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Chapter 1: The Final Cut
The Glory of Death
The Final Cut
If memories are all we have then what do we have to live for when they start to fade like a handprint on a cold window. Sometimes being naïve and oblivious to a horrifying reality is our only hope of surviving. Our only hope of dodging an obstacle that can only make us weaker. I wish I hadn’t noticed. I spent half my life noticing. Pretending I didn’t had made it harder than I could bear. But it is nothing to what he went through.
The love I felt for my father was greater than my love for anything. My passions dulled in comparison, my ambitions displayed weakness and my adoration for the joys of life would have ceased had he commanded it. But he never did, never once did he lift his finger to reprimand me or butcher my dreams. In his eyes I was his precious little baby. Through the fogged up, invisible, rosy red glasses he wore, I was still the little girl in the pink frock who’d do cartwheels in the back garden and twirl about the house unceasingly for her parents. And for a while I was fine with that, I even enjoyed it and had it not been for a disruptive occurrence I would have been satisfied for my whole existence. But that disruptive occurrence punctured a hole in his ‘perfect princess’ bubble. I grew up.
But I like to think that even so, I adored my father more than any glittery, shiny object or trinket in the world and I always would but little did I know that he would soon start to crumble before my very eyes into the pile of dirt that he was at present.
I hate the day I noticed. I loathe it with my entire being but I can’t help but be grateful that it happened, that I had stopped being so self absorbed and glimpsed what was going on right in front of my very eyes. Even if it was just for a second.
I had been in the car that he had tirelessly built with the help of his eccentric, muggle-fascinated father and my loving grandpa. It was a bizarre contraption but a vehicle non-the-less. It flew with the push of a button, turned invisible with the pull of a lever and most importantly, it could become completely inconspicuous to the curious eyes of muggles. They’d added effects to it, amended problems that had once occurred with grandpa’s old flying Ford Anglia that had died a sudden death when Dad had flown it into the Whomping Willow.
And so, there I was. In that car. As the wind blew harshly against the safe exterior, Mum had glanced out of the window and gestured at Merry-weather Cottage. It was a beautiful, homey place right in the centre of a huge pile of land and along side it was a shimmering lake. The owners would rent out the pretty thing during the holidays. We’d been going there for five years for about a week or so each summer. Mum had always wanted to live on an actual muggle farm. Hugo and I had grown fond of the creaking cottage with its mulberry bushes and it’s left behind dusty books. We began to discuss it, comparing memories and laughing when Hugo had talked about pushing Dad into the river. It had been a highlight of this years’ holiday.
And then it happened.
“When was that?” Dad’s voice echoed through the car like the clearing of a throat, out of place.
“This year, Dad! I pushed you in while you were trying to look at the problem with the tiles on the roof, remember?” Hugo was smirking at him, reminiscing how elated he had felt to get a one up over Dad after he hadn’t let him go to a party that he had been wanting to go to for weeks.
“I don’t recall that.”
I don't remember why I did it, it seems stupid that I don't remember why I did something that has haunted me for so many years.
I had looked up at the rear view mirror and our eyes had locked. And chills began to tingle down my spine, my heart gave an almighty thwack against my ribcage…or perhaps that’s how it felt. Dad looked scared. Lost. The tension within him had caused his shoulders to rise up and his arms were nervously shaking. I didn’t understand the true meaning, but I understood that he was scared and it tore off something with in me. I found myself becoming paralysed with fear because my own father who had overcome everything was looking at me like he was terrified. My whole chest felt like it was slowly splintering. Cracks had started to appear, chips in my armour of crystallised carbon. And then my mother reached over and clasped one of his arms, tugging slightly on the sleeve. She hadn’t noticed. She began to blather on about how Aunty Ginny had been making this incredible hazelnut cake. His shoulders relaxed. His eyes left the mirror. But mind never stopped questioning what had happened that day. I found myself constantly looking out for things. When he couldn’t find something, I’d freeze like I was about to be attacked. And what I was about to be attacked with was the truth.
We’d gone to the burrow as it was Lucy’s birthday and the snow was falling thick and heavy even though it was only November. As soon as we entered the burrow, we wrestled our way over to the warm inviting fire. I had been noticing…some small, some that were bigger and frightened me. I hated myself, I was meant to be a brave Gryffindor but I was no less than the little child my Dad still believed I was. It was a good day if he’d misplaced small things, glasses, books, files or shoes. But sometimes the problem was engorged. He had gotten lost in town, and couldn’t find his way back. He’d retell stories over and over. The worst thing for me was when he couldn’t remember Mrs Battersby, our little next door neighbour that we’d known for years. I’d told my mother but I saw the way she pretended it was just him getting old. She knew what was going on as much as I did. I caught the way her lip trembled when he’d forget a special place that they had discovered together or memories they had made together. I saw the undying pain in her eyes, the sweat that beaded on her forehead with the strain of keeping it all locked up inside. But this particular night, at the burrow, had been the worst. He’d gone to the bathroom while we all munched on the delicious parsnips, beef and Yorkshire puddings that Grandma had laid out for us.
And he didn’t come back.
No one noticed really. But I was watching the ever ticking clock, my eyes nervously darting towards my Mother’s wilting features. I felt like she’d given up hope. Like she’d just let him…get lost. She was meant to guide him through times of trouble, meant to be the map that would help him find his way back. But now I was going to have to be that for him.
I left the table, trying to be silent but failing when my hip bumped against the plate filled with the pile of food. Gran’s gaze turned on me and she asked me where I was going. There was nothing to say but the truth.
“Dad’s not back yet.” I could feel my eyebrows forming a worried wobble as my eyes found Hugo. And in that one glance, I knew that he had noticed. He had began his suffering. His eyes had been prised open cruelly and he had to deal with the consequences.
"Dad?" I had called out, shakily rounding the corner and pacing slowly towards the bathroom. My feet couldn't seem to go any faster but my head hurt with the torture of waiting...waiting for what? Had I expected it? I stopped in front of the long and wide bathroom and pushed on the door but there was no one there.
Panic coursed through me, the joints in my knees felt cut off from the rest of my body. I felt heavy like I was running through a thick stream of water. The bathroom light was off but I walked in anyway, calling for him, wondering if he’d just forgotten to switch the light off when he’d gone to the bathroom and couldn’t find the exit. I remember feeling at that one moment that the entire world that I had known, known like the back of my hand, was gone. The cities were crumbling, the skies were falling and the earth beneath my feet was no longer there and I was tumbling down into a gaping hole of nothingness…
As I turned, my whole body seemed frozen in a state of absolute terror as I saw something out of the corner of my eye. The front door was open.
The cold air was whipping at my face, and my hair was being blown off of my forehead and my pink cheeks. I heaved my shaky bones outside where the snow was falling thick and fast. It was piled up to my knees, the cold ice soaking through my jeans and sliding down into my boots to say hello to my toes. I saw him, stood in the neighbours field, looking around dazed and confused. His red hair was glinting in the moonlight and his eyes displayed nothing but distress. Reaching him was difficult but I willed myself, stepping in the tracks he had made before. He had looked at me blankly, and I reached for his scarily pale hand.
“Dad?” My voice had sounded scratchy and rough, and my vision had begun to cloud with tears. I loathed not knowing what to do, not knowing how to take control of the situation. His face crumpled like burning paper and with that, so did my heart.
“Rosie,” He murmured, the fright present in his quivering muscles and his unwavering eyes. “Where am I?” And with those three words, I finally knew what to do. What I needed to do. For him.
It’s been two years since that night. Two years since I found out that my father had been hit with a spell on his last auror mission, one that would infect his brain with something more frightening than death itself. The spell itself was magnificent. When cast correctly it had the power to reduce a man to nothing. It would cut everything away. That is how it worked, by cutting. Sniping away sources of life, skill and love. It had already begun with memories, with places and soon it would become more. Soon everything would disappear and I would be empty.
He had lost his ability to remember the simplest of things. Since he’d been in St. Mungos’ he’d slowly lost the ability to write, use the bathroom properly and use cutlery. It was heartbreaking to watch him stare at a plate and know that he no longer knew how to use the utensils that he had been taught to use since he was three. He used to love food, and now he loathed it because he had to be fed like a child. Mum was always trying to help but she…she was just so sad. I would talk to Dad as he struggled, acting as if life was back to normal. But harsh reality was always looming over me. Sometimes it was too painful to watch.
He couldn’t play chess with me.
The moment when he forgot was the hardest. I had cried for what felt like years, each tear on my cheek stung like a slap because I was being so fucking selfish.
The doctors were adamant that he would live for at least one more year. But I knew he was fading quicker than that. He couldn’t walk anymore, he was bed bound. Soon, he would forget how to talk. And then finally…how to breathe.
I didn’t understand, every child was born into the world, able to breathe normally. But the infection was so deep that it was starting to cut everything. He would never be the same again and I don’t think he would ever want to.
And in the end, everything was worth nothing. And my father who once stood proud and tall was reduced to a state that could only be described as pitiful. Because there is no glory in illness. There is no meaning to it. There is no honour in dying of. The poison was consuming him, extracting everything he ever loved, ever enjoyed from him
And finally. It happened.
He was sat up in his bed, his quidditch blanket splayed over the top of it. He was staring out of the window. He enjoyed watching the sun rise in the mornings, he found the colours pretty. He had looked at me, face blank and eyes drooping. I smiled wanly, my own eyes fixated on his yellowing face, one that looked like aging parchment. He had gone through so much to just forget it all. I hate the word forget. Forget, Forgotten, Forgot. Fuck it all. The lack of life in his eyes made me wince and I remembered the times when there was so much spark and vitality within them. He used to laugh so much but you wouldn’t have known that from the dull brown of his eyes. The only way you could have possibly guessed was from his fading laugh lines at the corner of his eyes and mouth.
He had leaned back into his pillow, his breathing soft but slow. I was reading to him, as I always did, the same set of wizard fairy tales that he had adored. He never moved whilst I read; I guess I should have known from that.
As I hit the end of a paragraph and my voice no longer echoed around the ward, I heard the small rasping gasps he was making. I snapped my head up and saw his face, blank except for his open mouth, his body stock still paralysed with parasites that inhabited his mind. But his eyes were terrible. Huge, wide and welling with fear.
I grasped his hand in mine, as he blinked once, then again and then fell into a death’s awaiting arms.
Thank you very much for reading my story, I hope you enjoyed it. This was writting for the John Green Quotes Challenge over at HPFF forums, a competition started by Jess The Enthusiast. The quote that was used in this story was: Because there is no glory in illness. There is no meaning to it. There is no honour in dying of. - from The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.
This story was written with some very important people in mind, so I hope that this touched you and that you felt something through my words.
Lots of love,