination with her– snuck it into the bookshelves of my childhood bedroom. She herself was named Selene, and she had this thick greek accent even though her family originated from turkey.”
He spoke like a narrator while he shared the anecdote, and he did plenty a good job at distracting me, because I barely remembered I was drunk with a piercing headache and makeup smeared down my cheeks.
“Besides the point anyways,” Theo continued, “Selene would put me to sleep on nights my father needed my mother, and she played the part well. Even I, at the age of five, didn't know what was going on in the wing my parent’s room sat. She would untuck the book from the far corner of the highest shelf and open it to page twenty-four. On page twenty-four, there was a story about the moon and its power over the Black Sea, it would push the water when the vegetation needed saturation and pulled it away when the fish needed more space. You could tell when which was needed based on the phase of the moon, and when the moon went dark, Lady Esmeray would watch over both to ensure the night would not overcome. The worst of times came when the moon went dark.”
Theo pulled me around a corner outside the event space and continued down the empty corridor.
“I quickly grew quite fond of Esmeray, she was a sort of best friend when Malfoy wasn’t around because he was with you.”
I snapped my eyes to him and he smirked,
“Yes, Lewis,” he started to say with a breathy laugh, “we had joint custody of Malfoy as kids.” Then he continued, “Anyways, I went everywhere around the estate with her. Then on a cold autumn evening, before dinner, I returned home from an afternoon running errands with Selene. My immediate motive was to find Esmeray, I tossed my things to Selene and sprinted through the manor towards my wing. I remember the moment so clearly, I swung the door open and noticed her cage was empty. I thought, ‘did I forget to lock her in her cage this morning?’ but I swore I did. So then I moved over to a spare room in my wing that was originally made for her, her first cage was in there still, so seven year old me assumed I just put her in the other cage. Low and behold, that cage was also empty.”
I felt my heart pang and burn with where the story was heading.
“I started to shout for Selene. ‘Esmeray is gone!’ and ‘Where is Esmeray?’ Just many statements for the search for Esmeray. After about an hour or so after we finished supper, one of my family’s elves found me.” He said and a frown grew on his lips. My chest sank. “They said there was a new recipe my father had requested.”
Bile rose in my stomach and my hand clamped down on my mouth to keep it down. I caught Theo quickly wiping at his eye in the corner of my vision.
“I think you can draw your own conclusion.” His voice was weak, growing broken.
“Why did you tell me this?” I asked with more curiosity than regret. I knew Theo was broken, but I couldn’t even fathom the horrors he endured.
He shrugged then reached into the inner pocket of his dress robes and pulled out his signature silver flask. “I trust you,” he said as if it were a simple answer. “Malfoy knows the bulk of it, but that is one story he doesn’t know.”
He sighed and took a drink from the flask, and wiped his lips dry with the back of his hand. “He believes my father just killed the rabbit and threw it in his fire behind the desk of his study, with me watching.”
Tears fell from my eyes as I imagined little Theo with horror in his ears as he was told what was sitting in his stomach.
“So yes, the only best friends I need are Malfoy, you, and this flask.” He said holding the silver canister in front of him, cheers-ing the air before downing more liquor than necessary.
I stalled when I realized he included me in the list. He led me the last few steps to the woman’s washroom. Then walked through the door without a word, but after I approached the vanity built into the wall separate from the wall of sinks, I noticed Theo had followed me in and stood behind me like a guard,
My mouth formed into a soft smile and exchanged it with Theo, who returned one. I walked around the vanity’s stool and took a seat and addressed my appearance.
“Shit,” I sighed when I noticed the streaks of black across my eyes and cheeks, and the scuffed up edges of the berry shaded lipstick on my mouth. There was a stack of napkins to my left and I took one in my hand and began cleaning up the mess, and I hadn’t noticed Theo had sat on the vanity counter and leaned back against the mirror, taking sips from the flask.
“I am sorry about what happened with Malfoy,” he said after bringing the flask down from his lips.
My hands stalled the napkin which lay at my temple and I slowly dragged my eyes to him. Theo looked down at his hands, seeming unsure what to do with them then allowed himself to catch my eyes.
I gulped down the lump in my throat and nodded, “Have you talked to him?”
He gave me a slow nod and dug his eyes into mine. I hadn’t noticed the deep blue shade of his eyes, which mimicked the Atlantic Ocean. A deep navy blue with undertones of green.
“I don’t know why I asked,” I rushed out as I went back to wipe away the unwanted makeup, “I just-”
“Aspen,” he cut me off and dropped his head against the mirror, “you may not want to hear this, but it’s better this way. Trust me.”
I felt a single drop of melancholy fall from my eye as my heart pang, my hand quickly used the napkin to wipe away the tear and hide my pain. “Don’t,” I gasped, “it still hurts.”
He conceded with a nod and I worked quickly to finish fixing my makeup. Theo’s hand snapped to the front of my face and his flask occupied his grasp. My eyes slowly dragged from his hand to his eyes and he was watching me carefully, but nodded to the flask motioning me to take it. I returned the nod and took the flask from him and brought it to my lips, smelling pure one hundred proof liquor and the hairs in my nose singed.
As I tipped the flask into my mouth, allowing about a shot’s worth to fall down my throat. I closed my eyes and the images of Draco burned to ash, flying away.
“You’re better than it,” he confessed, “all of it. You’re kind, but hold a bite when provoked. That’s more good than the lot of them.”
“When you said the bulk of it,” I started, “how much more?”
I dropped the napkin into the waste bin near my feet, after confirming my skin was clear of blemishes.
“Much,” he sighed, “but that is for a later night. I’d rather prefer pissing Nott Sr. off with a few dances with you.”
Theo jumped off the counter and straightened himself on his feet, and then extended his hand out to me. Just as my cheeks pulled my lips into a smile and squinted my eyes, I slid my hand into Theo’s and practically skipped out of the room towards the gala.
☽ ⋆ ☾
28th December 1995
“FUCK,” I expelled as I took the parchment into my hands and crumpled it together to send it flying across the room.
Almost two bloody months of straight torture. Alone. Alone. Alone.
I hate it. Every moment of this life and this existence, not a single part is desirable. And the moment I found someone worth the idea of longing for, it was yanked away from me in cold blood.
The smallest tasks I used to enjoy in the days I spent home, caused my skin to burn from my physical restriction caused by my lack of motivation. Mother would plead for a weekly mind healer. Father would contest.
I’m a man, he’d say.
You have Malfoy blood in you. Malfoy men are the strongest they come, he’d say.
Bullshit, I say.
My days have consisted of the utter worst trials a father could bestow on his son. His only son. Heir to his estate, and two wildly bountiful fortunes.
Rise at dawn
Clean and dress
Attend breakfast with Mother and Father
Attend alongside Father to his meetings and business ventures
Prove yourself to Father
Lunch and tea in the solarium with Mother
Walk the estate lines with Remy
Try not to cry
Floo to London with Father as he runs errands on Knockturn Alley
Supper with Mother and Father
Walk the gardens with Mother and cry
Sit at writing desk and ponder the correct words to explain situation
Sit in bed and pull hair out
Get a couple of hours of sleep
My days were full of dread and despair. Not a single aspect of it held the existence of hope. My mother made many moments more bearable, but not the way she would.
I pushed my legs against the wall behind my desk, forcing my chair to untuck me. The sleeves of my shirt rolled to my elbows and I admired the blank skin on both of my arms. Pure. Wanting to maintain its current state.
Out of the corner of my ear, I hear the door to my room smack against the wall of my room.
“Given me a right fright there, Malfoy.” The voice said and it sounded like there was a smile as it was delivered.
I spun in my chair and saw my brother standing in the entry of my room. I found myself smiling for the first time in weeks.
“You didn’t come empty-handed did you?” I teased.
“When you owl me for a slumber party,” Theo began to say, “the first thing on my packing list is the good stuff.”
I laughed and walked over to his open arms, smacking his back as his arms wrapped around my body.
“It’s what I’ve needed, mate,” I said as he slipped out of my hold.
“How’s the break-up been?” He asked as he stalked over to the armchairs in the middle of my room.
“Shit,” I confessed.
“You look it,” Theo laughed as he tossed me a litre of amber liquor and flopped down in a chair.
“Well,” I started to say as I followed, “you could say she changed me. I haven't felt this selfless ever. I hate it” The screw lid of the bottle fell to the table and I began pouring a hefty amount into a crystal tumbler.
“Bound to happen,” Theo said with a frown, “I saw her the other day.”
My eyes shot up to look intensely at Theo.
He cleared his throat, “At the Ministry Christmas Gala you convinced your family to not attend. Let me tell you, she’s in the same boat as you.”
My shoulders fell, before I dropped my body into the armchair, “I hate this, Theo.”
“Yes, I know, Theo.”
“You’re laying in it.”
“Yes, Theo. I am aware.” I downed the tumbler and moved to refill it. Then passed the bottle to Theo.
“How are you being away from her better than with her?”
I met Theo’s eyes and read his concern, but my body was already warming from the fire whiskey and I was mid downing my second pint. “It’s better this way, and you know it.”
“She’s a wreck, alone, and without a friend. She’s floundering, mate.” His eyes dug six-foot holed into mine.
“That’s beyond me.” I deadpanned and my body grew unmoving, even under my breath.
Theo sighed hard and fell back into his chair. “You’re a pain.”
I laughed and nodded, “Well aware.” Theo handed the bottle back to me, allowing me to refill my glass.
“So,” Theo said before taking a gulp from his glass, “what are you dwelling on?”
“I don’t know, mate.” I sighed and mimicked Theo in falling back in my chair and then stared at the glass in my hand resting on my thigh. “All I'm sitting with, is the fact that I loved her.” My eyes shot up to meet Theo’s and a tear fell down my face–I wasn’t even aware of the fact that my eyes were growing damp. “That scared me.”