"Let me get you some tea," Merope said, starting to get up.
Tom pulled her back to bed and kissed her forehead. "I don't want tea. Just stay a bit. How could I want anything but to be with you? I don't need tea to keep warm."
She bit her lip nervously, and her eyes seemed to darken. They turned outward, pushing to their edges like she was trying to see all the world at once. Tom usually found them enticing, and loved to try to catch both of them at the same time. It was sometimes frustrating that he couldn't seem to get her full attention, but mostly, it was part of the fun to try. Now, though, they seemed to be darting nervously.
Tom blinked. Where had such a thought come from? Merope was a goddess, had always been a goddess. He blinked, and the thought went away.
"Just wait here," she said apologetically. "I really could use something to drink."
He waggled his eyebrows. "Hot work, eh?"
She nodded furtively, extracted her hand from his, and backed out of the room. He could hear her fussing in the kitchen, making tea, as she nearly always did after they'd been together. A bear for tea, was Merope. He hadn't the heart to tell her that she brewed it strangely; there was always a bitter undertaste. On the other hand, he rather thought that she might be using something other than straight tea. He always felt mellow and pleasant after a cup of Merope's tea. He thought he might even be addicted to that bitterness. Given that she was sober as a nun (if, thankfully, unlike a nun in other matters), he suspected that she didn't know something had been added, and he'd decided not to enlighten her. She was always playful after a cup as well.
Yes, but she's hideous, and strange, and all of your mates think you're mad.
Tom frowned in the darkness, trying to recall why he'd thought Merope strange. Something about the house she'd lived in. And there'd been a girl, and horses, and... and hadn't he thought she was nearly monstrous once? Hadn't he...?
The door opened, and the leading edge of the tray came in, followed by Merope. He caught a glimpse of her, and had a moment to think, Dear Lord, she is ugly,, but then the light went out, and he could only hear her light footsteps as she came to bed. "I thought I'd rather stay with you than go turn out the light later," she said softly, then pressed a cup into his hands. "Here, drink your tea."
Tom took a sip, and the odd thoughts began to float away. He drank in silence, the bitter undertaste filling his mind with a strange intoxication. The smell of it always seemed a little different--tonight, it called up memories of riding his horse across the grassy hills, and the scent of smoke from the campfire. He could feel Merope beside him, hear her sipping her own tea. He finished his off and set it on the end table, and took hers away as well (it felt about half full). "Come, my dear," he said. "I want you beside me. Remind me how lucky I am."
There was a whisper of cloth as her nightgown slid off, then she slipped under the covers beside him and cuddled up against his side. She was trembling. "Tell me I'm beautiful," she said.
"You're the most beautiful creature on earth," Tom said, thinking of the sun reflecting on her black hair. He would have to take her riding sometime. Riding, and then camping in the mountains, lying beside her by the fire, making love to her in the starlight. "You're lovelier than the sea and gentler than the breeze."
She sighed, and her trembling didn't cease. "Tell me you love me."
"Of course I love you! I adore you! How could I not? You're amazing."
"And that you need me."
"I need you," he said, kissing the top of her head. "No one else makes me feel like this. I can't go back to life before you."
He felt her nod against his side, then, to his surprise, she choked back a sob.
"What is it?" he asked. "Darling, what's wrong? Have I said something wrong?"
"No," she said. "No, nothing wrong. You say all the right things. Always."
"Then why are you crying?"
She hitched in a shaky breath. "I don't know," she said. "It's everything I wanted. Everything. All those years, it's all I wanted. I suppose I... I just can't believe you're here with me. I worry that you won't always be."
"I could never leave you," Tom said. "I'll always be there. I'd follow you to hell! You're a wonder, Merope, and if either of us should be stunned by luck, it should be me, I--"
"Stop," she said. "Just stop."
"If that's what you want."
"It is," Merope said. "Just... just hold me."
maybe Honoria and Andromeda (with a mention of Rita:)) having a conversation mentioning publication and ethics? for lecharmediscret
Andromeda had never really experienced the whole of Teddy's year. She knew he was close to his handful of friends, but she had never realized in any visceral way that this handful was nearly half the year, at least not until all but one of them appeared in the garden for a post-Hogwarts picnic. (The one holdout, a Muggle-born called Geoffrey Phillips, had been dutifully invited, but no one seemed sorry that he'd opted not to come.)
Donzo McCormack, of course, was a regular, and Corky Atkinson and Maurice Burke had been in and out since third year (Corky often coming to stay for a day or two whilst waiting for a Portkey). Roger Young was always on the periphery of the group, and Tinny Gudgeon had gone out with Frankie Apcarne for so long that Andromeda had forgotten she was actually in Teddy's year. Teddy had gone out with Lizzie Richardson and Laura Chapman, so Andromeda had met both of them briefly during their fourth year. Janey Hunter had been a rather longer run during sixth year, and Andromeda liked her a great deal, for being a Muggle-born Slytherin if nothing else. Most of the others, she hadn't met, but knew their names, as Teddy was as sociable as Dora ever had been, if in a less flamboyant way. Franklin Driscoll, Connie Deverell, Joe Palmer, Brendan Lynch... names she knew, names Teddy mentioned in a reasonably friendly light. She even knew Phillips' name, though he seemed to be the only one Teddy had never found any common ground with.
And then, there was Honoria Higgs.
From the start, she'd been a focus of Teddy's--she'd apparently been cruel about Remus on the first day and had pulled a few tricks with her newspaper during the first year that had been less than an ideal introduction, but Andromeda had got the idea, despite Teddy's protestations to the contrary, that they'd become friends since third year, and her attachment to Corky Atkinson had only cemented it. Now, she seemed to be at any gathering of Teddy's friends, who all--with the exception of Corky--insisted that they hated her, but never barred her from anything, and in fact often invited her inside. Teddy had been shocked when she'd written kindly of him in the Daily Prophet--had, in fact, credited him with being the center of her year and with inspiring her to be a better human being by telling her once that she could be "useful"--but Andromeda hadn't, any more than she'd been shocked when Teddy had written her a glowing recommendation for her apprenticeship at the Prophet, not that she'd really needed it. (Harry'd been shocked, but he'd always taken Teddy's statements more literally than Andromeda had.)
Andromeda made no protestations on the subject. She liked Honoria a great deal, and was quite glad when she offered to help put things together to carry out from the kitchen.
"Are you writing anything new?" Honoria asked, covering up the salad bowl and setting it to shake and twist in mid-air. "I keep hoping to see something on the history of Metamorphmagery from you."
"I don't know about that," Andromeda said. "There's still a lot people don't know. How it's passed, for instance. Obviously, Teddy inherited it from Dora, and there were other cases in my family, but they were all isolated. Why did Dora's pass when the others didn't?"
"Probably there were some in Teddy's father's family, too," Honoria suggested. "Have you done any research on the Lupins?"
"Other than a penchant for marrying Muggle-borns, I haven't found anything."
"Maybe the lycanthropy was involved. It is shapeshifting."
"Maybe so, but we don't know. I'm not going to set a lot of little girls off looking for werewolves just because they're hoping for a cute baby who can make his hair blue."
Honoria shrugged, unconcerned. "Rita says that all news stories have consequences, and we shouldn't worry ourselves about them, as long as we're telling the truth."
"The truth. That's a curious concept from Rita."
Honoria looked at her sharply. "Rita's my godmother."
"So sorry. But you know you've surpassed her as a journalist. Her books are somewhat questionable as well--a lot of speculation that's not identified as speculation."
"As everyone knows it's speculation, I can't see why she'd need to mention it. She writes what people want to read. Scandals, secrets... all of that. She does quite a lot of research on her subjects."
"She goes off and finds what she wants, and ignores the rest." Andromeda sliced a few dozen hamburger buns with a cut of her wand. "It is important to think about the consequences of what you're writing. Try to be sober."
"From the person who decided to make myths about Black family?"
"Myths make themselves," Andromeda said. "I also did my research, and found things I wasn't expecting and didn't care for. That's why there's a whole chapter on the craziness, and several on the hatefulness."
"All leading to a beautiful redemptive arc." Honoria raised her eyebrows. "Purely an accident, I'm sure."
"When I said you need to think of the consequences, I didn't mean that writing shouldn't have consequences. Look at your piece on Alderman and Vivian and the others. It made people re-think what that Mathilde girl had written."
"One of my best moments," Honoria said proudly. "Dubois had really twisted things up. People love that sort of thing--'Look how good people are really evil and evil people are really good.' They eat it up. Makes them feel smart and superior. I made them think around that."
"Yes, you did."
"It's a good thing to do. Of course, I imagine Alderman and Vivian's perceptions were true to them, just like Mathilde's were true to her--"
"And you were doing so well," Andromeda said, and Summoned a case of beer from the basement. "Really, there is a question of which is actually true."
"Of course, but that rarely makes a difference to readers." Honoria decided the salad was well shaken and set it down on the counter, Conjuring a large tray for it to land on. She put the sliced buns on beside it, and Levitated the whole thing, sending it floating out to the pond, where the others were now playing broomstick volleyball. "Readers go by the gut, not the head."
"Which brings us back to your book on the family. You knew that they'd see the tragedy and madness and put all the pieces together the way you wanted them to."
"So how is that different from what Rita does?"
"More information," Andromeda said. "And the end result."
"Myths about the Blacks?"
"Kindness toward them. Toward other people in general. Appealing to their higher instincts instead of their lower ones. Feeling empathy instead of superiority." She considered it. "But based on fact, for heaven's sake, not speculation."
"Ah," Honoria said, "Rita calls that 'gooey sentimentalism.'"
"I don't know. I don't think it's sentimental--you're a bit tougher than that. But who's to say what's better?"
"I suppose it's something you'll figure out as you go."
"Don't count on me coming to your conclusion."
"I think you already have."
Honoria smiled. "Yes, well, it is useful..."
They continued chatting as they sent the food on down the hill.