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Chapter 10: Visit
Joy Graciela Sullivan
Beloved Daughter and Sister
July 9, 2003 – July 23, 2013
“Hi, Joy,” I whispered. “Gracie.”
I sat down in the grass near Joy’s gravestone. There was a slight chill in the air and a breeze stirred my hair around my face. “It’s been awhile since I’ve called you Gracie, huh. Your extra-special nickname. I only used it when you were upset. I first came up with it when you had to go to the hospital when you burned your hand. You were so upset because it meant you couldn’t play piano or guitar or any other instruments anymore. You always loved music.”
I reached out and gently touched her name, engraved into the marble. “Tina and Gracie. Remember how we’d pretend those where our spy names? We snuck around the neighborhood, rolling around like ninjas, calling each other ‘agent’ and using our signal.” I gently pulled on my left ear.
“Remember the time we convinced Hope and David to come with us?” I asked with a breathless laugh, tears starting to roll down my cheeks. “We tried to sneak through Mr. McCormack’s back yard and his dog ended up chasing Hope and David up a tree,” I laugher harder, my tears falling faster.
“You and I had to distract Mr. McCormack and convince him to show us his dog so they could escape! That was a week before Hope and David left for Hogwarts. David was going for the first time. That’s why I started the spy game, remember? You were sad about them leaving, so I made up a game to get your mind off of it. I also slept in your bed for a month once they left. You wanted to feel less alone. Did you know I haven’t slept the in our room since you died? Your bed is still in there, I wouldn’t let Mum and Dad move it. But every time I come home from Hogwarts, I look at your empty bed and I can’t do it. Once everyone else is asleep, I sneak out the window and sleep in our old tree house. I set an alarm so I wake up early and can come back in."
I moved to lie on my back, my head resting by Joy’s gravestone. In a twisted, morbid way, it was almost like I was a kid again, lying side by side with Joy on her bed or mine. I stretched my arm out a little, imagining I was reaching out to hold her hand. The sun came out from behind the clouds, warming my face.
“You’re still my best friend, you know. There’re several people I hang around with, but they don’t know about you. It’s not that I’m ashamed of you,” I added hastily. “I just… I don’t want their sympathy. I don’t want people telling me they’re sorry. That they understand. Because they don’t and they can’t. Sure, they can understand loss, but not my loss. Not even Mum and Dad can. That’s not to say that I can understand their loss. Not fully. We had different relationships with you, therefore, our losses are different.”
I sighed and ran my hand through my hair. The sun was causing it to emit a soft, golden glow. The shine seemed out of place, juxtaposed by my misery.
“That’s why I maintain that no one I know can understand my pain. I don’t think anyone ever truly understood just how much I loved and needed you. How much I still love and need you. No one gets it. They haven’t lost a twin, a sister, a best friend. They haven’t lost themselves."
“Why didn’t you tell anyone you were struggling so much?” said a voice from above me.
I sat up in shock and locked eyes with my brother, David. “Ho-how long have you been there?”
“Awhile,” he replied, sitting down next to me. “I came in when you started talking about our little sojourn into Mr. McCormack’s backyard.”
“You mean when you got treed by his dachshund?” I asked, smiling slightly.
David groaned. “Don’t remind me, that thing was vicious. I had been so excited to go on that ‘spy mission’ with you two. I’d spent the last week hearing about your little adventures. But it seems that fate declared that would be my first and last time joining you two.”
I hummed quietly, stroking the smooth marble around the word “sister” on Joy’s gravestone.
“You and Joy were always quite the pair,” David went on. “You girls probably could’ve conquered the entire world together.”
I laughed. “I remember how Joy and I would convince the cashier at that shop down the street to give us free candy.”
“Yeah, and you wouldn’t share with me or Hope unless we promised you something in return.”
“Oh, we would’ve shared either way. We just wanted to see if you two were really gullible enough to think we wouldn’t.”
“You sneaky little gits!” David exclaimed. “I can’t believe I fell for that!”
“Neither can I,” I teased. “Are you sure you didn’t bribe the Sorting Hat to put you in Ravenclaw?”
He pushed me. We sat in a companionable silence for a few minutes, my head resting on his shoulder. After a while, David spoke.
“Hey, Val?” he asked tentatively. “Is this why you never visit with the rest of us? Because you… you’re still so hurt over it?”
“David, this is the first time I’ve ever visited Joy’s grave,” I admitted. “I never wanted to before.”
“But… why? You loved Joy more than anyone else. How could you not visit her?”
I shrugged. “I guess that I knew it would everything too real for me. Seeing her grave would be undeniable proof that she’s gone. By not visiting, I could sometimes convince myself that Joy is just… away. On vacation or visiting people. Going to a different school. Something that she could come back from.”
“Val…” David hesitated. “Joy’s dead. She’s not coming back.”
“I know,” I said harshly. “Believe me, no one knows that better than me.”
David stared at me for a moment. “You’re not okay, are you? You haven’t been okay since Joy died.”
“No. No I haven’t. I’m a complete mess and no one knows it.” Except James. But that wasn’t something I was going to get into.
“Val, that’s… that’s not healthy.”
“Do you think I don’t know that?” I snapped. “What is it with people pointing out how messed up I am? I’m aware this isn’t normal. I’m aware that I’m completely fucked up! There’s a reason I pretend to be okay – I don’t want or need anyone’s pity or help!"
David blinked. “I thought you said no one else knew.”
“You said ‘what is it with people.’ That implies that other people know."
I was silent for a moment, debating whether or not to tell David about my life at Hogwarts. I had completely dismissed the idea just a moment ago, but now I wondered if maybe I should tell him. I scrutinized him briefly. His dark brown hair was cut shorter than when I’d last saw him. His eyes had an uncharacteristic serious light to them, but still retained their typical honest, open look. I smiled slightly. He was still my big teddy bear of an older brother. David was tall, five inches taller than my 6’1” frame. As a former Beater, he was very muscular. Despite the foreboding appearance, I knew he was a bit softie. I leaned over and put my head on his shoulder, and David put his arm around me.
“Maybe it’s time I finally tell someone the whole story of my Hogwarts life,” I sighed. David gently set his chin on top of my head, pulling me closer.
David sat and rocked me slowly as I began talking. I told him about the emptiness, the bitter anger, and the overwhelming pain that has consumed me since Joy’s death. I explained my pseudo-friendships with Lessie, Rhiannon, and Jessamy, and the boys. I mentioned the various Weasleys I hung around with and all my other “friends.” I talked about the way I faked my happiness, keeping my sorrow buried so no one could see it. I spoke of the guilt I felt every time my friends extended a kind gesture. Then I went into detail. I described all of my confusing encounters with James Potter. I explained the depression I’d been in for the last month and a half.
“And so,” I concluded, “Rhiannon told me I needed to talk to someone and, well, the one person that came to mind was… Joy. I went to Professor McGonagall to request permission to visit the weekend. She already knew about Joy, of course, so she told me to take all the time I need. I was coming back from her office when I had that final run-in with Potter.”
David was silent. He was still holding me, so I twisted around to look at him. Silent tears were rolling down his face.
“I had no idea,” he whispered brokenly. “I mean, I knew you weren’t quite the same without Joy. I could see that much. But now, knowing the torment and agony you’ve been in for the last six years…” he trailed off.
He pulled me against him tighter. “I’m so sorry, Val. So sorry.”
“Don’t say that,” I muttered. “I don’t want sympathy. Not even from you.”
David looked at me, gently stroking my hair off my face. “I feel like a failure. I’m your older brother. I’m supposed to protect you. And here, you’ve been completely miserable and I had no idea. What Mum and Dad would think…”
“You can’t tell them,” I said, pulling out of his arms. “You can’t tell anyone. Not Mum and Dad, not Hope. No one.”
“No, David!” I shouted, standing up.
“You need help!” he cried, rising as well. “Damn it, Val, you can’t keep living like this. It’s not right. Rhiannon is right! Hell, James Potter is right! You can’t suppress memories, you can’t block everyone out, and you can’t torture yourself with guilt! You’re just killing yourself slowly!”
“Then maybe it’s better for me to die!” I shrieked.
David froze. All the color drained from his face and his hands started to shake. “Don’t you dare say that,” he said in a low voice. “Don’t. I can’t lose you, too, Val. Please.”
I turned away. “This is exactly why I don’t tell people. It’s my business and it’s my life. You don’t have to worry. I won’t commit suicide or anything. It’d be an insult to Joy if I willing stopped living when she didn’t have a choice. I’ll be fine if you would just leave me be. I’ll deal with things my way, and you just forget everything I told you.”
“That’s not good, Val.”
“Please, David. I don’t need this.”
He threw his hands up in frustration. “Well, what do you need then?”
“I need Joy,” I said, glaring at the ground at me feet. My back was still turned. “I need my sister back. But that’s not going to happen, so just drop it, alright?”
“Okay, Val,” David said in resignation. “Just remember that I love you. We all do.”
“Yeah, I know,” I sighed, turning back around to give him a hug. “I love you, too. You’re my big brother.”
“Always. Just… think about what I’ve said. I’m going to go, then, I guess. I’ll let you have some more time alone with Joy."
“Thanks. Bye, David,” I said with a small smile.
“See you at Christmas, little sis.”
As David walked out of the cemetery, I took my spot on the grass again, stretching out alongside Joy’s grave. I stayed there for the whole day. I reminisced about the childhood antics Joy and I got up to, told Joy about my life without her, and asked about death, all while tears poured down my face.
The sun was starting to set when I finally got around to discussing James. “So, there’s this guy in my year and I’m not quite sure what to make of him. His name is James Potter. For five years we pretty much ignored each other. But at the end of my fifth year, we had a bit of a… run-in. Basically, I told his about you, he got upset, I slapped him, and he kissed me. Then, this year, he decided it was his job to tell me what a horrible person I am. We’ve yelled at each other, I broke his nose, and I’ve succumbed to tears on multiple occasions. So much for trying to fix me, huh? So then, after all of that, we just go back to ignoring each other. I’m a mess from all the memories and now he just stares. Then, out of nowhere, he apologizes! Says he’s wrong and some other nonsense. I’m just… so confused."
I sat up, running my hands through my long blond locks. There was a dull throbbing in my head and face felt puffy from all the tears I’d shed. I read once that when a person experiences loss, the best cure is simply. Well, that’s complete and utter crap. For me, time has only made things worse.
Thoughts of James buzzed around in my head. With the memory of the incident in the Astronomy Tower still fresh in my mind, I began gently running my fingers over my lips. I tried to reconcile the James that had taunted me about Joy and the James that had kissed me so tenderly in my head, but it just didn’t compute. When I closed my eyes, I could feel his fingers gently twisting in my hair, his warm breath on my cheek when he’d whispered in my ear, and those soft lips…
I shook my head violently, dispelling the memory. What was wrong with me? I was here, in Roscrea, visiting my dead sister, and I’m dwelling on thoughts of James Potter. I looked around, noticing the rapidly descending twilight and heaved myself to my feet, with uncharacteristic clumsiness. Glancing around once more, ensuring no one else was nearby, I pulled out my wand. In a quick flourinshing movement, I conjured up a large bouquet of freesia, purple orchids, and accents of wild marsh marigold. Back when Joy was dreaming of her perfect wedding, those were the flowers she’d wanted. I waved my wand again and again, creating hundreds of flowers. They overflowed around Joy’s grave, creating a spot of brightness in hues of purple and pink, with bursts of yellow.
I examined my work, smiling gently. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Joy. Gracie.”
I returned to the cemetery in the late morning the next day. I knew I’d have to return to Hogwarts tonight, so I planned to make the most of my time. As I walked towards Joy’s grave, highly noticeable due to the flowers I’d left, I was surprised to see that David had returned.
“Hey,” I said as I strode up next to him.
“You did this?” he asked, gesturing to the flowers. “You do know you’re underage, right?” he added when I nodded.
I shrugged. “So? I made sure there weren’t any Muggles around and the Ministry can’t know for certain that it was me; there are plenty of other wizards around. Besides,” I continues, staring at the inscription on Joy’s gravestone, “any punishment would have been worth it.”
David wrapped his arm around my shoulders and we stood there in silence. We stayed there in the cemetery for two hours before one of us spoke again. We had eventually sat down, still in our half-embrace, and continued to stare at Joy’s floral grave.
“Do you ever just feel like screaming?” David asked, the afternoon sun now beating down on our heads. It was unusually warm for late October in Ireland.
I sighed. “All the time.”
“Every time I visit, I feel like this is my fault. Like I should have known.” His voice broke. “I can’t help but think I’ve failed as an older brother.”
I swallowed thickly, a bitter taste in my mouth. “Trust me, David, it’s not you who’s failed.”
“Val, you’re not a failure, it’s not your fault. Joy had a disease, there’s nothing any of us could have done, no matter how we might feel.”
“I see her in my head all the time,” I whispered. “I watch her life slip away in the hospital, see her collapse in our living room on our birthday.”
David pulled me tighter against him and the conversation pauses again. We sat there for another hour, lost in our memories and drowning in our guilt.
It was David, once again, who interrupted the silence. “What did she give you?”
“Joy,” he elaborated. “On your tenth birthday. You never finished opening the present she got for you. She collapsed before you could remove the wrappings. What did she give you?”
“I don’t know.”
He looked at me in surprise. “You never opened it?"
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “It’s in my trunk at school right now. I haven’t looked at it since I put it in there.”
David examined my face for a few moments. He looked troubled, as though he wanted to say something. I raised an eyebrow, silently reminding him of his promise to leave my business to me. He nodded briefly before dropping a kiss on the top of my head. We stayed there for the rest of the day, remaining in complete silence. There were no words that needed to be said.
A bit shorter than the past few chapters, but I felt there wasn’t anything more. I knew what I wanted to happen in this chapter, although I had thought it would take longer. But I got to the last paragraph and realized “Oh. I’m done.” I must say, I particularly like that last line.
You were able to kind of meet Hope through her letter in chapter eight, now you get to meet David. What do you think? This was a lot easier for me to write. Having three brothers, it’s easy to write a brother/sister relationship.
So yeah, that’s that. Review? And now, a preview for chapter 11!
It was my turn to roll my eyes as he shot me a cheeky wink. Teddy may be an adult, but he certainly didn’t have the maturity of one. Suddenly, he cleared his throat, folded his hands on his desk, and looked at me with a disturbingly business-like expression. Huh. Maybe I’d spoken too soon.
“Let’s get down to business, then,” he said, cracking his knuckles. Teddy opened a drawer in his desk and handed me a long piece of parchment, covered in Victoire’s elegant script.
Disclaimer: Still don’t own Harry Potter.
EDIT July 2012