Tinsel and Traitors - Page 8

Tinsel and Traitors

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Re: Tinsel and Traitors

Post by Christian Zabini on Tue Feb 21, 2017 3:42 am

"In case it does," Frank cut in proudly, "you're welcome."

Christian felt that he knew better than to retaliate, so he left that to Ace if she felt like replying. As it were, he was just a guest, and there were boundaries he would not cross - probably not even if he returned a number of times. Sassing her family members was one of those lines that he would not breach.

Thus, it was upstairs that the two Hufflepuffs went, Christian glancing back at Ace's mum to say a last Thanks for the tea as he lifted the cup a little. But then he turned and climbed the steps behind his best friend. "You sure I can bring this upstairs?" He asked, pointing at the cup far too late to reasonably head back down without it being weird.

And so they made their way to the guest room - Christian still in his dress pants, shirt and jacket, and Ace still in her dress. What strange picture these two sixteen-year-olds made. Hannah was right, of course, that there were clothes there. He refrained from commenting on the fact that they were his size, given Ace's reaction earlier.

It was then that he realized how quiet he'd been since they found out about his parents. He was meant to be relieved, as they knew everyone was essentially just fine. But how could someone truly be alright when their home - their safe place, no matter how unlikely - had been attacked?

So he looked down at the shirt he'd picked up with a furrowed brow, half expecting Ace to just bid him goodnight and leave.


Apollo's breathing was ragged, but he held her with an almost absurdly gentle embrace. Like he could somehow make the wrong move and ruin everything. He only released her long enough to shrug off the jacket as she wanted him to, his entire world constricting to the places they were connected - his jaw, their arms, her back. She was giving him permission, which was more than enough for him. In fact, he would have argued that she practically told him to do it. So his fingers located the zip and tugged it down her back.

Rather than pulling away to encourage her to drop the dress entirely, he ran his hand back up as he leaned away. His fingers found the newly-exposed skin there, steadying her before his other hand left her waist and started unbuttoning his own shirt. He had registered, somewhere in there, that their arms actually weren't even touching like he'd thought. The dress shirt's sleeves made that impossible, and he needed more.

It was a good thing, really, that Apollo felt as confident as he did in himself. Not to the extent that he liked himself, necessarily, but that he couldn't be bothered to change anything. Not his hair, which bothered his mother endlessly, or the way he dressed. And, if he wanted to be a bit Slytherin about it, he could've pointed out that he had been the Keeper on the Quidditch team for years now.

So his fingers splayed across her back and he turned his chin enough to catch her lips again and part them with his own.
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Re: Tinsel and Traitors

Post by Lily Luna Potter on Tue Feb 21, 2017 5:26 am

Ace was less eloquent than her brother. Where he was quick to speak, she was quick to act. He did have a nasty tendency to get the last word in.

Still, as she passed by him she made sure to step on his foot, passing him a scowl.

Thanks for picking us up.

That's really what she meant, folks. Even if she didn't know it.

So she led the way up the stairs, experiencing that strange phenomenon of viewing a familiar place through an unfamiliar perspective. It came in these situations, with bringing in a friend to see a different slice of one's life. No matter how consistent a person was, their home, their parents, their annoying brother, it all painted a picture, fuller and more colorful, with details that maybe threw the old picture into a new light. Ace didn't feel like she was showing off her home, of the part of her life that it occupied, but she certainly sensed a feeling in her, a... slight desire for... approval.

It was weird and foreign and needed to get out of here.

Luckily, Christian always had an obvious question needing to be answered ("Can I take this upstairs? Why are you researching medieval war tactics? Do we really need to go over tomorrow's agenda a ninth time? You know, stupid questions). She glanced back at him. "We're sixteen, not six. My parents trust that we won't spill just because we don't have sippy cups."

She pushed the door open to the guest room, nodding towards the wardrobe in which he'd find Frank's disease-ridden clothes. She wasn't sure what possessed her, as she was sure he was more than capable of making his room suit his needs, but she crossed to the window, opening it a crack. "It gets stuffy," she said by way of explanation, eyes briefly wandering down the road. Of course she still felt on edge. She was ever vigilant. But somehow she knew she was safe here. Maybe she recognized that between her dad and brother, wards would be redoubled, or maybe it was that childlike naivete - home was safe.

And that's where they were.

She turned back to look at him, expecting to see him taking his shoes off or laying out his chosen pajamas or something but not... whatever that was. Maybe it was because she was so decisive, so bent on making a plan and following through, but moments of indecision truly rang as worrisome to her. Christian was always more careful than her - truthfully, it was the only reason they hadn't been caught - but this moment was different from him just taking his time.

But wait, she knew that look. That was why it made her pause. It wasn't random, it wasn't instinct, it was understanding. And maybe it was why she had thought to stick around, rather than abandon him at the door in pursuit of more comfortable clothes and a break from people. No, she recognized that look. Christian was looking just as she had felt for most of her life.

Out of place.

She blinked, glancing down at her hands. The revelation was good and all, but she didn't know what to do with it. She wanted to be a better friend, an easier person, but it seemed so disingenuous sometimes. She'd rather be herself and scare off a hundred people. It really made her appreciate the one that stayed.

"Wanna know a secret?" she said suddenly, looking up at him. "Clementine Lovegood was the one who picked out my outfit. But-" And her hands gripped her dress at the sides and lifted it just so slightly, enough to reveal her shoes. "She let me keep my sneakers."

And there they were. Her favorite pair of aqua converse. 100% not pureblood approved.


Her skin danced as it was exposed first to the cool of the air and then to the warmth of his touch. Lily had always noticed how small she felt in another's embrace, and it had never been comforting. There had always been a dynamic of power and submission, strength and weakness. It didn't make her feel feminine and dainty, it made her feel vulnerable and exposed. But she didn't feel small right now. She felt comfortable, she felt certain, she felt responsible, she felt... she felt like Lily.

That had never been the case before.

He began to unbutton his shirt and she took advantage of the moment to move from his jaw to his neck, hands slipping down to grip his shirt, impatient for the moment when she could pull his arms free from its confines, shed another barrier that was keeping her from having all of him. His fingers moved quickly and she felt her lips captured by hers. Her hands fell across his chest now-

Her eyes flicked open and she pulled from the kiss, a little more abruptly than she had meant. Trust us, Reader, the last thing Lily Potter was yet another interruption. But there were some things that weren't to be ignored.

"Apollo," she said, her hands pulling away slightly from their discovery. A series of all too familiar scars, a physical mark that she had left. One that would never go away. She paused, her breath catching, and she slowly placed her hand over the one she had first felt, a thumb rubbing gently over the skin above the scar.

She swallowed, eyes trained on his chest. "I..." What could she say? They had said it all before. But it didn't feel like enough. It would never be enough. She couldn't take it back. "I feel selfish sometimes, Apollo. Sometimes I think you might have been so much better off if you'd never met me, if we were just people who happened to go to school together. But I don't know what sort of life that'd be. And as much as I wish I'd never scratched you, never disappeared, never made things so complicated... I'm still so glad I found you, and so glad that you loved me back." She paused, and then attempted a smile, for the sake of saving the mood. "As idiotic as that was of you."
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Re: Tinsel and Traitors

Post by Apollo Zabini on Tue Feb 21, 2017 6:45 am

Christian flinched at her answer, but it was actually more of a series of blinks. He knew better than to think she was trying to really be mean about it - or hoped he did - so that was inevitably pushed away. But then she didn't leave like she was supposed to, expected to. Instead, Ace went out of her way to make sure he was going to be comfortable in this unfamiliar place. He doubted that she really thought through the action, but it was enough. It was enough for him.

He was going through a list of people he could ask to host him until school started up again, and hadn't gotten very far before Ace spoke up again. Lowering the shirt, he turned his chin to look at her. Eyebrows pulled together at her question, but he just waited.

His eyes dropped to her feet, hesitated, and then swept up again. A half-smile pulled at his lips and he set the shirt back down on top of the other clothes in the box. Slipping his jacket off, Christian reached down to the cuff of his left sleeve, rolling it back.

Don't worry, though. He hadn't gone and taken up for the other team without warning anyone. Instead, he pushed the sleeve up to show her the ratty, worn leather bracelet that he wore around his wrist. It was as green as he had been expected to be, yet he still wore it.

"Dad gave this to me when we left for Hogwarts the first time. I think he was trying to encourage me to stick to tradition or something." Christian shrugged. "You know.. for the sorting." Looking her way again, his mouth thinned into a tight line. "Dad doesn't give us things unless it's a holiday or a birthday. Except for this," he said, gesturing with his hand to emphasize the point.

"I know my lot can be pretty dreadful most of the time," he added, running a hand up his arm where the mark could've been, his gaze falling to watch the movement. "But it isn't usually like that. It's never been like that before. Usually the parties are dull excuses to drink and for parents to push their sons towards the woman of their choice." Christian shook his head at that. "I'm sorry I asked you to come. I shouldn't have. Tonight was... bad."


Of course, bad was what one might've expected Apollo to be feeling as well, once Lily withdrew into her guilt and apologies, though they weren't quite voiced as such. But rather than sinking into himself as well, he felt inclined - obligated, almost - to fix it. How could they spend a semester completely torn from each other's side if she felt that way? They couldn't.

"Lily," he began seriously, shifting a little farther back onto the bed so he could relax his hold on her. His fingers dipped into the V that the bottom of the zipper created, and he re-made his action from earlier as his other hand found hers and planted her palm over his heart. Over the starting point of one of those white lines she felt could be covering up his resentment or whatever else. "What, exactly, do you think I had going for me before you came back?"

His eyebrows pulled together and he glanced down at where she was perched astride his legs. Their closeness almost completely flew over his head as he tried to find some way to explain himself without sounding utterly pathetic.

"I'm not going to say that things would have stayed the way they were if you hadn't come back. That's too much pressure on your end, but it also implies that I can't make anything of myself. And I don't believe that to be true." His eyes searched hers. "But you gave me the strength I needed to make those changes sooner. And if you think, even for a minute, that I wish these scars were gone, .. then you're just plain wrong."

Playing into her apparent need to break up her guilt with some light-hearted humor, Apollo ran his hand up one side of her zipper and to the capped sleeve of her dress, inching it to the side so he could brush his thumb over the exposed skin there. He lifted his chin, almost defiantly. "I know I'm fit as it is, but they're actually my favorite part of how I look. Not half because nobody else knows they're still there apart from us."

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Re: Tinsel and Traitors

Post by Ace Longbottom on Tue Feb 21, 2017 6:02 pm

Ace didn't know what her secret was supposed to do. Fixing the world, she could wrap her head around, but fixing a feeling was way beyond her pay grade. Somehow, she felt that the little reminder of what sort of friend she was, one so obstinate that she had refused to wear heels even for a black-tie high-society ball, maybe somehow that would bring him back down to reality. If she could survive a night out with the purebood elite in her sneakers, †he could get through this.

But she knew it was no comparison. That even trying to match her discomfort to his feeling of vulnerability right now was unfair.

So maybe she had just wanted to make him grin.

She hadn't anticipated his response, figuring she'd maybe get a polite chuckle and then she'd leave him to change and settle in for the night. But her eyebrows twitched curiously as her began to roll up his sleeve, her eyes falling to the bracelet in question. If he was trying to give her something to laugh about in exchange, he could probably do with some comedy lessons.

He's not trying to be funny, idiot. Friends share secrets. It's part of the deal.

Oh.

Right.

Maybe one of these days she'd stop being surprised that Christian actually was her friend in return.

"Starting with the 'my lot, your lot' is how we get into messes," she pointed out. "We're all just... people."

She tilted her head at his apology. How could he apologize for the night's events? It wasn't like he could have anticipated a random attack, even she had let down her guard. "I could have said. You might not have noticed, but I can be pretty stubborn."

She paused. "Besides. Imagine how I'd react if there was finally trouble and I wasn't there to see it."


Lily hated to bring them back to usual problem, that pervading sense that she wasn't worth it, but they were sort of at the last station. If there was ever a time to air her fears out one last time, it was now. Though she was sure the problem would come up again, she liked to think that maybe they could settle it, once and for all. Accept that, no matter how poorly they thought of themselves, the other would always find value where they could not.

"You gave me the strength I needed to make those changes sooner."

That was it, wasn't it. Apollo hadn't saved her (not counting the time he actually had, of course), and she hadn't saved him. Neither had pushed the other to change for the better, had not made any sort of demands. She liked to think she would have found an equilibrium eventually. But knowing that Apollo cared what happened to her, that she would see him again and wanted to give him a real reason to be proud... well, it had given her an excuse to pursue that sense of peace sooner rather than later.

She smiled, reaching out to cup his jaw, eyes softening as she traced one of the scars. Her smile widened wryly at he pressed on, eyes flicking upwards to meet his. She felt a chill run up her spine at the mention of their forged intimacy, the story that had unfolded between them and remained theirs alone. So few things in her life felt like just hers. And even with the unfortunate circumstances that had brought them about, knowing the scars were a chapter in their story made them all the more dear. She leaned towards to place an almost chaste kiss on his lips.

But when she withdrew, she remained close. "You are fit," she said, quirking an eyebrow. Her hands stretched across his chest and curved around his shoulders, before trailing down his biceps. "Lay back," she said, voice low and just for him. She lifted herself up so he could get comfortable orient himself on the bed, before she slowly lowered herself, bringing her mouth to one of the scars, beginning to pepper the marks with soft touches from her lips.
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Re: Tinsel and Traitors

Post by Apollo Zabini on Tue Feb 21, 2017 7:11 pm

A laugh pulled his lips into a smile, and Apollo prepared to return the compliment but she distracted him. The way she spoke was enough to strike the match, but as she hovered low above him, her mouth on his chest was more than enough to set him aflame. And it was only moments after that he felt desperate for-- something. To touch her, to- he didn't know. Apollo knew full well that he should not have been so spectacularly unsure of himself, but he had never actually wanted someone like this before - and had never been this close to it either.

So he found his voice as his fingers reached to brush her hair away from her face on one side. His head was turned to one side, chin ducked so he could look at her. "You're stunning. D'you know that? Genuinely beautiful."

And as she traced the lines of her marks on him, Apollo failed to keep from breathing her name when she moved a bit too far along his side or stomach to keep it in. He just couldn't do it. He couldn't.

"Come here," he requested, propping himself on one elbow and reaching for her. Once she was near enough, he shifted again to kiss her deeply. It was almost a distraction for both of them as he started to slip her dress sleeves down her arms. Once he'd done that, Apollo broke off for air and to really look at her. Possessive probably wasn't a good enough word for the look that dashed across his face.

A breath later he had turned her over onto her back, and was trailing kisses along her collarbone as though he had no intentions of moving south in return. But his hand was bunching the fabric of her dress so he could reach the skin of her knee which lay beneath. Fingers curled around the back of her knee but began inching upwards as he hummed a little against that spot at the base of her neck that she'd always seemed to like best.


Christian gave Ace a look that quite clearly stated that yes, he definitely noticed. But he did laugh like he was expected to. At least one of them could stick to their normal selves and do what they ought to. Right? He decided he wasn't sure, instead just ducking his chin as the chuckle left him.

His hand came up to comb through his hair. "Yeah," he conceded. "That's true."

She would definitely have been angry about missing it. But he felt like he couldn't ask, now, about how uncomfortable she had seemed earlier. It was.. strange, actually. Christian was really only attentive around people he felt he had a chance to help or fix. Ace didn't need him at all, apart from lists and being nice so she didn't have to. He felt sure she could do all of that on her own.

... So maybe they were just.. friends?

Which was fine since he had always called her his best mate, even if just mentally. But this was probably the most weirdly organic relationship he'd ever had, even with her sass and his try-hard attitude both getting in the way.

Christian looked over at her again before reaching almost blindly towards Frank's shirt. Determined to keep the mood light, he added with a half-smile, "But seriously, Ace. I won't get anything from this, right?"

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Re: Tinsel and Traitors

Post by Lily Luna Potter on Tue Feb 21, 2017 11:46 pm

Lily was marvelling at the way Apollo was responding to her touch, the way his skin danced after each touch, the pounding of his heart, the shallowing and quickening of his breath. There was some sense of reconciliation in her gentle worship of the scars that had marked the day in which their futures seemed hopelessly intertwined. She had feared they would be harsh, jarring reminders, something to separate rather than bond them, but up close their threat was gone. Up close there was a beauty to them and though she certainly wasn't proud to have caused them, she still loved them, because of who they belonged to.

She felt Apollo's hand reach out for her, the familiar callouses of a seasoned Quidditch player tenderly brushing back her hair. She lifted her eyes for a moment, her own heart fluttering, powerless to a kindness she hoped to one day deserve. She didn't know what to say. Words weren't enough.

He called to her and she made a trail from his chest up to his throat, interrupted only once he had moved and pulled her lips to his. She contorted her shoulders, helping him further in his quest to her of the once-charming, now-troublesome dress. Her head spun as he turned her, causing a laugh to slip from her, before her lips parted in the ghost of a gasp, her hand grasping involuntarily at the back of his neck.

"Apollo," she said, an actual sense of need in her voice, implying the rest of that sentiment.


Ace had never really had comfortable relationships with people. Her most easy-going relationship was probably with her brother, and that was obviously wrapped up in about a million layers of sarcasm and misplaced aggression. She had always rubbed her peers the wrong way, what with her need to be right and her complete inability to play nicely. In fairness, she wasn't exactly not nice. She just so often didn't know what to say, and by the time she found her voice, it was typically to correct someone or point out a different perspective.

And soon, she was known to be a know-it-all, insufferable, a pain. And that wasn't easily shaken. So she lived with it.

But here she was. In her parent's guest room. In a formal dress. Torn from a fray. Joking with Christian Zabini.

And, weirdly, it did feel comfortable.

But her face was serious as she said, "Oh no. You're going to catch his smart-arse-itis."

She shook her head and crossed back towards the door, stopping once she reached it. She turned to lean her shoulder against the frame and jerked her thumb over her shoulder. "I'm right across the hall if you need anything. I..." She paused, quirking her lips sideways as she tried to pick her words. "I'm sure your parents will get your house all sorted. They're probably just glad you're safe."
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Re: Tinsel and Traitors

Post by Apollo Zabini on Thu Feb 23, 2017 1:58 am

The rasp of his name across her tongue was almost too much. It told him instantly that he would be in serious trouble if she ever wore that dress again. That glowing marvel of a thing could very well end up being the death of him. It was lucky, really, that professors didn't dress up very often. That would just ruin him. So he listened, his touch wandering as she asked it to.

And he decided not to waste another breath with telling her the truth. Perhaps he would, after, but he couldn't interrupt this again. Not after she said his name like that. But when they'd finally divested everything, he found his footing, and the after part finally arrived -- ... he didn't know how.

The full weight of what they'd done settled on him. Or, no. That was the blanket he retrieved from the end of the bed so they wouldn't feel like they had to crawl under the covers straight away. He genuinely didn't think that he had the drive to do so, and thus he draped the blanket over them, letting her arrange it however she saw fit. Then he shifted towards her, his hands settling almost protectively over patches of her skin that were still exposed.

Trying to find something worth saying was apparently ridiculously difficult for him, considering he just continued to press brief kisses below her ear and across her jaw as their breathing calmed. Surprising even himself, though, Apollo paused to make a request.

"..Don't go, Lil. Not until you have to. Just... stay here with me."

And, no, actually. He had no idea how long he meant by that. But it wasn't even Christmas yet, so he wasn't particularly fussy, if he were being honest.

Christian didn't miss the joke behind Ace's words, but also couldn't manage to refrain from mouthing off again. "Well, if you haven't given it to me already, perhaps I'm immune."

And then he just smirked. The expression wasn't what you would call typical or appropriate for his features, certainly, but he was irrationally proud of his comeback. He wasn't trying to defend Frank, but he may as well have been, perhaps.

But then she was heading towards the door and he sobered up, nodding. House. Home. He didn't know which word was right anymore. It wasn't like he lived there during the summers, because of the shop. But it was still his childhood home, regardless of the circumstances of their upbringing. But he decided not to correct her on it, since he didn't even know the answer himself.

"I'll write to them tomorrow, I suppose. To see how things are going." He reached up to rub at his neck. "I don't want to be in the way for too long."

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Re: Tinsel and Traitors

Post by Lily Luna Potter on Thu Feb 23, 2017 3:18 am

Signs of the world outside Apollo's bedroom finally began to creep back into her perception. She could tell that the apartment was a little cold, though they were certainly warm, and she could vaguely hear the patter of a light rain, which would surely turn into a snow by morning. It was late and the street was beginning to go to sleep, but she could hear the distant sounds of traffic, of someone calling to someone else, of a cat knocking over a trashcan. For one moment in time the world had shrunk, admitting only the warmth of their touches, the sound of their breaths, the sensations of lips and fingers. But the world was inviting them to join once more and, try as they might, they could not resist.

Her hand remained on his chest, her fingers quietly tracing the marks with whom she had made her peace, her hair slung over one shoulder and nose tucked under his chin. She couldn't be bothered with the blanket, glad to have this rare moment of comfortable vulnerability with someone she loved. Enjoying it while she could.

His voice brushed against her ear, causing the little hairs there to tickle and stand at attention, his chest rumbling with the effort, spreading into her fingertips and throughout her body. Still connected. She tilted her head and her hand traveled up to brush his hair, coming to a rest at his cheek, her eyes following the movement from start to finish. And finally her eyes came to meet his and there she rested. Safe in his gaze, treasured and comfortable, loved and certain. Happy. Actually happy.

Why would she want to leave?

"I'm excellent at overstaying my welcome," she assured him, before she leaned forward to take his lips once more, savoring this. Because unlike everyone else, he wanted her to stay, and so did she. It was different. And Merlin if it wasn't some shade of rapture.

She drew nearer, settling her head against his shoulder as her hand reached down to find his, slowly intertwining their fingers.

"I make pretty good toast."

Ace had no idea how long Christian would need to stay with them and was hardly concerned with it. She couldn't see how it would be a problem. Perhaps if the roles were reversed, she'd be a little more anxious to have an end date. But her family's "all-are-welcome" sentiment coupled with how normal it had become for her to spend most of her time with the Zabini boy made it a non-issue in her brain. He'd stay as long as he needed to.

And then maybe a little bit longer, if she had questions with her Charms work.

Her mouth tipped open a little, betraying her shock and mild indignation to find the tables turned on her, but the wry look on his face was such a welcome change from the uncertainty that had occupied his features just a moment before. Crazy how that hesitancy could transform into a smile, a smirk, something more pleasant.

Had she done that?

"You can use our owl, like Dad said. Dad's owl is sort of senile, he's like at least three hundred years old, but Mum's is- anyway, you can use hers." She cocked her head at his last statement, her lips turning in some sense of disbelief. "Come off it, you won't be in the way. You never are." And it's important to remember that Ace was not the sort to flatter or placate. She was a Hufflepuff. She believed in honesty and truth. So if she said someone had value, she meant it. And she did mean it.

"Besides, I've been trying to sneak a gnome into Frank's bag for years. Maybe this year will finally be the year. Get some sleep. Mum kicks down doors for breakfast, and then we garden." She offered a bracing grimace and a nod. "Good night, Christian." And she ducked out.

Sleep would come easily. Freed of the dress and clothed in an old (and probably embarrassing) pajama set from two Christmases ago, she would slip into bed. The delicate balance of good and evil had been thrown, Lily and Apollo still had a way to go in ensuring their lie stuck, and Potter's Army still didn't have the numbers they needed to be effective. But sleep would come easily. Because everything was a little easier when you knew you weren't alone.
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