UPDATE 12/27: This is the completed, rejected draft of chapter 3. Even though I plan to do a major rewrite, I'd still like to hear your thoughts on this one, good or bad.
FLIGHT OF DEATH
by Susie Q
Nothing Important Happened Today
Alexis sat with her hands folded in her lap, her eyes downcast, as her father paced back and forth in front of her. Her mother stood off to the side.
"You should be grateful I don't disown you here and now," her father hissed. "The entire city will have heard about this soon enough. What in the name of Merlin did you think you were going to do? Do a little sightseeing and come home with a pretty little memoir?" He slammed his hand on the desk. "Didn't you even stop to think how this would affect you? Haven't you thought how this would reflect on you, on your reputationon our reputation?"
Alexis remained silent.
He shook his head. "No, of course you didn't. You still think the entire world is about you and your whims. You're going to have to grow up one of these days, Alexis, and realize that this universe does not revolve around you. What you did was irresponsible and dangerous, not to mention a disgrace to our entire family namewhich is your name as well, I might remind you," he added.
"Luckily for you," he continued, his tone not making her feel at all lucky, "I've spoken with Mr. Harper. He's agreed to do us a favor."
"He's agreed to marry you," her father supplied. "I would be counting my blessings if I were you, my girl."
Alexis couldn't help it; she gaped at him in a very unseemly fashion. "HeBut, Father, aren't I supposed to have some choice in the matter?"
"You don't after that little stunt you just pulled!" he thundered. "You've more than proven to me you aren't responsible enough to make your own decisions wisely, so I've made this one for you. And when Harper comes here tomorrow, I expect you to accept him graciously and sincerely."
"I thought you just said you decided all this for me," she retorted.
"I've spoken to Harper, and he knows how agreeable the idea is to me, but I told him that I couldn't, of course, give him any final answer without speaking to you."
"Oh, so I have a choice after all?" She stood up. "Then my answer's no."
"You do not have a choice!" her father bellowed. "You are going to marry Jonathan Harper and that's final!"
His words echoed in the room and finally faded into silence.
"I don't want to talk about this anymore," he said, turning and striding out.
Alexis sank slowly back into her chair, staring at the empty doorway. After a moment, she saw a rustle of cream and black out of the corner of her eye, and remembered her mother was still standing in the room.
"It's not so bad, you know," Olivia said. "You told me yourself you liked Jonathan Harper." When she received no response, she went on in a slightly harder tone, "I'm very disappointed in you, Alexis. I thought we'd already had this discussion. I expected better from you."
Alexis looked up and met her mother's eyes for the first time. Did she know?
"When we found you gone, your father told me about the article," she explained. "We were sure that was where you'd gone, to see that. But he didn't understand why you'd be interested in some government department that'd be all mangled and that you'd probably never get close to. Neither of us could, at first." Her gaze was cold and calculating, very unusual characteristics for Mrs. Levine. "So tell me, Alexisam I right? Was it him?"
"It was nothing," Alexis replied coldly.
Olivia shut the door and stood in front of it with her arms crossed. Alexis almost marveled at the change a little disaster could bring about, from some foolishly childish companion sort of mummy to a real mother, who was about to give her daughter a real lecture.
"Alexis, this is not a game," she began. Although she didn't shout or bang on things as her husband did, Alexis knew she was just as angry and just as serious. "When I told you I wasn't going to let you throw away all of these opportunities on a fling, I meant it. If you ever expect to be able to hold your head up in any good society again, I think you ought to accept Jonathan's offer. Unless you'd rather have every respectable family laughing at you behind your back for the rest of your life. You'll become some crude joke they tell over luncheonanother Lucy Wendworth, is that what you want? Is it?"
"No." Alexis felt her voice grow thick. "But no one knows about Tom. Why do I have to get married? This is the sort of thing you do to cover up...indiscretions and such. We didn't do anything!" she added hastily, seeing her mother's look.
"It's still going to be a scandal. Alexis Levine runs away from home. People will talk, Alexis. There wil be speculation as to why you ran away. Are we bad parents? Were you having some affair? You don't think about these things," she sighed. "I didn't either, I suppose, when I was your age. But there will be speculation that will reflect poorly upon us as a family. Maybe, if you just marry Jonathan now, people will overlook it all." Her features softened ever so slightly. "It was inevitable, anyway, you know, dear. Don't try to pretend. I'm your mother; I know these things."
"I ran away to Roswell"
"Even worse!" Olivia shook her head firmly. "If it ever got out that you ran off to meet" She stopped and then suddenly, from being angry, she took her daughter's hands and her voice took on a more subdued tone. "Please, Alexis, do this for me, for all of us. I want to be able to go out without people whispering about me behind my back, too, or your father. This is about more than just you."
"That's right, it's about the two of you, I can see that very easily!" Alexis shot back angrily, pulling away and standing up.
Olivia sighed. "It's about all of us," she told her duaghter wearily. "You have to see that. What do you think you're going to do after you refuse him?" she continued more reasonably. "It's not going to be like it was before, Alexis. Men aren't quite so willing to marry women if they might run off on them at any moment."
Alexis stared at the opposite wall. What had she planned on doing? She hadn'tshe hadn't planned anything. This entire thing had just been one big disaster. Tom had never listened to her before; why had she expected now to be any different?
She hadn't. She hadn't.
She had just wanted to see him again.
"All right," she whispered, wondering why it suddenly felt like such a horrible thing. Just a few days ago, she would have been thrilled to accept a proposal from Jonathan Harper.
Her mother visibly relaxed and patted her hand. "It won't be all that bad, dear," she said reassuringly. "You said yourself you like him."
Alexis felt herself smile, even managing to make it look sincere, even while she felt strangely detached inside. She watched her mother return it, obviously pleased.
Maybe she'd learned more from Tom than she'd thought.
Alexis had been awake since before dawn, when the sky was still gray and the first pale fingers of sunlight hadn't even begun to stretch into it. After nearly an hour of lying in bed and finally deciding going back to sleep was a fruitless endeavor, she got up and had Trixie bring her a cup of tea, which she'd been nursing all morning, so that now it was tepid.
She descended the stairs with an air that was somewhat more stately than her usual youthful carelessness, not glancing at her mother or father. Jonathan was standing in the parlor, staring out one of the windows, his expression considerably more solemn than usual.
Behind her, Alexis heard the doors creak shut, and then they were left alone together. It wasn't necessarily the first time she'd been alone with Jonathan, but none of the other times had been this solemn. The mood that morning was nothing like the sparkling, shining night of her graduation, and for the briefest of instances she wondered if her parents were right, and she really had ruined everything.
Nervously, she took a seat in the far corner and waited. Her father and mother's lectures she could both handle, having been subjected to enough of them before, but she was both chagrined and indignant to think that she might have to endure another one from her future husband.
Finally, Jonathan turned around and began with a determined look, "I want you to know, Alexis, that I don't consider this a favor."
She scoffed a little at that.
"No, reallyif anything, it's your father who's done me the favor. I hope circumstances won't begin this marriage with any bad blood between us. But I wanted to see you today," he continued as she opened her mouth to reply, "to ask you about those particular...circumstances." He looked at her expectantly. "Your father wasn't very explicit on the subject."
"No, I'm sure he wasn't." She folded her arms. "It's not really something you want to talk about." Disgraceful, he had called it.
"What about you?"
"I don't want to talk about it either."
Jonathan let out a slow breath of air and walked the length of the room. "Alexis, I'll marry you whatever happened in America...but I don't want to start this out with you keeping secrets from me."
"But you can have some from me? Is that what you're saying?" She knew that wasn't precisely what he meant, but she was in a mood to be difficult today.
"Of course not." He looked annoyed. "Just tell me the truth. What in the name of Merlin possessed you to run to America like that?"
She fidgeted with her necklace. "You wouldn't understand," she muttered.
He laughed. "That old line. What makes you so certain? You haven't even told me."
Why wouldn't he understand? He just wouldn't...he'd think she was insane if she ever tried to explain. Chasing after some old school crush like a little girl? Making your parents worry like that? What were you thinking, Alexis? In his mind, it would just be irresponsible and irrational.
"I'm sorry," she finally said.
His features softened slightly. "It's not a matter of being sorry, Alexis. It's a matter of trust."
"Do you trust me?"
"I might, if you'd just tell me what happened!" She wasn't sure she'd ever seen him this discomposed before. It was actually kind of refreshing, in a way.
"Might. Not such a tempting offer."
He made an exasperated noise. "Fine. I will. Is that better?"
"You're just prying," she accused. "All of my business isn't necessarily your business, no matter who you are." She headed for the door, adding over her shoulder with a toss of her hair, "I didn't sleep with him, if that's what you're worried about."
She left him staring after her in the parlor.
She went up to her room and sat at her desk to write a letter to her friend Dagmara Hyvell. She had just written the salutation when, without even knocking, her father stormed into her room.
"Alexis Levine! Just what did you say to Jonathan Harper today?"
Unperturbedshe had been waiting for something like thisAlexis set her quill back to her parchment and continued her letter. "I told him I didn't sleep with anyone in New Mexico."
A hand was suddenly slammed on her letter. Alexis looked up at her father, whose eyes were dark and dangerous.
"That's not funny," he said, his voice low. "Harper is doing us the favor, Alexis, and if you had any sense you'd be grateful and not prance about like this because you think we're forcing you. You'd have done it yourself eventually if we hadn't; you were head over heels for that man until you suddenly 'had' to marry him." He crumpled the letter. "I want you to go downstairs and apologize to him right now."
"Is he still here?" She couldn't help but be surprised.
"Yes, he's still here, and he's not going until you act properly."
She thought she'd acted very appropriately, all things considered, but she didn't say that to her father. Instead, she went back downstairs, where her parents both stood by as she made a very proper and overly-formal apology, which he accepted in much the same manner. They both said all the right things at the right times, and when he'd gone Alexis returned to her room and her letter as if nothing had happened.
She never did tell him what happened with Tom.
One year later
The engagement may have been some patched-up affair, but there was no time or expense saved on the wedding itself. Olivia wouldn't hear of it. Alexis frankly could have cared less, though it had been nice to see that she was to have a proper wedding after all. On the day of the actual ceremony, Olivia had actually been more flustered than her daughter, flitting around and constantly checking and rechecking her hair, until Alexis just wanted to order all the mirrors taken out.
The bouquet had been lovely, though, she rememberedinfinites, special wizarding-only flowers that looked like two rings joined together in the center. They had to be tended very carefully, or the rings would split, and they were traditionally used at weddings. These were white with just the faintest gold accents on the edges, but they came in a variety of other colors.
The ceremony itself had been beautiful, if uneventful, proof that all her mother's hard work had paid off. The reception that followed would normally have been slightly more to her taste, but she could only feel the scrutiny of all the guestsno doubt they'd all heard the whole story, in whatever skewed form of the truth had reached them by that point, and were waiting to see what would happen. So the party, which was normally one of her favorite things, ended up as a game of dancing on eggshells. At least Jonathan was a good enough partner to keep her from breaking too many; she felt that, by the end of the night, most people had basically satisfied their curiosity as to what had happened. They would probably still talk about it for a while, but it would be old news very quickly, and they would move on to other things.
They had gone to Venice for their honeymoon, and, feeling ashamed of the whole scene at her house that day, she'd made a point of apologizingfor real this time. They'd always gotten on very well before that, and he accepted her apology graciously enough. She sensed his fierce curiosity hovering just below the surface of his polite veneer, his eager desire to know what had really happened in those few short hours out in Roswell, but she wasn't going to volunteer any information, and he let the subject drop again with a resigned sort of air.
"Will you ever tell me?" he'd asked that night as she rested with her head against his chest.
She'd sighed. "I don't know," she'd finally answered honestly into the darkness. She wasn't sure she'd ever share that part of herself again. It didn't belong in this world, in her world, in Jonathan Harper's world. These people didn't understand. Jonathan was made for a completely different life than Tom Riddle ever had been, she decided.
"What are you thinking, Alexis?"
His voice had made her start.
"I'm thinking about you," she'd smiled, kissing him lightly. "Now go to sleep so you can dream about me."
Now, a year later, relaxing in the sitting room of their new home, she found she wasn't sorry. She had everything she'd ever wanted: a good home, a familyno, just now, it was hard to regret what she'd done.
"Excuse me, Mixtress. Mrs. Monroe is here to see you." Their house-elf, Moxie, poked her head around the door.
"Oh, of course. Show her in." She fussed with her dress a bit, and a moment later Gabriella appeared in the doorway.
Alexis rose to greet her and ushered her into a chair.
"I wasn't expecting you this early, or I'd have been down here," Alexis apologized. "Do you want something to drink? Tea? Water?"
"Tea's fine." She called Moxie back for their drinks, and then they exchanged some normal, banal pleasantries for a while, when Gabriella mentioned the baby.
"I came to congratulate you. I'm a little late, but it's beendifficult." She looked down.
"I heard it was a boy. A Jonathan, Jr.?"
Alexis smiled. "Well, not exactly. Jonathan said he was too young to be a senior citizen already, so we named him William, after his grandfather. We're just calling him Will, for short."
"Congratulations," Gabriella offered again, although there was an odd note in her voice. "Jonathan must be very happy."
"I think he is," Alexis answered. "He always wanted a son."
"Yes, I'm sure." Gabriella sipped her tea, looking distant.
"How's Edward?" Alexis asked after an awkward silence.
Gabriella shrugged. "Fine. Disappointed, obviouslywe both are."
"But you're all right," she pointed out, trying to sound supportive. She was used to being the comforted, not the comforter. "You'll try again."
Gabriella was silent for a long time after this, and Alexis was just trying to think of something more to say when Gabriella suddenly broke the silence with, "How did you get him to do it?"
"What?" Alexis was taken aback, not just by the question, but the tone in Gabriella's voiceit was strange and dark, with rough, jagged edges.
"Jonathan," Gabriella clarified, although Alexis was still mystified. "How did you get him to marry you?"
"What are you talking about?"
""Did you tell him you were pregnant?"
Alexis felt the blood rush to her face. "Iof course I didn't! Where did youwhere would you"
"Why else would he agree to marry you after this whole débâcle? What did you tell him?"
"I didn't tell him anything"
"You must have told him something," Gabriella insisted, standing up. "Where did you go, Alexis? What were you doing?" She folded her arms. "They say," she went on viciously, "that you went off to elope with Tom Riddle." Alexis felt the blood drain from her face at the words. Gabriella laughed. "Me, I don't believe them." She started for the door and added with a smirk over her shoulder, "Tom was too smart to ever marry you."
Author’s Notes: I feel so badall that waiting, and now I post a chapter that doesn't even have Tom in it, don't I? Well, I promise all the waiting will be worth your time in the future, if you can hang in there with me. The bit I kept mentioning I wanted to tack on at the end of this chapter is now the beginning of chapter 4, so heyI'm already well on my way there. :)
We have finally made it over a hurdle, everyone! After this chapter, I finally get to start writing the real story...er, if there is such a thing. Maybe the next part of the story? It's the reason I struggled with this chapter...transitional ones are just a pain, I've decided.
I would still love to have a beta reader...having someone to bounce ideas off of for this chapter would have been great, but alas. Email me if you're interested.
Also, thank you to EVERYONE who reviewed...and I'm sorry I didn't respondI meant to respond to several of you here, before I figured out the new reply feature on FF.N (back when it was newsee how long this has been?)...anyway...you've all been my inspiration to keep going.
Please keep the feedback coming...any suggestions or comments are welcome and cherished and encourage me to keep writing! I've had a lot of trouble with this chapter, and I think it shows. In fact, I'm still vacillating quite a bit, mostly about her motivation for marrying Jonathan. This was how I outlined it originally, but the more I wrote the less certain I became, and I read it again and again, and I'd go from "Of course, it makes perfect sense" to "What the hell was I thinking?" My logic behind this is in seeing how Rowling has written the pureblooded wizarding world: it's pretty old-fashioned in its customs, its ways of living and thinking, even in the '90s; I took that even further back in time and kind of came up with this pretty rigid Georgian/Victorian-type society, where an affair like this would have been a big deal. Blah blah blah. And it still makes sense in that context, but sometimes I think I feel a need to tag on this entire explanation to make it holdwhich is not good. If this is the case, I do have an alternate plan in mind.
With your help, this chapter may turn out fair enough, and all my future writing will be improved.
P.S. Credit for the chapter title goes to The X-Files: Chris Carter, Ten Thirteen Productions, FOX Networks. I think the irony is still pretty apparent even if you're not familiar with the episode...I hope?
P.P.S. First person to guess where the house-elf's (Moxie's) name came from gets a cookie! (I may be getting myself in trouble with that one if there are lots of Moxies. And no, it's not the word.)