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HP stories following Canon after Deathly Hallows >> Eclipse by Northumbrian

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2: Eclipse

Mark grabbed Lavender’s arm and held it tightly, preventing her from chasing after Janey.

‘Calm down, Lavender,’ he said. ‘Why are you so annoyed?’ She turned on him, lips pursed and nostrils flaring. He recognised the signs; she was about to explode.

‘Why am I annoyed? You don’t know? You can be such an idiot, Mark Moon; a rude, arrogant and ignorant idiot.’

Mark Moon never lost his temper; everyone in the Scottish Magical Law Enforcement Office knew that. He prided himself in his ability to remain unmoved by any insult, to remain detached and dispassionate. After five months with Lavender, he’d been on the sharp end of her tongue more than once, and he knew that he should simply ignore the barbs.

‘Me? Rude?’ he said mildly. ‘I was simply talking to someone I haven’t seen since school, and you waltzed up and picked a fight with her.’

‘She was chatting you up!’ spat Lavender.

‘She was trying, I think, but so what?’ asked Mark reasonably. While Janey Scott’s acerbic observations had annoyed him, there was, he realised, a lot of truth in them. He needed to clear things up with Lavender, and Janey had given him the opportunity.

‘It’s not like no one’s ever tried chatting you up, Lavender. They’ve even done it in front of me. But remember what you told me when I asked you out. “I don’t want a boyfriend right now; I’ve had far too many bad experiences. And, anyway, I don’t fancy you! But we could meet occasionally for a meal or something.” They were your exact words.’ Lavender opened her mouth to speak, but Mark cut across her protestations.

‘It’s almost half-a-year later, Lavender, and we’re in a routine.’ He looked down into her violet eyes and tried to make her understand. ‘I enjoy your company, and you know that. I think that you enjoy mine, too. But what am I? Is Janey right, am I the standby bloke? At first, we met once a week, then twice a week; Wednesday nights here in Edinburgh, Saturday nights in London. Now we meet up on other nights, and most weekends, too. I took you to the Scottish Office Ball, and you took me to the Ministry Ball. I even turned down my invitation to the Scottish Office Hogmanay celebrations and went to the Potters’ New Year’s Eve party with you instead. You’re English; you have no idea how big a thing missing Hogmanay in Edinburgh was.

‘When I asked you out, you said, “let’s just be friends,” and you told me that you weren’t ready for a relationship, because they never lasted. Well, this non-relationship has lasted five months; is that a record for you?’ Mark realised that he was beginning to sound petulant, but he couldn’t stop himself.

‘I forgot; this isn’t a relationship, is it? Not in the way you define it, anyway.’ He failed to keep the bitterness from his voice.

‘I see you more often than I see anyone, other than my workmates. So far as I’m concerned, it is a relationship, even if, physically, it’s no more than a polite kiss on the cheek when we say goodbye. Perhaps it’s run its course; perhaps it’s time for us both to move on.’ Mark paused for breath. For the first time since he’d met her, Lavender did not make a snappy comeback. She looked at him in astonishment. Now, he’d tell her.

‘I need either less or more,’ continued Mark remorselessly, empowered by his annoyance at the injustice of Lavender’s attitude towards Janey. ‘It’s taken big daft Janey Scott to make me realise that. If you don’t fancy me, and we’re not going out together, then you’ve no reason to be bitchy when I talk to other women. You’re the one who said, “We can see other people if we want to,” and well, perhaps I want to.’

He was well aware that the people hurrying through the chill March evening were slowing as they passed, watching this little drama unfold. It was entirely possible that some bloke who fancied his chances would actually ask Lavender if “this guy” was bothering her; it had happened before, much to Lavender’s amusement.

She remained silent, lost for words; Mark wondered if he had managed to get through to her. He wasn’t usually one for talking, he was a listener. This was probably the longest uninterrupted speech he’d ever made to her.

Hope began to bubble up inside him. He’d been talking to another woman, one nowhere near as attractive as she was, but Lavender had appeared to be jealous. Perhaps she did have feelings for him. He should tell her how he felt, but she’d probably laugh at him.

‘I know that you say you don’t fancy me; you tell me that all the time,’ he continued. ‘The first time we went out, you made me promise not to talk about any personal matters. We don’t talk about my family or yours. And I know that you went out on a date with that American Law Officer in December when he came over for the Conference. You told me that nothing happened between the two of you. But you took delight in telling me how close he got. You must know how I feel about you, Lavender. You torture me and I take it, and I don’t know why! I know that lots of blokes find you attractive! Bloody hell, I’m one of them! But you can be so … so … obnoxious to people, sometimes.’

‘You know why that is,’ said Lavender dismissively.

‘Your “condition” is to blame for everything in your eyes, isn’t it? You use it as a wall to keep everyone away, even me. You claim that people mistrust you because of it, but in fact you use it to make them mistrust you. People don’t hate you because of what you are, Lavender. If they hate you, it’s because of who you are. Deep down, I think that you know that. I tell you all the time that what you are doesn’t matter to me, but you won’t believe me. You won’t believe anyone. Because you don’t want to! You want to be able to use that excuse.’

Lavender was beginning to boil, he realised, but he needed to finish. When she opened her mouth to speak, Mark cut across her again.

‘You’re going to use the “time of the month” argument again, aren’t you? You always do, when it suits your purposes. I know what day it is, I watch the moon’s phases. The full moon is still two days away, and it does not affect your mood. It’s simply an excuse for you to be bitchy. I’ve seen you through five months of full moons.

‘Remember last month? We met for lunch, not dinner, because it was full moon night. Afterwards, we wandered around the castle.’ He jerked a thumb over his shoulder to the imposing granite mass behind him. ‘We were having such a good time that we forgot what time it was. The moon had been up half an hour before you realised and left. That was only half an hour before sunset, and you were fine! You were happy and laughing, so please don’t use that excuse.’ Finally finished, he waited for her response.

‘Enough,’ Lavender snapped. ‘I’ve heard enough of this nonsense from you! You’re pathetic, Mark! Look at you; a lanky scruff in tatty clothes! Don’t you care about your appearance?’

‘That’s right.’ Mark finally lost his patience. ‘Change the subject; don’t even acknowledge that I might be right. I’m comfortable in these clothes, and you’ve never complained about them before. If you want me to look smart, I will. All you have to do is ask; all you ever have to do is ask.’

‘Ask? Why? Do I always have to lead you by the nose, Mark?’ Lavender raised her voice to an angry screech. ‘Use your initiative; decide for yourself what to wear. You trot about like a well-trained dog. Merlin, you can be so bloody annoying. You don’t talk to me, you never tell me anything.’

‘Because I can’t get a word in edgeways, you never shut up, and you have never, ever, asked me anything about myself. You want to know about everyone’s business but mine, Lavender. But that’s what you decided, remember. On the few occasions the conversation moves towards me, or my family, or your family, you change the subject. Just make your mind up! If you want to know about me, I’ll tell you. Janey Scott knows more about my family than you, and she’s a Muggle who I haven’t seen for a dozen years. I think that you’re afraid that the more you know about me, the more you might like me.’

Lavender laughed sarcastically.

‘Like you more? I could hardly like you less! You’re completely bloody spineless, you never initiate anything. It’s always: “What do you want to do, Lavender?” Why don’t you ever make a suggestion, make a decision? You couldn’t make a decision if your life depended upon it.’

‘I do make suggestions, but you usually say no and suggest something else. We always end up doing what you want anyway. All I’m doing is saving myself some grief.’

‘Because you’re weak and cowardly and you won’t fight me.’

‘Because I want you to be happy and I don’t want to fight you. I … I like you.’

‘You like me? You like me! Well, that’s great. You have no idea about girls, do you? Have you ever had a girlfriend? Sometimes I think that I’m the first. Is that right, Mark?’ Am I “the only girl you’ve ever liked,” well, that must be tragic for you, mustn’t it, given my reputation?’

‘I … that’s not fair ... I’ve never said anything about … about … what you got up to before we met. But I don’t think that you’re particularly proud of yourself, either. Why should it matter if I’ve never had a proper girlfriend?

‘Proud of myself, of course I’m proud of myself! I’m Lavender Brown, Order of Merlin, second class, hero of Hogwarts. You’re some plain and pathetic nobody who’s never had a girlfriend.’

‘You … damn ... I.’

‘Stammer away, Mark, you can’t do anything; you’re too indecisive,’ she told him cattily.

‘Lavender Brown, do you want to go out with me on a date, a proper date?’ he asked angrily.

‘I told you the first time you asked, no!’

‘Fine; goodbye, Lavender, I won’t bother you again.’ He turned on his heels and strode away.

‘Run away, just like a man, you all run away!’ she yelled at him.

‘No, you drive us away, Lavender,’ he shouted over his shoulder.

‘We’re finished, Mark.’

‘You can’t finish with me, Lavender, because we were never started.’

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