|atdelphi (atdelphi) wrote in hp_beholder,|
@ 2014-04-14 12:51:00
|Entry tags:||amelia bones, amelia bones/charity burbage, beholder 2014, charity burbage, femslash, fic, rated:pg|
FIC: "Could Not Love You Any Better" for miramiraficfic
Title: Could Not Love You Any Better
Pairings: Amelia Bones/Charity Burbage
Word Count: 3100
Warnings/Content Information (Highlight to View): *[Discussion of negative body image (though not extreme)]*.
Summary: Established relationship. Charity begins to feel like she's getting old and frumpy. Amelia doesn't understand what's happening. Misunderstandings and romantic reassurances ensue.
Author's Notes: Title is from "Just the Way You Are" by Billy Joel. The Maggie Gyllenhaal rendition of that song gave me the inspiration for this story. Takes place in early autumn 1992 (before the Chamber of Secrets scare). Many thanks to my betas. miramiraficfic, I hope you enjoy this!
It started innocuously enough during one of their nightly Floo chats. Amelia mentioned a new Auror who would be working with her for the next month or so. There had been some incident on a job—classified, of course—so Hestia was on desk duty until her Healer cleared her for the field.
It wasn't the first time Amelia had mentioned a colleague. There was just something in her tone that raised Charity's hackles … Not wanting to sound paranoid or jealous, Charity dismissed the thought, or tried to, at least, but long after they'd said their I love yous and good nights, she lay awake, staring at the mottled grey of her stone ceiling.
They'd been together for more than a decade. Charity had met Amelia at her Board of Governors Approval when she'd first been hired at Hogwarts. She could still recall with vivid clarity how Amelia had looked—tall with straight shoulders; short, chestnut-coloured, curly hair (which had gone quite grey within a year of becoming the Head of Magical Law Enforcement); and her head held high. Amelia had only been a mid-ranking judge at the time, but she'd seemed to own the room—demanded respect from everyone and everything. Charity, who had always been a bit timid and complaisant, was in awe of her. When Amelia had greeted her afterwards, stretching out warm, surprisingly delicate-looking fingers in a firm handshake, Charity had blushed like one of the schoolgirls she was hoping to teach.
Amelia had asked her to dinner—strictly professional! After discovering that they got on quite well, they had spent a lot of time together before Charity had moved up to Scotland in August. Charity could still remember the swirling, churning, wistful feeling that had taken up residence in her torso that entire summer … She remembered staring at Amelia, all take-charge and confident, all no-nonsense nods and brown eyes sparkling with secret laughter. There had never been one hint that Amelia wanted anything more than friendship—she was the consummate professional: mature, well spoken, polite, and never the slightest hint of impropriety.
It wasn't until two days before Charity was due to leave, when they'd split an entire bottle of Champagne, that Charity, who'd always been a lightweight, had leaned in and kissed Amelia. As far as kisses went, it hadn't been much. Tipsy, a bit sloppy, and altogether too brief. But the unmasked longing on Charity's face must have shown once they pulled apart, a green light of sorts, because Amelia's demeanour had shifted dramatically and instantly. She had just grinned, like she wasn't the slightest bit surprised about it, and pulled Charity's lips back to hers. They'd been together ever since. It was right and perfect, and Charity had never questioned it.
Suddenly, fifteen years in and without warning, Charity found herself worried. She remembered Miss Jones—Hestia as Amelia was now so familiarly calling her. Tall and slender, clever and charming … She'd left Hogwarts only three years ago, and Charity had no problem picturing the young woman now. All shiny black hair and sweetly flushed cheeks and full, perky, twenty-year-old breasts. Charity's hair was a mess, all brown and bushy with more grey insinuating itself into the mix with every passing year. And her breasts, which had never been full or round even when she'd been twenty, no longer pointed anywhere resembling north. It seemed that her too-wide hips kept expanding while her too-small chest continued shrinking. Rather unfair, really.
Charity's none-too-helpful mirror exacerbated matters, pointing out the wrinkles that were slowly carving themselves around her mouth and eyes. Hestia probably didn't have any wrinkles yet. She was young and pretty and fit, fresh out of the intensive Auror training programme. Sighing, Charity recalled how winded she'd been after rushing from one end of the castle to the other. She'd never be fit and graceful like Miss Jones surely was. A young, sexy secret agent type like in Charlie's Angels.
She'd seen nearly every episode of the show. It was easy enough to call it "research" back in 1978 when she'd been hired as the first Muggle Studies Professor at Hogwarts. During those first few years, she had devoured everything she could to better understand Muggle culture, but Charlie's Angels had been a particular guilty pleasure of hers.
Despite her wishful thinking and vivid imagination, Charity would never have made it as an Angel. She wasn't Kelly Garrett, daring and dangerous with a heart of gold. She wasn't Sabrina Duncan, clever and capable with a perfect comeback always at the ready. She wasn't Jill Munroe, gorgeous and graceful with perfect hair and the uncanny ability to take out a suspect with only a Frisbee or a roll of Spellotape. Boring, dumpy Charity Burbage would never be Angel material, but Hestia Jones—she'd have been a perfect fit.
Throughout the next morning's classes, Charity found herself suddenly self-conscious about everything. The new (and entirely unwelcome) worries plagued her. Did her bum look enormous in her teaching robes? Could the students in the first row see the lines etched around her mouth? Should she smile more to hide them or smile less to stop them from becoming even more deeply engraved? Was her mess of hair the object of mockery like Trelawney's was?
She was the second youngest professor at Hogwarts, senior only to Severus. Sometimes, when he wasn't being ridiculously dour or moody, the two of them would take tea together, commiserating about being the "babies" of the Hogwarts staff and how they were the only under 40s in the castle, save the hordes of teenage hormones, of course. She'd fancied herself so young, years junior to the much older Professors …
Now her nearly forty-year-old face, her frumpy hair, and her much-increased bottom all taunted her, laughing at her youthful hubris. Was this how Amelia saw her? Aging, ever greyer and plumper, while holding tightly to delusions of youthful beauty? The very idea made her stomach roil.
Late that afternoon, while grading a seemingly endless pile of essays, one of the Ravenclaw Prefects stopped by Charity's office to ask a question about an assignment. Only half paying attention to the inquiry, Charity tried not to stare at the girl's hair. She seemed to recall that last year Miss Clearwater's hair had been a bushy disaster, but now it lay in long, glossy curls down her back. How had she managed that? Charity had tried to tame her own unmanageable mane back when she was younger, but it had seemed that nothing worked.
As Miss Clearwater walked towards the door, Charity finally bit down the humiliated bile churning somewhere in her chest and asked.
"Miss Clearwater, may I ask what you do to get your hair looking so lovely?" She waved a hand at her own curls, and Miss Clearwater smiled in a way that Charity hoped was more commiseration than pity.
"I use SleekEazy Hair Potion—it works wonders."
"Thanks," Charity said, fighting back the blush of embarrassment over asking a fifteen-year-old girl for grooming tips. Even more mortifying was that Charity fully intended to take that advice and was already planning a quick trip into Hogsmeade to pick up what she needed.
"Hi, love. I can't talk very long tonight. I have to—what happened to your hair?" Amelia asked and Charity's excited heart plummeted.
"I, erm, smoothed it out a bit. Do you like it?" Charity didn't mention that it had taken two hours and three applications of SleekEazy's Hair Potion to achieve the results.
"Oh, it's nice," Amelia said in her polite voice—the one she used with people who asked dim questions like how to find the loo while standing directly underneath a Toilets This Way sign.
Charity flushed, feeling foolish. Hours—hours she'd spent and nothing. If she was so uninspiring that her partner couldn't even appreciate the difference then perhaps it was a lost cause. Tears began tickling the corners of her eyes.
"I don't know why I even bothered."
Amelia's thick eyebrows crinkled into her cautious face—the one she wore when suddenly realising that there was more to the situation than she'd expected and that she needed to proceed carefully. Amelia usually used that face on criminals, and the sight of it turned on her pricked painfully at Charity's quickly fading dignity.
"What's going on, Charity?" Amelia's soft, concerned tone was one Charity didn't hear often and it made her feel a bit ridiculous, embarrassment pouring over her in hot, uncomfortable waves.
"Nothing," she muttered, silently willing herself not to burst into tears.
"Charity," Amelia repeated, her voice trembling slightly in a very un-Amelia sort of way. Amelia was always so controlled and steady, always knew just what she wanted, just what to do, just what to say.
Charity couldn't help the rush of frustration, tinted with a touch of anger. She knew it wasn't the most rational response, but she was so sick of feeling like a silly little girl, uncertain and lost, next to her always cool and collected partner. She was thirty-eight years old for Merlin's sake! She was no bumbling, silly, naïve schoolgirl, and yet that was how she felt. While she knew deep down that it wasn't fair to blame Amelia for that, she did, because no one else made her feel this way. No one else made her care this much. And in that moment, it was easier to be angry than hurt, so she allowed herself to refocus all the frustration and embarrassment and insecurity into good, solid, old-fashioned rage.
"May I come through?" Amelia asked, sounding more urgent. Apparently, whatever it was that she'd been so keen on doing mere minutes ago was less important now. Charity felt a little stab of something that wasn't quite satisfaction, wasn't quite guilt.
Her unfailing need for politeness overrode her fury and she stepped back, allowing Amelia to enter. Charity stood stiffly as Amelia tried to hug her and allowed herself to be walked over to the sofa. Amelia poured two glasses of sherry and handed one to her. Charity stared at it in silence for a moment before setting it aside. Amelia downed hers in a swift gulp, looking as if she required fortification before entering battle.
"You look nice," Amelia ventured and Charity snorted in irritable disbelief, the tears pooling in her eyes.
"Is there a particular occasion? Have I forgotten something?" Amelia continued cautiously, her expression gentle and calming, like she expected Charity to start hurling hexes or break down crying. Charity desperately fought back the wetness in her eyes, stubbornly loath to play into Amelia's expectations. Amelia always knew everything, so why couldn't she understand the problem?
Steeling her voice, Charity spoke softly, trying to keep the petulant note out of her words. "Can't I simply wish to look pretty?"
"Pretty? You always look pretty, Charity—you know that." Amelia gave her an infuriating scoffing look and Charity's self control splintered, the words rushing out of her, roaring in her ears.
"No, no, I don't know that! I'm getting old. My hair's gone out of control—all bushy and full of sneaky bits of grey. And I can't even fit into my old robes anymore—the pretty pink robes I wore when we first got together. My bottom's become giant and my chest isn't perky anymore—they're sagging and I can't make it stop and I can't run fast or capture criminals with a Frisbee!" Charity's voice broke on the last word and the tears finally spilled, warm and wandering, down her cheeks.
Amelia's brown eyes searched Charity's face frantically. Charity got a tiny thrill at the ever-so-slight tinge of panic there, because Amelia never looked anything less than completely in control. She could tell that Amelia's too-clever mind was working at top speed and that she was trying to decide which part of Charity's outburst to address first. Charity decided to save her the trouble. Her righteous anger was already fading, and, in its place, there was only exhaustion and hollow chagrin.
"It doesn't matter. Just forget it. I'm being completely ridiculous."
Charity thought she knew every expression, every response when it came to Amelia. Usually she could predict with a high degree of accuracy how her partner would behave in a given situation. The fierceness in Amelia's reaction took her by surprise. Amelia's eyes flashed dangerously, and she frowned and shook her head, which Charity knew meant that she was trying to decide how to phrase something. Amelia took a deep breath and squared her jaw, just as she always did before she gave a rousing speech or scathing critique.
"You are not ridiculous. And it obviously does matter. I'm … horrified that you could even think that—rather I'm horrified with myself for not realising. I've just taken it for granted that you know how I feel and I haven't said it. And I should be saying it. All the time.
"I love you, Charity—just as you are. You're the most precious and important thing in my world. You're warm and caring and nurturing—all things that I'm not, and I honestly bask in that warmth whenever I'm with you. You're all softness and sweetness where I'm tough and cold."
Charity scoffed a little and Amelia rushed to continue.
"I need you. I need you so much. And pretty? You—you are the most beautiful person I have ever known. Mostly because of your heart, but I am in awe of every part of you. I will never not be turned on just looking at your amazing arse, and those full hips, the ones you were just maligning, are quite possibly the sexiest part of you."
Charity gave her a watery smile.
"Except perhaps for your mouth. I cannot even express how much I need to be in a world where you are smiling. I swear that I could live off the energy of your smile."
"Goodness," murmured Charity, a flush creeping across her face, but this one much more pleasant than its predecessors. "I had no idea you were such a romantic!"
"I'm not," Amelia admitted, flashing a wry smile. "I realise that I'm not the most lovey dovey of sorts, but I want to make this crystal clear: I love you. I adore you. You are my entire world, and I think you are the most breathtakingly, awe-inspiringly beautiful woman on the planet, in mind, body, and soul.
"I think you're gorgeous and sexy—more so now that when we first met and even more with every passing day. I love the way you smile and how passionately you care about your work and every person you know. I love how you see the good in everyone and believe in the best. I love that you can't swear worth a tin of beans and that you still blush at dirty jokes. I love that you get tipsy after one glass of wine and that you see magic in even the most mundane and non-magical things. You're all the wonderful things that I'm not, and you make me so much better simply by existing."
Charity let out a little hum of amazement, biting her lip and feeling inexplicably shy. Amelia never talked like this. She never wasted breath on pretty words—she was direct and blunt and rarely said more than was absolutely necessary. It was one of the things that Charity loved about her—no lies or double talk. She was all sharp wits, comforting rationality, and much-needed wisdom. Charity suddenly felt embarrassed at how she'd exploded earlier, so needy and pathetic.
Amelia seemed to sense what Charity was thinking and broke in before Charity could start berating herself.
"You deserve to be told how incredible you are and how very much I love you. That's not ridiculous or excessive at all. I'm the one who should have recognised this far sooner and never allowed there to be any doubt in the first place. I'm sorry."
"I don't think you're the only one who should be apologising, my love. I just … I got a bit paranoid."
"May I ask what it was that triggered this?"
Charity blushed, knowing now without needing to be told that her worries about Amelia and Hestia were absurd. "I thought that you, because you were so impressed with her and all, and she was so pretty … erm, I thought that, rather silly but, I thought you might fancy Hestia."
Amelia's thick eyebrows flew up, flirting with the fringe of dark grey curls. "Hestia?"
Charity's face grew hot and she nodded.
"She's an infant!" Amelia exclaimed, looking endearingly scandalised.
"She's not that young. She's only a few years younger than I was when you fell in love with me. Was I an infant?"
Amelia's mouth opened and closed several times like a fish and Charity got a slight vindictive thrill at rendering the unflappable Amelia speechless.
"That was different. You were … I was … it was different!"
"All right," Charity agreed. "It was different for us."
"You were more mature, and I was a lot younger. Plus, I was head over heels in love with your sweet smiles and huge hair and the way you blushed and how you tried not to giggle …"
"Amelia," Charity interrupted. She bit her lip, aching a little inside at how beautiful Amelia was when she was like this, vulnerable and just a little wrecked.
Leaning close, Charity skimmed her hand along Amelia's face, feeling the short grey hair softly prick at her fingertips before trailing down, along a soft cheek and square jaw, ducking back to cup around Amelia's neck. They kissed, long and slow and easy, both relishing in the lazy swirl of tongues and the languorous slip-slide of kiss-slicked lips.
When Charity finally let out a little moan, Amelia pulled her gently from the couch and backed her towards the bedroom in slow, measured steps, never breaking their mouths apart. Upon Amelia's tacit insistence, Charity allowed herself to relax into the duvet and let herself be loved. Fingers and lips explored every inch of her skin, every curve, every valley. Amelia worshipped the expanse of Charity's hips, reverently whispering pleas and praise and passion against pale skin, before moving up to pay homage to beautiful breasts, reassuring Charity with every libidinous lap and sensual dip of her tongue that small and sagging could also be peerless perfection.
It was all in the eye of the beholder.
Charity gave Amelia a slow, satisfied smile, and exulted in the look she received in return: open mouth, trembling lower lip, blown pupils, flushed cheeks, and pure, dazed awe.
She had never in her life believed herself more beautiful or more loved.