Epilogue Relationships Series
Jake Zabini and Rose Weasley
“You made me happy too, Zabini. Even if you are a twat.” Her lips pulled into a smile, a genuine one, for the first time in a long while. “That night on the boat, the first night, made me feel at peace in the middle of a storm.” It was cheesy, but she let the words fall out of her lips without attempting to stop them. She figured they were being painstakingly honest, so why not? And she was slightly drunk on top of it, so it couldn’t hurt.
“Are you mental? I’m always right!” She chuckled softly, shaking her head jokingly. “Don’t you know?” Her hand accepted his, which sent a jolt of electricity through her body. Quickly, she pulled her hand out of his, avoiding his eyes. “Well, I’m not so sure it would be easy to smuggle Death Eaters in, but we should always be careful.”
“That’s not the kind of bird I was talking about, love.” She rolled her eyes. “I was talking about a girl. A good girl who will take care of you and most importantly, feed you. Bloody hell, have you eaten at all? You’re quite peaky!” Rose shot him a stern look. “How about some Shepherds Pie? I can accio some from the kitchens, I’m pretty sure I know where the elves keep it.”
Jake stuck his tongue out at the girl. She was so young, to have seen so much and had so much hurt. “Did I ever tell you I love thunderstorms?” he asked. “Not this shite,” he said, gesturing to the drizzle outside the paned windows of the castle. “But there’s something therapeutic about them. There’s this bang and crash and bright lights and it’s so beautiful in the chaos,” he smiled softly. “And the world is so fresh and clear after a storm. I smelled amortentia a few times in my day,” he chuckled, thinking of the Valentine’s day in his seventh year where a trio of girls bought love potions through mail order and had slipped it into his morning pumpkin juice, “and the freshness of the soil after rain is the strongest scent in there, for sure. The salt of the sea as well… fresh-cut lilies… the soap my uncle’s house-elf used for years,” he said, trailing off between thoughts. But I bet I would smell you if I saw some now. The sweet smell of your hair, the salty tang of sweat, cigarette smoke from your clothes…
Jake glared at her playfully. “I think we’ve established that you’re not always right,” he teased. Damn, did I go too far? Is it too soon? He suppressed a flinch when she pulled her hand away, awkwardly smoothing his trousers flat.
“So does what I want have no role in this?” he asked, following her down the hall. “Because I don’t want a girl that takes care of me. I’ve never wanted that. I want something completely different,” he said, pausing. He was too much of a coward to simply say what he wanted, but he wanted desperately for her to ask.
In response to her question, he merely shrugged. “I’ve been busy,” he muttered. He hadn’t had much of an appetite for months, but he managed to choke down a meal every few days. He hadn’t noticed the weight loss until he had failed one of the auror department’s monthly fitness tests.
“We were pretty good, eh?” Rose smiled sadly at the thought. They balanced each other out like a couple was supposed to. Love is just a mess, and sometimes it has to not work before it can work. She took a Chocolate Frog out of her pocket and opened it slowly, knowing just when to bite the head off; then offered him half. “You made me happy.” She said slowly, as if not to provoke harsh words. Her whole life she had preferred to be around people who got it. Jake got it like no one else. He understood what it was like to hate himself, hate his decisions. He understood family troubles even if they weren’t the same as hers, and that made her feel better.
“I’m sure there is.” There was something so grave and depressing about his words, as if he really truly believed he was such an insignificant person. “Let’s say we go for a walk. If someone tries to take us they’ll regret it. Plus, it’s a clear night and the Astronomy Tower will have a clear view of the coming constellations.” She stood, pulling her cloak tightly around her arms before offering him an encouraging glance. The stars had always made her feel better, like the world was bigger than her problems, and she needed to suck it up and simply exist.
“Dogs? I have a dog, it’s not the same. People are better in the end. Plus, you can’t shag a dog.” She shrugged dismissively. “You’ll find a good bird, someone who cares about you. I’m sure I’m not the only person in the world who cares about you Zabini. Stop being so down, you’re good looking, smart, and rich. Not that half those things matter to any good upstanding person, but it can’t hurt.”
Jake pulled the frog’s leg off slowly, twirling it between his fingers. “You made me happier than I could ever remember being.” He thought back to their first night together—they practically didn’t sleep that night, talking and just taking each other in. What they had was so intoxicatingly intimate—there’s something of a head rush in sharing things that have never been voiced before.
“Well I usually trust your opinion, but you have to be wrong sometime I figure,” he sighed, getting to his feet. “We can walk though, I should be patrolling anyway. They could be smuggling Death Eaters in and we wouldn’t even know it because we’re being depressing and self-absorbed.”
“You have a dog. I’m sure a herd of dogs is better than people,” he sighed. “Nah, birds only make a mess and I always forget to clean the cage so they really stink up the place,” he chuckled, offering Rose a hand up.”
“Hugo was always the one who broke, maybe it’s a boy thing?” She chuckled softly. “I can’t picture you going soft on anyone, I didn’t think it was in your Slytherin nature.” Maybe I didn’t know you as well as I thought. “I’m not stronger, just more stubborn. And that is a fatal flaw; with stubbornness comes ignorance and a whole host of poor traits that will be my downfall in the end. Men who break easily are better to get along with for women don’t want to be the ones chasing after the man. It’s every girl’s dream for a man to come to her with a dozen enchanted roses that never die.” Her attempt at lightening the atmosphere just made her more cognizant of what she didn’t have anymore.
“Sometimes, you have to be lost to find yourself. When I was five I was convinced I was a dog, no joke, and my mum told me the same thing. At fifteen I was in a relationship with a guy who didn’t give two fucks about me. I fucked a very sensual professor and ended up with a broken heart and a broken will.” Rose thought back to those miserable days when she thought she was an empty, broken shell. He had helped her find herself, but she didn’t dare mention that. “All you have to do is let yourself be yourself. Does that make sense?” The wisdom was perhaps lost, she wasn’t the best, most moral person. “I know I’m young, I’m only sixteen, but I do know a thing or two about people, and being yourself.”
“Have you ever read the Godfather? It’s a muggle book by a man named Mario Puzo. He was himself a wizard who turned the bootlegging of wizarding materials into a muggle hype. Anyhow, he wrote a man named Johnny. Johnny had been with a good woman named Ginny, cheated on her, and left her for a harlot He decided to swear off women as well. It didn’t work out so well for him.” She sighed softly. “Just because I’m a stupid bitch doesn’t mean you have to give up on people. You could try to find someone good for you, a nice Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff.” It hurt her heart to think of him with another girl, someone prettier or more mature than she.
“I don’t know,” Jake smiled softly. “Maybe for a relationship to work there has to be a stubborn one and one who gives. Maybe two stubborn people would grow to hate each other over the years and two people who give would never have enough passion to sustain the relationship. Maybe we-” he choked, falling into silence. Damn his cowardice, his self-preservation. Damn his unwillingness to put his neck on the rock and pray the blade didn’t fall. Maybe it saved him a few times but the loneliness hurt more than any rejection. He bit his lip, the slight pain lending his brain a bit of clarity. “Maybe we were better than we thought.
Jake shrugged. “Maybe. And maybe there’s nothing left to find.” He let her talk for a few minutes, not completely listening to what she said, just drinking her voice, her presence in. She was intoxicating and she still didn’t know how much she could affect him. His anger was fading quickly—he knew it would as soon as she came back. It was one thing to hold a grudge when you only had an idea, an emotion to be mad at. It was something completely different when it was a living, breathing person, sitting next to you pouring their existence out.
Who could stay mad at that?
“I’ve tried Ravenclaws, I’ve found they’re not my cup of tea. They think a bit too much of themselves for my taste. No, I think I’ll adopt some dogs and let Zabini manor crumble around me.”
“I wouldn’t blame you if you hated me. Actually, I’d prefer it. I’m not a good person, I don’t deserve to be liked, I don’t deserve anything.” Let the pity party begin, eh Rose? It was stupid, she shouldn’t be feeling sorry for herself, nothing would come of it. She should be feeling bad about the things she had done, that’s what she could try to make up for. And she had done a lot to him, and none of it was fair. She took a swig before speaking, needing the courage to tell the truth. How funny, when put to the test she wasn’t all that brave, was she? “It wasn’t that I was scared I was endgame for you.” Her eyes slid shut as she spoke, wishing the world would stop as her vision did. “I loved you too much. I wanted you too much.“
She thought about her family, her mother and father, aunts and uncles. They had all loved their partners so much; so much so that nothing else mattered. But in the end, most of them put their love on hold to protect each other. In a sick roundabout way that’s what she tried to do. She tried to follow her parent’s example and protect him, and it destroyed him. “I know you probably can’t completely forgive me for what I’ve done, but I just want you to know I really did think it was the right thing to do. And it wasn’t, and I’m sorry. If things were reversed, I wouldn’t ever forgive you.”
“Hey, a whole century? That’s one hell of a dry spell.” She laughed, mimicking his movements with her own cigarette. “You are a terrible flyer, I’ll give you that. But you aren’t terrible with the ladies. You and I both know you could have any girl you wanted with just a wink and a kiss.”
“We hit supernova before our time,” Jake muttered, hand gripping the back of his neck tightly. “There was too much emotion, too many things broken that we shoved aside instead of dealing with them. If-” he broke off, turning away from her gaze. He wouldn’t finish that sentence, wouldn’t even allow himself to have that thought. There were no ifs. Things weren’t going to change. This was final.
“Maybe you’re just a stronger person than I am,” he chuckled. “I can’t hold a grudge. When we were little, Lily would be angry for days and days—she was always the willful one, the one who threw fits if she didn’t get what she wanted. Until she disappointed Dear Old Mum by turning out a squib she was pretty much the stereotypical spoiled rich girl. Not that I wasn’t, I was just always a little quieter about it than she was,” he smiled. “But even when she was furious and making me so mad, I couldn’t stay mad for longer than about ten minutes. She had me around her little finger from the moment she could smile.”
He sighed, thoughts swirling around his head at a dizzying head. “I’ve changed so much throughout my life, there are so many sides to me but there’s nothing left at all. I don’t know who I am and I don’t know if I’ll ever figure it out. I’m not sure there’s anything left to be. I’m the pretty little rich boy with a death wish, I’m the spoiled arse, I’m the protector, I’m broken but I’m also completely empty.”
“But,” he said, staring far into the distance. “I don’t want any girls. If anyone had told me a year ago that I’d be an auror, working sixty hours a week, and swearing off girls forever I’d have laughed in their face. Loudly. For a long time. And maybe I would have stopped laughing long enough to punch them. But it’s all true.”
Rose sighed, not blaming him for the obvious distaste he held. He had every right to hate her, and she felt better that he did hate her. She deserved all of the hell he gave her, all of the harsh words. “I know it won’t make up for what I did, I know I can’t ever do that, but I do want you to know that I am sorry. I have made so many mistakes, but I’ve learned from them all. I’m stupid, impulsive, immature, and selfish. I.. I hate what I did for you, and I didn’t mean to break you. That would’ve been my last intention. I don’t know.. I know you can’t forgive me. But please, don’t hate me.”
She fell down next to him, curling her legs against her chest. The need to feel small, to feel safe curled inside herself was overpowering. More than anything she wanted to feel whole and protected, and with him she felt that. “I always have one.” She pulled out one for each of them, along with her tumbler full of firewhiskey. He probably shouldn’t drink on the job but she wasn’t too concerned.
The guilt in her stomach lessened as the alcohol burned through her. She felt stupid and young and foolish. If there was ever a thing she was horrible at, it was thinking of the consequences. “Are you seeing anyone? I mean, have you got anyone?”
“You think I hate you?” Jake laughed, lighting the cigarette and inhaling deeply. He chuckled for a few moments, trying to get himself under control. Physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion didn’t play well with each other. He knew she must be hurt—he was essentially laughing at her—but he couldn’t explain right then. “I couldn’t hate you even if I tried,” he paused, taking another draw. “And I tried. I tried really hard. I was furious, hurt, bitter, I wanted to hurt you, bring you down to the level I was at, but I could never hate you.”
“I did warn you, you know,” he commented, taking a long drag. “That night in the Burrow. I warned you that it would break me. I put all my eggs in one basket because it’s the only basket I’ve got. I put my whole world into one person and I don’t blame you for being scared by that. It’s unhealthy as fuck but it’s what I’ve got.”
He laughed again at her question. “Rose there’s about as much chance of me seeing someone anytime in the next, oh let’s say century, as there is me playing for the English national team,” he sighed, crunching the remnants of the cigarette under his heel. “And you’ve seen how piss poorly I fly.”
“It is a weakness. Like you said, without each other we’re nothing. Just another redhead. Not the redheads. It means we all live in constant fear of something happening to one another and we don’t allow ourselves to live life. We’ve become so set on not letting one another die that we’ve suddenly stopped taking care of ourselves. And that- that’s scary.” The fire returned to her eyes, if there wasn’t anything left to fight for, she didn’t know if she would even fight; but there was. And their conversation reminded her of that. She needed to fight so families like Jake’s wouldn’t happen again, so there could be more smiles and laughter.
“There are people there for me, yes. There are a lot of people, yes. But how many of them can I be truthful with? None. They don’t need to worry about me anymore than they already do. Having ten thousand people who care about you isn’t as significant as having one person who you care about, who you can tell the absolute truth to, even at your darkest hour.” That’s what we had. She finished her in head, not wanting to open old wounds.
“Are you honestly daft enough to think that because I was scared and broke things off with you, that I stopped caring? That I stopped worrying? You really, honestly believe that I don’t give a damn?” Her voice was shrill with disbelief. “Are you that ignorant? Jake, I think about you every day. I worry about you like I worry about my family. I have a list of names that I check every night, people I need to keep track of, and you’re on it. So don’t pull that shit. It doesn’t work.”
Had she brought him that low? To a point where he couldn’t even… Remember? Remember why she did what she did, remember the nights on the boat and the fun they had. The drinks, the sleepovers. The whispered words, none of it meant anything? “Do you.. Do you honestly think I could brush you aside after all.. All we did?”
“I’m used to people letting me down,” Jake said, lapsing into silence while he processed her words. “That’s the norm among families like mine, among the crowd I ran with. You use people and then lose them when they’ve served their purpose or you tire of them. I’m accustomed to manipulation being so ingrained into someone’s character that you don’t trust a thing they say. You learn to await the day where you are no longer useful enough or entertaining enough or exciting enough and then they’re gone.”
“Not that I thought that at first,” he sighed. “I thought that maybe you might be as sincere as you seemed. You were so young and bright and passionate. But then you brought me to the Burrow with promises and you left me in the garden, completely alone. I figured I had lost my shock value. Dating one of Daddy’s employees wasn’t daring enough anymore. I’m never more than two steps away from the cliff’s edge and you shoved me off without a backwards glance,” he shrugged. “I’ve never had much cause to believe the best in people, you just helped prove my point.”
He sank to the floor, suddenly exhausted. “I know you’re always above me, but am I really going to have to talk up to you?” he asked, gesturing to the spot on the floor next to him. “Please tell me you have a fag on you.”