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I’m not convinced this isn’t a dream.
Mum says it’s real but you can never be sure about anything, can you? That’s what everyone says, at least, but I like to be sure and I’m not certain this isn’t all happening in my head. After all, if it were real, she’d be wearing that colour, that god awful colour, but she isn’t. Rather, she’s in some sensible dress robes that I’m sure she would tear to pieces if she could. She adopted Muggle wear after Hogwarts because she believed they were being implicitly prejudiced against and she was taking a stand. What she was taking a stand against, I wasn’t really sure, but she always seemed – no, not past tense – she always seems to be taking a stand against something.
That is reality, not this dress robed version of her. She looks nice, but it screams of me. So no, no, no, this cannot be real. Her features were never pale but rather bursting with colour. Red lips and not this blue as if she had bitten on the wrong of the end of a quill, cheeks permanently flushed because she was always bursting with excitement, and eyes that glowed with fervour of adventure. Not this. Never this. The only times her eyes are closed is when she is sleeping and I know she isn’t sleeping either.
Dreams also have this fuzzy quality to them, like there is this halo of whiteness that sort of tinges the corners. This feels like that and I definitely feel fuzzy inside, like I’m floating on a cloud, high above this whole thing, looking down on it. I can’t fly so again, this can’t be real.
I squeeze my eyes shut, hoping that when I open them again I won’t see all these people around me. It feels wrong, sick even, to see all their sad faces. Sadness. I can feel it but I don’t know why it is there. Like a rock has made a home in my stomach. Can you feel so much in a dream? I don’t know. I don’t usually remember my dreams.
My fingernails dig into my palms and I try to wish away the sight of her face as it lies against that silky cushion. There is something intricately wrong with the picture, something so unbelievable that I know it has to be a delusion. Her light cannot have gone out. It shone too bright. I feel a pressure on my hand and I look over to my right. She is sitting there beside me; her lips look paler than normal and her eyes have lost their bright blue flame but she sits there nonetheless, a sad smile on her face.
“Molly, I’m right here,” she says. She gives my hand a squeeze and I hold onto her like she is my last lifeline.
“I know you are,” I mumble. I hold onto her tighter, knowing that the moment I let go she’ll slip through my fingers. I couldn’t look at her again so I look down at my knees, my eyes entranced by the silky black fabric that spread over them in folds.
“Don’t be sad,” she says, brushing away the hot tears that have somehow managed to fall down my face.
“You’re here, why should I be?” I say, gripping her hand tighter. It feels good to feel her hand, although it is achingly cold. I wonder why everyone else is still crying. Can’t they see that they are all simply deluded? She is right here. Next to me.
“Molly, are you okay?” I jolt at my father’s voice and I look over at him. He wears a concerned look on his face. I nod and turn back to my right but she has gone, leaving the pew to my right barren, except for an older gentlemen who is huddled on the edge.
She probably thinks this whole thing is a joke and will probably come to my flat tonight to take the mick out of these people’s solemn expressions. I’ll make her tea and sit on my chair and we’ll laugh; well, she’ll laugh and I’ll just sort of smile. I’ll be happy that she’s come but tell her she should have stayed with me the whole time. I need her. It isn’t fair that she can come and go as she pleases without Mum and Dad every saying anything. She can do everything. I can only be Molly.
I hear someone speak from the front of the room but my mind can’t make sense of his words. They are garbled and distant, as if he is shouting them across a Quidditch pitch. I wish he’d shut up though. His words will never fill the emptiness that has grown in my stomach like mould. I purse my lips and feel my eyes wander around the small abbey. My eyes drift past the flowers that hang from each window and land on the candles in the air that give the only light, but even they are flickering for their life. They can’t keep out the dank coldness of spring.
I'm not sure how long it lasts or how long I gaze at the floating candles. The next thing I know is Mum's hand on my shoulder and her gently guiding me outside. It has stopped raining and the birds have come out. I wish for rain. I stand dutifully beside my parents but I can’t stop staring down at my hands. People come up to us and I hear them say how sorry they are and how it is such a tragedy. How it shouldn’t have happened. Empty words. So empty. She was right here.
“Molly.” Someone puts pressure on my forearm and I raise my eyes. A young man stands before me. “This can’t be easy,” he says. I try to place his face; he is one of her friends and had come to our place a few times but his name eludes my memory. I shrug my shoulders and look down again, not knowing what I can say. Is there anything to be said? She wouldn’t want it to be this way. In reality, she’d want us to be laughing. But I don’t feel much like laughing. How can this be real then? It isn’t. Not reality. “I’m sorry, she was-” Is, I correct in my head. She is. Is, is, is. I don’t hear what else he has to say and after a while, I notice he has left.
Finally there is just us left in the small courtyard. The wind has blown out the knot Mum had tied so tightly in her hair so that her dark hair blows across her splotchy face. Dad stands next to her, stiff as a board and for a moment, none of us move. The three of us. Such an incomplete number.
“Well-” Mum says quietly, shuffling her feet. The crunching of the pebbles beneath us sounds much louder than normal, as if sadness were able to magnify every other sense in the body. She holds out her hands for us to grab and slowly we reach out. This can’t be real. Lucy can’t be gone; her light is just too bright and I can still see her reflection in my eyes. I close my eyes tightly, trying to forget just how pale she looked in that coffin and I bite back a choked sob. None of this makes sense so no, I'm definitely not convinced this isn’t all a dream.
Note: This is one of my first attempts to write a nextgen story so i'd really appreciate some feedback about your initial thoughts on this. This is a sequel of sorts to my one-shot Perfect Spiral. Or at least, a companion piece. This chapter is beta'd by PenjuinsWillReignSupreme :P (much thanks to her).
This was initially written for AndrinaBlack's Nonfiction quote challenge. The quote this story is loosley based around is : “There were places where things had been put because they had been violently displaced, and then on the contrary places where things found their natural ground and stability.” from “Of Other Spaces” by Michel Foucault (p.22 in the journal Diacritics).
As of 1 January 2014 i've restarted the story have decided to take it in a completely new direction, for anyone who'd begun reading this before then. There are only minor changes in chapter 2 and the end of chapter 3 has changed around quite a lot. The rest of the chapters will be very much different from what I had before.
The world is JKR's, i'm just playing around in it.
Lucy loves the cinema, where there are people on the screen pretending to be in a life that is not their own. She says that she’d have loved to jump into anthers life, just to see what it would be like to live a different life than her own. Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I wish for the same thing. I sort of imagine of living within a frame and having that stability of when I step out - Life will be ordinary again.
Sometimes, I even convince myself of this. I can see it replay in my head where each step is some sort of dance I must do, but eventually, I step out of it and Lucy will be with me again. It’s been two days. There is nothing I dream more of then that moment where I’m not a puppet in someone else’s life.
I like to imagine she is simply offstage and once the curtain is called- she’ll be clapping and saying we’ve done smashing job. She’ll be happy because she is the reason for this… this… I stop and scrunch up my nose. This what? I look blankly at the pages in my hand as if they offer some answer. The words are unclear to me, out of focus, glowing. It reminds me of when I was a kid and, after staring at the sun for a minute on a bet from Lucy, everything had this weird glowing look to it.
But I can’t quite convince myself this isn’t real and that Lucy is - I stop and feel my heart beat harder against my ribcage. I want my ribs to pierce my heart. I see their beady eyes pretending to be reading something, but there stare are like needles, cutting into my soul. Their quiet whispers behind lifted hands don’t stop the words from reaching my ears. I want to scream. I want to pound my fists against the desk, tell them they are wrong. Lucy isn’t…
I tell myself to breathe. One. Two. Three. Breathe Molly. Is it weird that I can reach out and almost touch her? She’s so warm underneath my touch and it seems like everything is okay. But, I look and realize the only thing i’m touching is a stack of parchment. I had alphabetized them earlier. It makes me smile to see the crisp parchment in front of me, the rough edges all perfectly ordered and easy to go through. I align my quill with the stack and put my ink well just below the tip of it. It helps me forget their stares because I don’t think I can face what they might mean.
It’s been two days. But I am in a dream. My senses feel lagged. I hear the shuffling of papers around me as coworkers get their pages ready. I hear feet tottering to the coffee machine in the staff room. But it sounds far off, as they are stepping on clouds. I didn’t want to convince myself this wasn’t a dream because it would mean that it was true. I didn’t want to believe it. Lucy was everything.
So what is it?
She says this with a mocking smile; her eyes laugh but I can see how her fingers twitch. I bite down lower on my lip and try to push her out of my mind, to push that away. It isn’t real. I hold onto that thought as I glance up from my desk onto the floor of Nott and Crom’s Publishing House where the employees buzz around like flies, taking a large berth around my desk, their hands clutching onto their second cup of tea of the morning, their eyes pouring over the Daily Prophet.
It is so regular. It’s vile just looking at them move. I wonder how the world can still go on. It seems unfair when everything has changed so drastically.
"Are you all right, Miss Weasley?” My head snaps up to see Mr Nott stood in front of my desk. His black eyes seem like they can see right into my heart. He looks like a harmless older gentleman, but I always hate looking at his eyes. They have seen more than most would ever see in a lifetime. They speak of death and betrayal if I look into them long enough. They are the same eyes that Uncle Harry sometimes has, or Uncle George. I shudder and tug on the sleeve of my robe.
I wonder what my eyes look like.
“I’m fine, of course I’m fine,” I say, my voice scratchy and hoarse. I try to smile, try to look more than the person I’ve always been. But I know what he sees. A Weasley. A broken thing. I wonder briefly if I've said the right lines for this film, if my claim will be believed because it is in the script. I try to push the thought away and tell myself there aren’t any lines. It sounds nice though. A nice thought of how we play pretend.
“You know, we would understand if you wanted to take some time-” he says as he clasps his bony hands in front of him. He rolls on the balls of his feet and trails off. I feel my mouth slacken and I shoot out of my chair. I can’t hear it. Not from another mouth. Just lies. I have to believe that those words that are like poison to my heart are nothing, simply nothing. Nothing, I repeat in my head. Time? Time for what? Taking time means that there is something wrong. One. Two. Three. My breaths are coming again as I push away her blue, blue lips.
“I don’t know what you mean, I’m perfectly fine. Perfect,” I squeak and grab the top pages from my stack. I walk over to Kenneth Greene’s desk where he is leaning lazily back in his chair, holding a quill in his hand and another draft in front of him. I slam the one I've brought down hard on his desk. He always forgets to mark the commas. Always. I do it for him every time and Nott thinks Greene is an excellent editor. He isn’t. The only thing he excels at is ruining the most quills in a month.
“This needs to be redone,” I clip and walk back to my desk. Nott has already disappeared and I exhale in relief. Greene just stares at me, startled, probably because I never ask him to redo anything. I just do it because I know I always edit it right. It would be perfect. I shuffle the papers on my desk again, open another folder and put them into it before sliding it by the orange one which holds completed drafts. Green, orange, red, and yellow, they all mean something different. My perfect system.
I don’t look up again. But the buzz of the office keeps drilling into my ears and I try to block it out, try to stare at my desk and imagine myself somewhere else. Somehow though, that blue-lipped version of her keeps popping into my head like a jack-in-the-box that is wound again and again and again. I should be doing something, but my mind is muddled and I can’t seem to be able to focus on the work so instead I sit and absently twirl my quill around in my hand.
I wonder if something I'm not sure is true could actually make me feel so numb. When Lucy explains the cinema, she makes it sound magical, like it is part of another world where anything is possible. That you don’t have to look at who you actually are and can ignore all those ugly, mouldy spots and just be something else, like those spots didn’t even matter to begin with.
It sounds so surreal that I almost want to jump in with her, but I know I could never do it. It was far too dicey and I am Molly. I’m not someone who can, or even wants to, shed off her layers. I like layers and they aren’t so easy to strip away, even if I have the fancy. Which I don’t because when Lucy isn’t around, I know I’d hate to be in the cinema. I hate not knowing. Lucy never tells me how these actors know how to act like someone else, she just makes it sound like it is something they just do.
Eventually though, they have to step out and what would they step out to? What would I step out to? Anything? I rub my temples, this is real. This is not the cinema or script. The thought swims through the cracks in my brain and slides behind my eyes. Blue lips. So, so blue like the colour of the blue, blue ocean. I slam my eyes shut. Go away, I mutter to myself. Go away. I can hear the trill of her voice, rising in my head, slow and melodic at first until it moves toward a crescendo
I feel the eagle quill beneath my fingertips, the feather is soft and dyed a pretty violet colour. Louise brought it back from France for me. He knows how much I like foreign things. Nearly all my furniture has been imported. Mahogany desk from Portugal, the oak bookcase was made in Italy, and the lamp was from ancient Greece.
I pull out the file with the book drafts in it, flipping through the pages just to feel the pages beneath my fingertips. This is real. Real.
I drop the quill and it clatters to the ground, the ink splatters on the carpeted ground and on the edges of my robes. Nott is slowly wandering back this way. I stand up and ignore the feeling of spiders crawling up my arms.
I could still feel her all around, like she never really left me. I feel her as clearly as I feel the rain or the wind, but - I close my eyes and my hand reaches up to run through my knotty hair. It was (is?) a habit she always does when she’s nervous. There is something wrong with this, I know. This is or isn’t a dream. I am not so sure.
“Ah, there you are Molly,” A voice breaks through my thoughts. Their hands took my arms and led me away from Nott and the staring eyes of the people who call themselves my co-workers. I twist in their firm hold to see James grinning. He's always grinning. He drapes his arm around my shoulders and steers me towards the back door. For a moment, I let him lead because I can’t really get my head around why he’s here and what part he’s meant to play.
“What are you doing? I’m at work,” I finally say and try to struggle out of his in his hold. He simply beams down at me as if this is normal business and continues to guide me out.
“If you can’t pull a sickie now, when can you?” he says. “Anyway, I just finished a new project and you’re family, so you have to come see it. You must also say you love it and tell me it’s the most beautiful thing in the world.”
“Em – ?” I say, glancing around hoping that Nott would to stop us and to tell me to get back to work. Molly doesn’t ever take sickies. My neck muscles tense as we walk right out the door without anyone stopping us or even seeming to care.
“Or,” he continues, ignoring my hesitation completely, “at the very least say it’s better than that shoddy Muggle picture where you don’t know if that damn woman’s smiling or frowning. Why they ogle that is beyond me, it’s so small and it doesn’t even move.” His face contorts in a look of physical pain before his lips twist back into his customary smirk. I’m trying to think if this is part of her script, but it must be, mustn’t it?
He continues chatting but I’m not really listening, I haven’t ever gotten on with James well because his mouth wags like a school girl.
“Oh, and we have to go Nan’s later, I think Albus is going to finally announce that he only has half a brain . It’s going to be pretty lame but I suppose I should puppet the supportive older brother thing, you know?” he says offhandedly and with a roll of his eyes. He quickly charges into another topic about how he wants to bottle the essence of the Screech Owl’s wing because he likes how it shimmers in the evening before I can even think to reply. I partly think that that is the point but then this is James; he likes the sound of his own voice.
I don’t want to go. I don’t want to face my family and I don’t want to hear what they might say. It's Tuesday anyway and I never go out on Tuesdays. They all know that, they know. I am not sure who I may see. Or, who I may not see, the thought crosses my mind, unbidden.
I bite down on my lip to try to ignore the beating of my heart. I wish I could just drift back to my flat where there is silence and empty spaces and I don’t have to try to make sense of the things in my mind. But maybe – maybe if I do go – maybe she – she’d have to be there too, she has to be because if everyone is going then it’ll be like there is a gaping hole where her body is supposed to be. She wouldn’t like that.
I become calmer at the thought because it means it will all be cleared up tonight. She couldn’t play director when the family was meeting. She’d have to be tangible, as tangible as the night sky, as tangible as me and that’s what I want, it’s what I desperately needed. I sigh slightly and let myself by pulled away from work willingly as I feel the start of a small smile creep onto the corners of my lips. Tonight I know the shadows in my mind will be chased away.
Note: There are been some minor changes in both this chapter and the next. Most noteworthy is the end of chapter 3. This story is going in quite a different direction from when i first began as i've actually found the plot line!
Thank you for stoping by and reading this! I hope you enjoyed and if you have time, I'd love if you'd give me your thoughts on this chapter and where you think this story is going. One word of feedback can make the world of difference. Again, much thanks to PenguinWillReignSupreme for working with me as a beta and for her encouragement!
“Oh, my poor dear,” Nan says and grabs onto my upper arms and pulls me in for a bone crushing hug. She doesn’t let go. I try to squirm out of her clutch, but she holds tighter and I hear her sniffling and feel her wet tears against my neck where her face is buried.
“Oi Nan, no hug for me?” James cuts in after what felt like a millennium under her tight hug. Her hold loosens and I hear her sputter ‘of course' before she diverts her attention. I untangle myself and James catches my eye before I head into The Burrow. He winks and accepts Nan’s hug, and I duck into the place of my childhood. Our family never came over as much as some of the other family members, mum was never one for big crowds, and neither is dad for that matter, but I still associate this place as a second home because it was here I first did magic.
I try not to think how Lucy had been by my side then and she had laughed so hard when my anger at Louis caused him to be doused with water. She said there was a mischievous side to me yet. I was nine and most people thought I’d be a Squib by then.
I pull off my shoes in the entryway and take in the smell of cedar and musk. I hear voices from the kitchen and I know my parents are probably already here and for some reason I don’t want to see them. I only see them on Sunday’s and this wasn’t Sunday. This week has been weird though because I saw them on Monday too at the- the abbey.
I feel my pulse quicken at the thought but I ignore it, it’s probably my nerves, nothing else. I dither about in the entryway until I hear James and Nan come in from outside.
“Roxanne isn’t coming of course, still in Hogwarts, the dear thing. Your parents are here, James, and so are yours, Molly dear,” Nan prattles. She continues going over the guest list of the cousins who could and couldn’t make it, and how disappointed she is that they couldn’t take the time out of their schedules for this family dinner. Though, I’m not a bit surprised, Victoire never shows up for anything since it ended with Teddy, and Hugo is back chasing dragons in Asia. Lily will be off somewhere, probably couldn’t tear herself away from her new love interest of the month.
I store the info in my head as she says it and we follow her into the kitchen. There are bodies everywhere as if we were trying to break a record for how many Weasleys and their counterparts can fit into a single room. I feel their eyes on me as I stop abruptly to avoid Albus and Louis’ kids as they run around the table with biscuits in their hands.
I grasp my upper arm and dodge around Uncle George’s flailing arms. He seems to be right in the middle of a story, as always, with Dominique as his perfect sound box. She eats up his tales as if they are honey. I turn around in a circle, trying to find an empty space. I see a chair by Fred in a corner, but I don’t move toward it. Sitting beside someone means I have to speak to them and I really don’t feel like speaking.
I feel someone grab my arm and pull me into another hug. The scent of aftershave tells me that it’s Louis. He always wears too much. He lets go and I immediately take a step back, but he keeps a tight hold on my forearm so I can’t move any further.
“God Molls, bloody hell,” he said and sighs. Not even Aunt Fleur says anything about his language.
I look into his dark eyes and I beg that he doesn’t say anything more. I don’t know if I can handle hearing it. He notes the fear in my eyes because he stalls for a moment, his mouth half open, but his pause is enough for me to sneak out of his hold and hurtle myself to my parents’ side. If there is anyone who doesn’t want to talk, it’s them. Their lips purse together and hands tightly clasped, like they were a single unit instead of separate entities.They too understand what I feel.
This can’t be real.
Her face is still like an everlasting flame in my mind. It grows and it consumes everything in me. All I see is her face. It burns itself into my retinas and carves its way into my frontal lobe. If I close my eyes, I can still see her dancing with her hands pressed to the heavens while the rain splashes on her open fingertips.
It can’t be just another memory. Those get fuzzy around the corners after a while like a photo left out in the sun too long.
My dad’s arm snakes around my shoulders and pulls me into the crook of his arm. It feels like I am still that five year old girl that used to run to him with every little problem. I do not resist, it feels safe to be so near him.
The chatter around me feels so unreal. I want to imagine this is some sort of dream, or an opening act to some sort of experimental films Lucy liked – likes – so much.
“Can you believe this?” Uncle Ron says. He throws the Daily Prophet onto the long wooden table.
Knockturn Alley Raided
Earlier this morning Knockturn alley was raided by Ministry Officials in their continuing efforts to rid the public of the illegal smuggling trade. The Ministry is so far refusing to comment on this surprise raid, but Ivon Burke, a local business owner, is outraged as his shop was one of the many ransacked and is forced under foreclosure. Burke claims that all his products were legally procured and there are countless other similar stories where business owners have lost everything. With no answers forthcoming, has the Ministry overreached in their power or are their means justified? Story continued on pg 4.
“They’ve been doing this for years,” Uncle Bill responds without much concern. He disregards the newspaper headings and walks over to Dominique and Uncle George. I cannot bring myself to care about these smuggling circles, not right now when there is a face in this crowd missing. The conversation seems so far away to me though. Like it isn’t happening in this place. I feel like I cannot properly focus on the words they are saying.
So instead, I look at all their faces, half expecting them to morph into hers. But they don’t, they remain their own. But their chatter, the political conversations seems out of place. Foreign like there is no place for them in this kitchen anymore.
Nan is busy trying to put some food together and Aunt Ginny and Uncle Harry are helping her. Fred is leaning back in his chair, which balances precariously on its back two legs as he chats with Louis and James. Dominique is still listening to Uncle George, but they’ve now been joined by Aunt Fleur and Uncle Bill. Albus is leaning against an edge of the counter idly looking out the window, a frown on his face.
I don’t know what to do or what anyone expects of me and I dearly wish she’d walk through those doors right now. I want to hear her high pitched laugh she saves when she is messing with someone. I just want to hear her. To see again how her eyes, so much like our father’s, light up when she plays an especially good tune on the piano or how her ears twitch when she lies.
I’d give anything for that and I wonder why they are all so bloody normal. I hate that, and them, because this is anything but normal. She is not here. She laughs all the time and her laugh isn’t here and she is never late. It is like an itch she has to scratch. She won’t admit it, but she has to be on time for everything, always the first to show up or she won’t show up at all.
My breath catches in my throat and I look at their faces again, I hear Louis as he’s talking about Quidditch. Rose turns away from Lester Davies, her fiancé, when he tries to pull her into conversation. Although there is a light smile playing across James’ face, he isn’t looking anyone in the eye here.I can see it now, the frantic arms of Uncle George as he’s explaining something doesn’t seem quite right, and although Fred is talking, even smiling, there is something awkward about it, like he is forcing it. There is something below the surface. It is in the air, dangling around us and surrounding us. Perhaps, we are only trying to ignore it.
But she isn’t here. She isn’t here? Dad’s hold on me tightens. I think he can feel me shaking, but I don’t want to be close to them anymore because they remind me this isn’t normal and now I know I need it to be. If I close my eyes, I can still see her, hear her voice. I begin to wish this actually is normal because I know something is wrong. There is something so deeply wrong. Her laugh should be intermingling with everyone’s here. She should be curled up on a countertop with a script in her hand and ink splatters on her fingertips.
“All right, dinner is ready,” Nan says, stilling everyone’s conversations. I want to stop her, to say that she isn’t here yet and how can we eat without her. I’ve never done that before. We always come to these things together. She’s the only one who makes me feel comfortable.
When we were young and all the cousins would go and play out in the lake she would stay with me on the edge because I didn’t want to get dirty and wet. She’d be the one to say water games were for the immature and reckless and she wasn’t either. She said that even though I knew, I knew she loves the water.
There is a general mass of people as some levitate some plates onto the table while others bring the dishes. My body is tense and I squeeze into a chair on the corner. I do not want to be close to so many bodies.
Someone falls into the chair next to mine and I see that it’s James and then Dominique slides into the one next to him. A silence spreads out between us three, but I don’t fix it. I’ve never really known what to say so I let James continue tapping his fork against the table while Dominique fiddles with the ends of her red hair.
The parents gravitate to the sitting room because there is no way we could all fit around this table. There is only the sound of scraping plates and chairs as the rest of the cousins sit down.
This makes no sense. This. These silences and the way we almost fear to look into each other’s eyes. There is this thunder and lightning in my heart because I just want her to come and make it all go away. I’m barely breathing and my heart bleeds to see her again. I need it.
“Do you remember-”Rose says, pulling on the edge of her black cardigan and briefly looks in my direction. Everyone else is quiet, waiting, as if testing the waters, expecting a collision. “That time when Lucy tried to stage that Shakespeare play? Except, none of us really knew what she was going on about and we all ended up burning down the shed?”
“Oh God,” Albus replies, putting his head in his hands, “that was a disaster. Why didn’t she just find a wizard playwright?”
“It would have been too easy,” Rose says and chuckles a little into her hands, trying to cover it up. “Mum loved it though, happy that at least someone in the family liked Muggle culture.” Rose rolls her eyes.
“Yeah,” Dominique says, her voice wavering slightly. “She was always up to something.” I see her bite down on her lower lip.
My chest tightens, wondering why it’s all in past tense. Likes. Likes muggle culture. She doesn’t just stop, it’s her thing. I feel someone’s eyes on me, or maybe they all are looking, so I keep my eyes glued to my hands. They are tightly woven around each other, grasping one another till my knuckles are pale against my blotchy skin.
James squeezes my forearm with his calloused hand, I meet his hazel eyes with my own and I see sympathy there and I want to push him away. To push them all away, what do they know? What can they know? They don’t know her like me.
She is my sister. (Was?)
I hear them talking still, but all I can think of is how she cannot actually be gone. She can’t. She just can’t because this has to be a scene and we’re just puppets. I still need her more than I need breath.
She is Lucy. Sister. Friend.
Their voices feel so far away. Like a distant memory, a fading dream or forgotten hope. She is my sister and she promised she’d always be there.
And then there is silence and it jolts me back to them. They are actually now looking at me, faces sad, expectant and James puts his arm around my shoulders.
Instead of looking at them I glance out the window so I can escape their intense gazes. The earlier rain had now turned into a hazy fog that hangs in the air like a thick coat of paint. My eyes find the giant oak that we used to all swing on when we were kids. It is drooping now and half of the tree hasn’t bloomed this year, leaving the branches dead and old. Uncle Ron says we should cut it down, but I think nostalgia has makes everyone leave it alone. No one wants to let go.
“Molly-” Rose says, she has a look of concern on her face and it hits me that they probably asked me something. I look down at the food I didn’t touch and James’ hold on me tightens. It feels like a prison, holding me down.
I close my eyes and let her face burn brightly against my eyelids. How her face lights up when she got her letter at Hogwarts or the way she cried when The Wizarding Drama Network turned down her application. I told her they were missing out on something great and she just smiled and said it was too mainstream anyway. She opened a used bookshop six months later.
I’m not sure why these memories are haunting me. I wish she was here.
She cannot actually be gone.
She can’t. I know I’m shaking again and I hear James talking but I just can’t focus because she should be here. She has to be. His arm is so tight around my shoulders and it is a rope, tying me down, controlling me like the strings of a puppet. I realize I cannot stand it. I roughly pull away from him and push my chair out from the table.
It screeches against the wood floor and I scamper up, ignoring how they are all looking at me as if this is peculiar behaviour, but what is weird is all of this. The chair falls to the ground before I can steady it and it sounds like a war drum banging in my ears. Their stares follow me, the quiet murmurs burn into my ears as I leave the overcrowded kitchen.
Just breathe. One. Two. Three.
I am wound up like the gears of a clock but I think someone has shoved in a wrench or thrown out a screw. Things don’t turn like they usually do. I cannot take their voices because I know another belongs with them.
It is missing.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Molly,” I jump back as I almost bump into Uncle Harry. He runs a hand through his salt and pepper hair. “How are you holding up?” He pauses, his arm reaches out and he touches my shoulder briefly. I feel the pressure and I want to squirm away. To get away from the touches of sympathy. The ones that make the thunder roar inside my mind where her reflection gleams brighter still.
He reaches his other hand and holds me by my shoulders; the pressure is bearing down on me. One. Two. Three. My breath gets caught in my throat, and for a moment I wonder if life has stopped or why I can’t take in more air. There is something, a thing, slithering in my brain like a snake, telling me it’s obvious.
I try to block the voice out and I hear myself telling Uncle Harry I’m fine and I just need to use the loo. He lets me go and I head down the corridor to the stairs. I know the rooms are empty upstairs and all I want is some peace. Heat builds behind my eyes, a pressure that I can barely keep at bay, but I have to keep the tears from falling. If she is gone wouldn’t I know it? Wouldn’t I stop expecting to see her everywhere? Her memory should fade away like the fog on a hazy afternoon.
The walls are old and cracking around me but I let my fingers brush against them as I walk along the hall. The crooked stairs are in sight, they twist up and out of sight. I focus on them, they are tangible. Real. They are real. I could still remember playing hide and seek with Lucy when I was six and she was five. We’d run up those stairs together, and hide in the attic with the ghoul. We’d be panting and sweaty by the time we reached the top but it was always the best hiding spot.
“Lucy,” I manage to say. I can see her sitting on the staircase, her long brown hair fanning out behinds her as if there is an imaginary breeze blowing passed her. I reach out, but before I can touch her face to and see if she is actually here, a loud knocking rings through The Burrow. It seems to unsettle the dust that lays dormant.
I hear the door being opened and when I turn to see who has come visiting, the black robes of the Ministry greet me. My body stiffens up, the same black robed visions who came and told me Lucy was - is - I close my eyes and feel myself become dizzy, not again.
Note: Right, so I'm trying to resurrect this story. I've completely changed things around and am going in quite a different direction with this. Mostly notably, some of the middle bits and the ending of this chapter which will push the story (hopefully) on. I feel like before it was a flailing fish without a plotline. However, i've found the line so... I'm pretty excited about it as i've planned out quite a few chapters (about 20, which is a pretty big deal for me!) Thank you so much for reading!
Also, this was formerely known as Whispers in the Night. I've changed the title to try and reflect the new direction of this story! Also, big thanks to academica who has helped me with the summary to this new story! Also, to marauderfan who has agreed to be my beta and she's fabulous. Thank you so much!
They are outside, standing on the barrier; their white, gnarled faces send a shiver up my spine. Their robes balloon behind them as the warm air from inside rushes out at them. I cannot stop staring at their faces though. Their piercing gaze cuts like knives as they look down the corridor, looking for something. Or someone.
Finally, Uncle Harry invites them in. The one on the left stoops a little and he takes off his wizarding hat, the other stays stiff with his uneven grimace. They seem to know Uncle Harry, but I suppose that is no surprise. They do call him sir though. The word drifts down the corridor to me: Sir and Mr and Mrs Weasley. Looking. I tell myself that there are many Weasleys here and I turn and head up the metal stairs, to be alone. I hold onto the banister tightly, so tight my knuckles are white. I do not get too far though when I hear my father calling for me. I’m on the fifth floor.
I think again of hiding and wonder if I were to disappear for a few hours, would this all go away? I dither on the landing.
“Molly,” his voice drifts up the stairs. But all I feel is far away from home. I cannot focus on his words so much. Just this distance that crowds around me like an ocean. Could I really be so far away from the only person who properly understands, who doesn’t roll their eyes when I have to straighten up a quill or colour code everything? The distance is suffocating.
There is panic downstairs as I descend. A budding tension comes from the two Ministry wizards. The one is still stooped. His round shoulders and spiked hair look out of place.
“What- what is happening?” Can I leave and never look back? It’s what goes through my head over and over again. Family members have crowded into the small corridor. Their bodies pressing into one. I squeeze past Louis, and then Aunt Hermione. Ducking underneath Uncle Bill’s arm and dodging around Fred, I finally come to the front where I see my parents. My mum’s face is white, it’s been so white recently. Her wrist bones stick out, even though she has tries to hide it with longer robes.
But no one answers me. They focus on the men standing on the door and I’m reminded a bit of pigs led to the slaughter. But the stooped man finally puts his hat on and stands straighter.
“There’s nothing to be done for it,” he says. His voice is firm, but almost apologetic. “We need to take Mr and Mrs Percy Weasley along with their daughter. This warrant is signed by the Minister himself.”
“What is the meaning of this? I haven’t heard of these charges,” Uncle Harry says. He seems bigger than his 5’8 when he stands up to these two men. It’s in moments like this I realize why people seem frightened of him.
“Forgive us,” the shorter man says. A sneer almost crosses his face. I could be wrong though, everyone's faces seem distorted to me right now. “But there is a bit of a conflict of interest, don’t you think? Either way, this is not a case for the Auror Department. This is strictly a case for the Law Enforcement Squad. We were hired by the International Trading Standards Body. We’re just doing our job and we must place Mr and Mrs Weasley and their daughter under house arrest until further notice.”
“Under what charges, Crawley?” Ron bellows. His face is red by now. So, so red. “You haven’t given us that.” I shudder at his impulse and wish I had gone to the attic to hide. The bodies are so close to me, I can smell their sweat and anger. It’s building ever higher.
“That is confidential Weasley,” the man named Crawley replies. “It will be discussed with Mr and Mrs Weasley at a later date.”
“It’s alright,” my dad finally breaks in. He pushes his horned rimmed glasses up his straight nose. He seems to have read the parchment that is dictating our arrest. I shudder again. “It is signed by the Minister. We’ll go.”
I pull on my shoes and feel the stooped man grab my arm, as if I was at risk for running off. I can imagine Lucy laughing at this. So clearly. It’s like she’s right next to me, laughing right in my ears and making some droll remark that of course I’d be the one to r try and escape the law. Her voice is so clear to me that I turn to my left, but there is only empty air. So, instead, I tell myself to try and see it as Lucy would - does - that it’s a romantic adventure. Something different and exciting.
However, as we are escorted out of The Burrow it feels like anything but that. I do not like the look on my father’s usually so decisive face. I can’t figure it out, but it seems like doubt. He has never looked like that before. He is usually so sure of everything.
We stand out in the garden, the rest of the family trickles out of the door, but hang back. Uncle Ron is still inside and I notice Aunt Hermione is as well. She’s probably stopping him from being brash.
“Well, since you have come quietly, things become rather more cordial. We’ll Apparate to your place of residence and after we put up some charms, we’ll be out of your hair,” Crawley says. My dad gives a curt nod of his head and after a quick pop The Burrow disappears before our eyes. We’re standing in front of our two story cottage on the edge of Salisbury. Ivy grows up the walls, choking the sides of the brick building.
I breathe deeply and follow my parents inside, wondering how we have gotten into this. It doesn’t seem right, especially with everything we’ve been through already. It’s like rubbing salt into the wound. This sort of thing doesn’t happen to the Weasleys either, we have always been on the right side of the law.
But the world is changing around me so fast and as I step through the threshold of the door to my parents' house, I feel like things are spinning so fast I fear I will not be able to capture the wisps back. It’s like trying to capture the ocean with my bare hands. I hear them talking above me as I walk into the familiar front room, but I can’t really focus on the words. All I hear is house arrest, house arrest, house arrest. I sit on the couch. I let my hands feel the rough texture beneath my fingertips.
They leave, though I hear them outside. When I look out the window, their arms are extended and I realize they are putting charms to lock us in. We are prisoners of our own house. Mum and Dad are hovering in the entry. Their shoes are still on and their faces drawn. So pale like the pale moon.
“Did you understand everything the men were saying, Molly?” Dad asks. The business tone is back in place. He’s taking this on as a assignment from work. It makes me sick to hear how emotionless he seems. I don’t want to say I didn’t hear any of it. To admit the words were like mush to my ears. I nod my head slowly without looking at them. I continue to watch the wizards outside for a few minutes before they disappear into the air.
It’s strange to think that only an hour ago we were surrounded by people, and now there is only the silence and emptiness around us. This is almost more suffocating than the crowds because now I really feel alone. We only have each other and we are on our own islands here. Mum leaves with a sob, Dad watches and makes a movement as if he’d follow her. But his hands just end up back by his sides, twitching slightly from not knowing what is really happening.
“Someone will be by again later to explain things more fully, they were simply told to bring us here,” dad says. I hear him go into the kitchen. The kettle is on and I hear the hiss of boiling water. I barely register it, even though somewhere in the back of my brain I fully know I need to. It just doesn’t seem important. Not when I’m still waiting for Lucy to come back. Perhaps they left to get her. This wouldn’t be happening unless she is around. She’d think it as an injustice she couldn’t be part of it. I would too.
However, the next couple days are a blur and the house remains empty. Empty of her. Empty of her hair or how her citrus perfume lingers long after she’s left. I vaguely remember an Owl from the Ministry explaining there was a hold up for a few days. I think perhaps she has done what I wanted, she hid. Bet they didn’t look in the attic.
There were a few visitors as well. Apparently it doesn’t stop people from coming over as long as they received permission from the Ministry first. That meant family. Uncle Harry was here, talking in hushed tones with dad. I never try to listen in though. It doesn’t matter to me. None of it does. What does it matter that I am here or in my flat? There is still emptiness where there should be fullness.
It is Thursday now. So much time has passed it it feels, but yet, yet - time stands still. I hear voices in the front room. I sit on a chair in the kitchen. A cuppa is in front of me, however, it is cold. I like to stare at it though, watch the swirls move around when I twirl around the spoon.
“She’s in the kitchen,” I hear the baritone voice of my dad say. It drifts through this fog and I look up as footsteps enter the kitchen. It’s James. He has a crooked sort of grin on his face and his arms are full of parchment and a portfolio. I stare at him incomprehensibly for a moment, trying to place him in this story that’s playing out. I wonder what part he’s playing.
“I’m doing it,” he declares and sits next to me. The parchments scatter across the table and the bag flops down next to him. I try to ignore the pages, the way they scatter falling every which way. He grabs the tea and takes a gulp of it, but only spits it back into the cup, wincing as he does so. “Bloody hell Molly, it’s ice.”
I shrug my shoulders and stare at the cup again, then back at the parchment. I reach over and pick them up and quickly put them in order. I place them squarely in front of James. He laughs at my attempt and takes the cup to the sink and dumps out the tea. I cannot find it in me to be annoyed at him taking care of it. I can’t find it in myself to feel much of anything.
“Aren’t you going to ask what I'm doing?” he says once he’s finished cleaning the cup and putting it on the drying rack. His hair falls into his face and he brushes it out of his eyes. Such a normal, small action, but it brings me back to Lucy. It is such a habit of hers. She grows her fringe out too long and she’s always brushing her hair out of her eyes or blowing it with her mouth when she has the fancy.
I gulp back a sob that is building. Why is this happening?
“What are you doing?” I ask mechanically.
“I’m giving my sketches to a gallery. There is an opening for local artists' work at that Diagon Alley art shop,” he says gleefully. He sits back down, though bounces right back up again because he doesn’t seem to be able to sit still for too long. I watch him bounce around and chatter on about the gallery and what it means. He vaguely asks if I’ve ever been in there. I nod.
Lucy took me a few years ago. She’d recently opened her used and old bookshop and we’d gone for some tea. However, the gallery was having an opening for this artist from Israel in celebration of its ancient culture. The pieces in there were fairly straightforward, but Lucy had loved it. We’d been given some cheese and wine as we walked through the gallery. I can’t remember what those paintings looked like now, but I remember the way Lucy was so intent on them. She’d been fascinated with the paintings. She nearly bought one, but then remembered she was broke.
She always drags me to those sorts of things. Without her, I would rather just stay in. The crowds, the noises, the bright lights bother me too much. Where is she now?
James pushes the parchments over to me, I hear him say in a blurry sort of way, as if he is speaking through a tunnel, that I need to look at them. He begins to explain the meaning of the colours, the way they fuse together. His excitement over getting the essence of the barn owl brown right. It flutters across the page.
I barely hear him.
“Do you guys have any more information?” James finally asks. I shrug my shoulders because I haven’t been paying much attention. I can only assume so, even dad’s boss was here yesterday swearing that he’d get the arrest lifted. But anything more concrete then that, I did not know. I suppose I should care. Should feel something more than numbness. But in the darkness, it is all I see and feel.
This weirdness with Lucy can only be some facade. It has to be something other than what it is. The world has to make sense in that way. It just has to.
“How are you?” I hear him say. I think he has been talking the whole time. I know he has because he’s James and he cannot stand the silences and gaps. He will always fill them in with something. Nonsense usually and I wonder why he, of all people, is here.
“Just fine,” I whisper. I’m fine. Just fine, I know that. There can be no other answer. I have to be fine. I’ve always been just fine. I like it that way because then I know that nothing is truly wrong. Even though there are these haunting memories that seem more poignant than they have ever been.
“What, James? I’m fine. Nothing has changed,” I say. I look everywhere but at him. I don’t want to see his face. I hate the pity, the reproach, or whatever it is I will find there. So I stand up and realise I have nowhere to go. But I want to get out. My hands linger on the ends of my hair, pulling at the straggly red strands. It feels greasy under my touch. I don’t think I’ve showered in a while.
James stands up as well. I feel his hands on my arms, keeping me still. They are soft as an artist's hands can be. I look at the specks of paint splattered on his fingertips, black and red paint crusted underneath what’s left of the nails he’s bitten down.
James doesn’t bite his nails. He doesn’t do that. Or didn’t…
“I’m worried, we all are. Molly - you know- em, she’s-” he trails off, unable to say the words he’s come here to say.
“She’s not,” I say. Defiantly. I glare at him, I want to move away, but I feel something breaking inside me. “She’s- not.”
He is quiet. He says it all with the silence though. Out of words. I tell myself to breathe. One. Two. Three. Just breathe and everything is fine. She isn’t. She can’t be. I shake out of James’ hold and I escape to the empty front room. The curtains are drawn. It is dark, which is so opposite of what it usually is, so full of light. It’s the place mum always entertains, she loves having friends over. All throughout childhood, there always was someone here.
He comes in after me and sits on the floor, letting his long legs spread out before him. I look at everything around, but it all seems wrong, cobwebs are forming in the corners. Mum would not have let it get this way. Wouldn’t allow the thin layer of dust. It would drive her mad to see it out of place, just like me. I pull out my wand and begin muttering some cleaning spells under my breath, brandishing the dust and cobwebs away. I wonder how I have not noticed it before. They have no place here.
But maybe now they do.
“Come and sit,” James says after a while. He pats the floor next to him and I sit next to him, not knowing what else to do. I have no where else to go. “We all miss her.” His voice is so quiet. It doesn’t sound like him. Not James who is so used to smiling and laughing. It doesn’t suit him and I hate to hear it in his voice.
“She’s still here,” I say back. Finally stating it out loud. It feels weird coming from my voice. Unnatural. I place my hand against my heart, hoping it will stop its rapid beating. I gulp in air, seeing her face burn against my eyelids. She is in my dreams, always just out of reach. Running, twirling. Like she is in real life. It cannot be just a dream. I don’t want it to be. It isn’t part of my plan. It isn’t.
“She always will be, she-” he started earnestly. I know he wants me to understand something. To feel it in my soul, but I feel her there. So much that I don’t know if I can even feel myself.
Before James can continue, though, I see the faces of a couple Ministry officials appear in our yard by the heavy leaved willow tree. They always apparate behind it; it’s a place muggles don’t really see. Not that they see a lot, mind. I don’t recognize them and I know this is the visit they were promising us. The one that explains why we have been stranded in this house. I think of how only my dad would be content to wait a few days. But, the warrant is signed and dad doesn’t go against that sort of thing. It isn’t proper or right.
James is already up and calling up the stairs to where my mum has hidden herself. My dad comes out of his study. His face his paler than usual, making his freckles stand out even more.
“They’re here?” Dad says. He stands by the window as the Ministry Officials walk up to our door. They give a mild knock on the door and then Dad swishes his wand to open the door for them. Mum comes down the stairs, her lips thin, but she’s put on some blush to give her cheeks some colour.
We all stand staring at each other and I feel the missing presence in the room like a sharp pain in my side. It’s so startling I almost take a step back, but then I look to James and he gives me a smile, as if he knows what is going through my mind. I remember his words. I try to hang onto them, for he is tangible. I know that. I know he is, even though her voice is just as tangible.
“Right, well, Mr Potter, we’re going to have to ask you to leave,” one of them men said. James shrugs his shoulders and slips on his shoes. He probably knows enough about Ministry protocol from Uncle Harry to question things like he might normally. Though, now that I think about it, Albus was always the one to really always question and push borders that way. Picking up his sketches and his portfolio bag, he gives us a wave and a wink before disapparating on the spot.
The ring of the pop vibrates in my ear as the men are ushered into the front room and Mum offers them some tea. They refuse and we sit across from them. I notice one with a briefcase and all I can think of is this isn’t supposed to happen. This isn’t meant to be. It isn’t part of the plan. It is so wrong.
“Okay, Mr and Mrs Weasley, I’m Sander and this is Daniel. We work for the Magical Trading Standards Body with regulating international wizard import and export. I take it by now you have some idea of what is happening,” Sander says. My father shakes his head though.
“We’ve been told very little,” Dad says. I wonder if this is a lie to cover up for anything that Uncle Harry might have said. Which would be weird as Dad has never been the best liar. Especially not to the Ministry. Though, I suppose even Uncle Harry wouldn’t know much if he didn’t even know about the arrest. I cannot imagine him not being able to dig things up though, considering who he is. “The only information we’ve been told is that our family is under house arrest for alleged suspicious activity and contacts. I can only assume that this has to do with wizard trade since that department was the one to put out the warrant to the Minister.”
“We’d really like the details though,” Mum says quietly. Her voice is so wispy and she hasn’t spoken in ages it seems. I almost forgot what it sounded like.
“Well, we’re sorry for the wait, there was quite a lot of paperwork as I’m sure you understand, Mr Weasley,” Daniel says. He pulls out the briefcase and unclips the clasps. I drag my eyes away for a moment and look out the window to the tree that blocks the view to most of the street. I stare at the tree blindly, feeling panic rise up in my chest. I can hear James’ words so clearly. So vividly, they keep banging into my ear and slithering through my mind.
We all miss her.
“We hate to be the ones to bring this up, especially at a time like this,” Daniel continues. He ruffles his hair, leaving him look more like a human then before where his hair was slicked to the sides of his head as if he’d been doused with water before coming over. “We understand what you and your family must be going through and our deepest condolences go out to you.”
Condolences. That word is so cold. I look over at the man. He must be mid thirties and I wonder if he comes close to even knowing. If he gets it. Sander looks older, grave and wrinkled with darkness written in his eyes.
“The thing is, we cannot put it off any longer. We waited till after the funeral because of everything your family has contributed in the past,” Sander continues. He pulls out a folder from the briefcase. I tell myself to pay attention, to fight the fog and fear. I have to pay attention. Have to know, know for sure what is actually happening. Even if they say funeral, as if it’s a sure thing. And maybe- maybe it is. I close my eyes and breathe. One. Two. Three.
I feel a tear form at the corner of my eyes and I impatiently wipe it away, hoping no one notices, but my dad grabs my hand and squeezes it tightly. This cannot be happening.
Sander pushes the folder over to my father and mother. But he doesn’t flick it open, rather, he looks at Sander expectantly.
“Thank you for your sympathies, but we’d really appreciate if you could tell us why we’re here,” Dad says. I bite my lower lip, hating that they are here. Making it seem so final. So cold. I feel so cold.
“With the crackdown on the smuggling circles that’s been happening some new information has come to light. Some that put some doubt on your family in particular. Sources have it that your daughter, Lucy, may have been involved in an international smuggling organization.”
“That’s not possible,” mum says. Her hands are clenched so tightly together I worry she’ll break a finger, but it isn’t the time to worry of such things. Not now. Not now.
“We don’t want to think so either Mrs Weasley-“
“Please, it’s Audrey, there are too many Mrs Weasley’s these days,” Mum says automatically. She’s always hated being addressed by her surname. She says she loses herself when she’s called that.
“Audrey then, we do not want to think so, but until we know for sure we have to keep a close watch on anyone who may have information on this and since you’re family…” Sander trails off and rubs the back of his neck uncomfortably. He doesn’t seem to like being the one to tell us this.
“Are you suggesting we’re suspects?” Dad says. I see his neck slowly becoming splotchy red. I know it’s from the mere idea of being against the law. I cannot imagine a time dad has even remotely stepped out of line.
“We merely are taking the necessary precautions, Percy-” Daniel says.
“It’s Mr Weasley,” Dad says. He straightens out his robes and pushes his horned rimmed glasses higher on his freckled face. “And call it for what it is. I prefer outright honesty.”
“We’re taking precautions as you very well know. It’s standard for families to be held until the investigations are complete in case they know any information or inadvertently - or purposefully- helped the perpetrators. You know what the studies show when it comes to such things. I know you fully understand what we’ve been dealing with at the Ministry. The new laws that have been put in place these last few years were made to try and stop the illegal trade of artefacts. Some which are highly dangerous and if in the wrong hands could put our world in jeopardy,” Daniel says firmly.
“This is ludicrous,” Mum says. She slowly unclenches her fist and folds her arms across her chest. “To think our family has anything to do with this, this trade. We’ve been nothing but loyal to the Ministry. Our daughter would never do anything like this. She was a good girl, more interested in drama and acting than anything else in the whole world.”
“Sometimes parents don’t always know their children as much as they like to think,” Sanders said softly. With that, his dark eyes land on me, I feel my eyes widen and I shake my head. My body is actually shaking. I cannot believe the words that are coming out if his mouth. They feel like poison, blackness, tainting something that’s so light and bright.
“Don’t- don’t tell me I didn’t know my own daughter!” Mum bursts out. Immediately though she chokes back a sob and buries her head into my dad’s shoulder. Her shoulders shake as she tries to get herself back together, to regain control. She rarely loses control like this. Not in a fit of rage. It’s so different from everything she’s ever been. Mum’s always been mellow tempered. A wave that forms around the rocks and cliffs.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to insinuate…” Sanders says, but the damage is done and my dad shakes his head slowly. Sanders drops into silence until my mum composes herself and she faces the two of them again. She is quietly raging, but I know she won’t make any more outbursts. Not when they’re still here anyway. She understands what appearances will mean in a time like this. It hits me we have to be perfect. Perfection.
That word rolls into my mind so easily. It truly is an old friend, but one that has disappeared in the last week. I know she will come back to me though. She has to. That Molly wouldn’t feel herself breaking inside where all the nuts and bolts being forced to unscrew and unhinge. That Molly has a plan and the plan always works.
“Miss Weasley, you were quite close to Lucy,” Daniel begins. I look at him with wide, wild eyes. I was. Was. I swallow and try to hold the tears that are burnings my eyes. They feel like acid. A noise comes out of my throat I never knew I could make and I shoot up from the couch. I feel eyes watching me, but I do not care. Was. The word hovers over me and I know it’s true. I can feel that now. The tangible feel of her, the way she is nearly real, but always out of reach. James’ words come back to me like a wave crashing into me. “Miss Weasley…”
I barely here his call though as I rush up the stairs, blood pounding in my ears like a stampede. Everything is blurring together and I feel myself sinking. Waterlogged. Like I'm falling out to sea. I feel her step away; her face seems to dim behind my eyes. I feel my bed beneath my touch and I let myself fall into it. Barricading myself as the tide rises around me.
Lucy, oh Lucy. Why have you left?
Massive thanks to marauderfan who is a brilliant beta :). She works miracles it seems! Lastly, thanks to Amanda for her lovely reviews and continual support of this story, even though it's been ages since i've written much for it!
It takes a couple of days, but I do come out of my room. Mostly because the plates of food Mum brings me are piling up and starting to smell. I probably should try to eat, but the idea of eating makes me feel nauseous. It is like things are rotting on the outside like they are on the inside. I think I realize her reflection is simply that. A reflection. It isn’t - I feel my breath tighten in its customary way. It’s still hard. So hard.
Mum is in the kitchen when I drag myself downstairs. My skin feels dirty. The way it would if I’d actually gone swimming in the ocean and let the salt lick up on my pale skin and dry there. I try to rub the grubby feeling off before I think I will not feel clean again. I stop; it may be my last connection to her anyway, so I sit at the table. My body, which when I look down to my bony, shaky hands, is frail. It makes me think of of a piñata and the right hit could cause the rest of what I am to smash to pieces.
I do not bother trying to sit straighter. There is no point. Mum turns around to face me. Her brown hair is freshly washed and hanging around her shoulders, beads of water still hanging onto the ends. She smiles, but it is forced, like a child trying to put those plastic squares into the circle holes.
“Would you like something to eat?” she asks. Her pallid skin is ashen and I feel myself nodding though I don’t know how I will eat anything. I just know I need to try even if it tastes like wood inside my mouth.
“Has Dad heard anything?” I find myself asking. I tell myself to simply keep going. To find some slice of normality. I think of work and I wish I could sit at my desk and pore over manuscripts. Putting things in order, like they should be. Like they need to be. I think that is the only way for me to hold on.
“He’s been in contact with his boss,” she replies after a while. It is clear Mum does not want to talk about it. Perhaps she’s gone over it so much with Dad she is simply too drained. I do not push her further. She has put some toast in front of me. The edges are burned with charcoal. I do not say anything as I nibble on it, but it is so dry in my mouth.
We are quiet, but there is nothing to say. I finish half of my toast and a few sips of tea before I leave the kitchen. I do not think the room can take both of our emotions. The room seems ready to implode, so I scamper when I can and find myself in the front room again. It is lonely here. The curtains are closed again, but I cannot open them. So I let them hang there and instead draw patterns in the carpet with my feet.
I like the repetition and the way it quiets my brain. I do not think I can quite handle the fullness of what is on my mind. And that is - I tell myself to breathe and to push on, to push her reflection away. I tell myself the citrus perfume that hangs in the air is not her, but really just the remains of something that used to be. Things like to hang on longer than they need to because we’re never ready to let it go.
I think of James’s comments. I have not seen him since, but I do not feel any need to. We are not particularly close and I always feel like his light is too bright for me to take. I do not know why his comments are on my mind of late, but they are. I think because they ring with truth. Can it be true she walks away? Faded into the distance, amongst the stars when she always belonged with the sun? I breathe again.
I keep breathing.
She belonged here. Belongs here. She does and that is how it is supposed to be. I stand up because I cannot stand being stuck in this house where all I see are visions of me and her. We’re playing in the corner with our dolls. We’re making paper airplanes by the window. She did her first bit of magic on the stairs. We’d been playing hide and seek with Dad; she’d tripped on the top trying to run away from him. Instead of falling though, she sort of fluttered down like she was on some sort of cloud.
I push the memories away, for they only haunt like ghosts come out to play their ghastly games. I find myself on the threshold of Dad’s study. The door is open, but it’s is nearly dark inside. A candle, nearly burnt down, is the only thing illuminating Dad’s face. It makes the shadows under his eyes appear darker and his high cheekbones seem more like knives jutting out on his face. I watch him, unnoticed for a bit, and it hits me again there is only one reason why our family has become this.
He becomes aware of my presence hovering in the door and he beckons me in. I sit down on an overstuffed armchair across his desk. He rubs his eyes, pushing his glasses up on his forehead as he does so.
I rest my arms on the oak and let my eyes follow the pattern of the age lines of the wood. This tree too only got a certain amount of years before time took its life. I don’t know why I’ve come to sit here before Dad. I’m sure he’s busy trying to figure it all out and to find the truth behind this. Our name cannot be besmirched by such a ridiculous claim. A claim that can cast our names into shadow simply for the association.
“What is going to happen?” I ask. I feel the quiver in my voice, but I have to know because I can’t stand being in this house for a moment longer. I cannot stew in these memories and reflections that hang onto my wrists like chains.
“I don’t know,” he replies. His voice is heavy. “I just don’t know. My boss vows to get the arrest lifted on the basis of how much I’m needed in the office, but it’s not like it’s a prominent department. We’re just regulators. So I don’t know how effective it’s going to be.” He prattles on about work and never once mentions Lucy. He speaks about just how improbable it is to get out of where we are, rather than the daughter he’s lost.
It seems like an abomination to him, to be in this place where our loyalty to the Ministry is in doubt. I suppose I should have known this is what he will focus on, being who he is. It all seems a little useless though, a bit small in the grand scheme of things when you feel like your word is being dragged out into the wide ocean simply because the one person who kept us all together is no longer here to do so.
“But even still, the fact that they entertain the idea that I’d- we’d be a part of something like that, with my reputation, it is so absurd. Even if we get out of this, we won’t be clear, we’re still connected to this smuggling business because people will always wonder if we were let go because of who we are. Things aren’t ever just left alone.” He says this with a far away look in his eye and I begin to wonder if he is thinking of this or if something else is eating him up.
Dad has never been an easy man. Always with one foot in the door and sometimes it felt like he was behind a glass door looking in. And out. There is a cold distance that sometimes comes from him that made us feel like he was never properly here There was something that kept him from putting his whole being into this family. Mum would always say it was because work was so important to him and not worry about it.
“I can’t stay here,” I say after a while. Because I can’t, the shadows that play behind my eyes will torment me. Will rise above me till I’m drowning in the blue sea where I cannot see anything but her blue, blue lips. Blue like death. Blue like the ocean. It seems like one and the same.
“I know, but we have no choice,” he replies with his usual precision. The far away look is gone from his eyes, but I don’t leave. I don’t get up and run. There is nowhere to go anymore. Nothing to put right. There is only this.
I find my eyes resting on the bookcase behind him. All of Dad’s all textbooks line it, their covers worn and ripped from use. A dead fern lies on the top of the bookcase. I can just make it out on the edges of the flickering candlelight. It is a place of misuse and forgotten things.
I bite down hard on my lower lip; Lucy used to come in here as a kid and hide things here to see if Dad would notice. I see a piece of parchment sticking out of his old textbook. I see Lucy’s face, her young fourteen year old self, home for the holidays. She has a letter from a teacher; I cannot remember now what teacher it was, but it seems important for some reason and I hate that I’ve forgotten. The contents of said letter are hazy to me now too, but I think it was a summer reading list. Instead of giving it to our parents she put it in the textbook saying if he ever found it it would mean it was fated that they should know.
I think she always knew Dad never took his textbooks out. They were ages old, but Dad never throws things out; it’s as if he needs to hold on just as tightly as I need to hold on to her. In that, we are exactly the same. We hang on when it’s best to let go.
“But why - why,” I say but I cannot finish. I don’t know what I’m even asking. Why is it happening or why is she not here?
“They worry about information being leaked- that some of the most valuable and dangerous artefacts will slip through their fingers simply because individuals close to that person are free to roam. This way, the transfer of that material is limited,” he says in an even tone. I know he agrees with it. Or did. “It’s because of the Higgens case and hundreds before that.”
I try to remember the case, but I I cannot remember it clearly anymore. There have been so many cases in the last few years. I don’t really want to think about it because I don’t really find myself caring too much. I know I should, but the idea still seems so far away like I can never connect to it fully.
Or maybe it’s because something is hanging over me that far outweighs everything else.
“But us? Her?” I choke out. I find that I cannot form sentences coherently. Instead I spit out words and hope somehow the translation is made.
“It’s all supposition,” he says. A flash of something I don’t understand crosses his face again. We are quiet and he looks back at the files in front of him. But I notice that he is on the first page and I reckon he has been on that page for a while now. I simply sit and try not to think how badly I need her now. She would be better in this situation than I am. She’d have known what to do. She would- will? - make action occur rather than allowing the tide waters rise above so we can no longer swim to shore.
I notice, belatedly, there is a photo album on the desk. One I haven’t seen before and I think he must have had it stored away. From my seat I can see red hair and what looks like an upside down picture of the family when he was young. There is Nana Molly and Uncle George and the late Uncle Fred. I do not know why this is out, but I do not ask. There is only so much I can take.
“Why is this happening?” I ask in a small voice. I am a child again, unable to comprehend the complexities surrounding us. It would be nice to hide in my father’s shadow. He shrugs his shoulders. I see there is no shadow to hide in, no place to go.
“It’s precaution,” he says as if that is what I was asking about. He falls back on work, the only thing he properly understands. I feel a pang of annoyance shoot through me. He has barely brought her up at all. As if that isn’t what I am most worried about. But he dodges her like she’s some disease to have. Focusing instead on laws and legality and settling.
“She didn’t do it,” I say just as softly. He doesn’t say anything immediately. He is quiet and that look enters his eye again, the one I’ve never understood. It’s cold and I feel like I don’t know him at all. I remember those looks from before. It always made me feel like he’d simply walk away. “You know she wasn’t involved. She’s Lucy.” It seems to be the most important thing right now to make sure it’s clear where she stands. Where she stood, I mean. I breathe again, short spurts of breath as I look him straight in the face.
“I… I know,” he says. I am not convinced. I am not, not the way he settles into this role of exile as if we deserve it.
“She wasn’t involved, don’t doubt that,” I say firmly. I feel stronger when I say it, it’s something I can hang onto with all my grip. It makes me feel like I could face this, knowing that. I twist my clothes in my hands. It bundles and then releases as I wait for him to say something, anything to let me know he feels the same way.
His freckles seem to stand out like black holes against his dark face and I think perhaps, the worst bit of this is the fact he won’t be so well thought of at work. The idea sickens me and I don’t know if it’s possible, but then anything could be. Anything. Even her not being here.
James’ words float through my mind again. She always will be. I think I know what he meant, but not in the way I want, or need. It’s in that way where her perfume will haunt me and visions of her will always play out before my eyes. Why can’t he see that?
I feel the threads of my clothes bunch up in my fists. He cannot doubt, he cannot. But I see it in his eyes, the way they refuse to look at me, but rather fix on the photos in the album.
“This won’t last long if she’s not involved,” he says finally. His voice seems as thin as thread, but I hate his words. I cannot understand them. If. The word rattles in my mind and I feel like someone has finally took that last swing at my cardboard body and all the insides come spilling out.
“If? There isn’t any if. Don’t you dare doubt,” I find myself whispering, my voice strained with trying to keep it together. She was everything, she could have been the sun, giving us all the reflection of her own light. “Is this all you care about? Work? Not that Lucy is being thrown under the bus?”
He is quiet, but I see I’ve hit a nerve. Hit something to make his muscles jerk in his face so.
“I’ve never wanted you guys to see me like that,” he mutters. His voice is thread bare. Finally, the first tear falls down his pale, taut face. “That’s probably the last memory she has of me.”
“Probably,” I say. It feels good to say it. It feels like a release. To see the pain in someone else.
But almost as soon as I think that, I feel raw. The word feels disgusting to me and I wish I could take it back. The weight of it kills me when I see the muscle jerk in Dad’s face again.
“I’m sorry-” I mean that. I mean it. I mean it. I mean it. I don’t ever want to hurt another person.
“No, it’s true,” he says quietly. He doesn’t look like he’s in the room again. “It feels like I’ve had this coming for years.”
“No Dad, no one deserves to have-” But his face cuts me off. The way it looks like it pains him just to hear me say that. To try and put salve on these wounds I didn’t even realize were there.
“I’ve never been the best sort of bloke. I’ve always put too much importance into work. Always, and the past keeps repeating itself where the people who I’m supposed to care the most about are hurt because I wasn’t really there. Molly, I hope you know how much I love you guys, but I feared-” he breaks off and sighs. He looks so much older. “I don’t know, maybe this is my final retribution for-”
The thread of his confession is blinding to me and I don’t know what to do with these words. I feel like I’d rather if he close himself off again. I think of how Lucy used to say she wished for those families where we spoke of our emotions. But I am not sure if our family could ever take it. We wouldn’t know what to do.
“You know, I abandoned my family during the war?” He says. I didn’t. No one talks too much of that time. The wounds always seemed so wrapped up. “I broke off my loyalty to people who loved me. I didn’t want that to happen again. Didn’t want you to feel like I’d abandoned you so I thought if… if I wasn’t so close it wouldn’t be so bad if it happened. I couldn’t trust myself that I wouldn’t do it again, a zebra doesn’t change its stripes, right? I didn’t want to put anyone in that situation like I put your Nana Molly all those years ago.”
He seemed finished, his face clenches again and again and I see his eyes are glassy, but he doesn’t cry. He holds back because I don’t think he believes he deserves even that.
“I don’t doubt she wasn’t involved, but someone has to keep focussed on how to get through this. I owe her that because I keep thinking she’ll have died believing I was so cold and never knowing the truth. I don’t - never deserved all of this.” He makes a gesture with his hands that seems to indicate this home, an indirect motion to me. I think I know what he’s saying.
Doesn’t deserve us. Mum, Lucy, me. But perhaps this exile is a way to pay for his sins. Or is some sort of twisted karma.
“I owe her that much.” He repeats it a few times and I see that perhaps he’s come back into himself. I see the glass seem to reflect less in his brown eyes.
We sit together for a while longer. We say we’ll be just fine, and that we’ll trust that it’ll get better though I know this will never be true. I brush the hair out of my face and wish she had gone somewhere I could have followed. I try to see her, see her eyes that dance and I can almost hear her say:
‘It’s going to be all right.’
I hear Mum poking around in the kitchen. She is probably trying to figure out what to do with all the food our relatives keep bringing. I don’t know how much they think a family of three will eat, but our fridge is overfilled. There must be some sort of enlargement charm on it. I think of all the food in my room and the way it is all wasting anyway. There really is no point.
Soon I leave the study. My mind is still reeling and I don’t know what to do with everything. I would if I could forget it, or push it somewhere in my mind that cannot be accessed. But since I don’t know where to put it, it floats in my mind tying up everything in knots and tangles. I don’t bother unravelling it, but let my feet carry me away when I know there is nothing else so be said. I think how some things are better left unknown.
I find myself in her room. I don’t mean to be here, but I sit against the door with my knees drawn up to my chest. It is exactly like it always is, the bed is made, but I notice there are wrinkles on the top as if someone has recently been lying on it. I close my eyes, trying not to see her lying there with a book in her hands as calmly as could be.
After a few moments when the ghosts in my eyes subside, I open them once again; it is best to probably leave the room. But something keeps me here and I walk around the room, feeling the grainy texture of her desk beneath my fingertips. I look out the window at the garden and the fence beyond.
“Hiya, Molls,” a voice calls to me as I see two kids from years ago in our garden; one digging elbow deep in mud and the other watering the petunias. I turn and there she is, exactly as I imagined her. Her hair is splayed out around her pale face and a book is resting on her chest. It rises with each shallow breath she takes.
“Lucy,” I breathe. It is odd to say her name out loud. It always is. Maybe it always will be. “Where have you been?” I think this is a stupid question, but I cannot think of why at the moment.
“Oh, you know,” she says evasively. She lets her eyes wander to the window as well and she laughs. It seems wispy and so unlike her, but at the same time it is the perfect reflection. It is like she is laughing in an auditorium and the sound of her laugh is what I’m hearing echoing back. “What are you looking for?”
I somehow think that the question means more than what she is saying because I don’t know how to answer. I do not know what I am looking for. Perhaps I’ve only been looking for her. Perhaps the truth. Or maybe I’m just looking for release?
“I don’t know,” I say. I do not look at her, but instead my eyes land on a small box marked Hogwarts. I see a few pieces of crinkled parchment sticking out. “What’s in here, Luce?”
When she doesn’t answer I finally look back over, but she is gone just as quickly as she came. The bed still has the same wrinkling from before and I sigh and wish she wouldn’t leave so fast. I still need that voice. I look at the box again. It is wooden and clasped together with a simple metal hook. I can almost believe she made it herself.
With barely a second thought to her privacy I slip open the clasp because I need to feel her presence again. I stare into the contents. I see some photos sticking out of the chaos inside; some letters and owl biscuits are mixed in. I don’t touch it. Not yet because simply looking at it I can see flashes of memory. There is Lucy on my dorm mate’s bed trying to convince Desmond to take a letter to her boyfriend back home. It was a weekly ritual of Lucy’s, a social experiment if you will, if owls really are that loyal to their owners.
But looking isn’t good enough anymore. I let my hands feel the rough parchments and I pull a few out, but not recognizing the writing I put them aside. I take out a few photos and flip through them. There are many of Lucy with people I don’t even recognize. They mean less to me when I come across one with Chanda Patil and Joseph Greene, for they were ones I knew who shared in this. They are sneaking up behind Lucy with heaps of snow in their hands. I know what’s going to happen before I see them both dump it on Lucy’s head.
I feel myself smiling as I watch the scene again and again. But through the smiling I can feel my chest tighten in such an uncomfortable way. I let go of the other photos and they scatter around the box. I bring the one photo up to my chest as I try to picture the day in my mind. I’d taken the photo in my last year of Hogwarts. I was out on a walk with Lucy when Chanda and Joseph snuck up on her. I’d just had enough time to pull out my camera to capture to shot.
Normally, I didn’t carry a camera around with me, but Lysander had been really adamant about always keeping it with me so I’d have the memories. It was probably the best thing he’d ever said to me because that is the only promise he made that is true.
I end up zeroing in on her face. I watch with such intensity the changing of her expression, the surprise, the delight, and I can still see the ensuing snow fight after the shot. I had sat on the sidelines, of course, but the laughter still rings in my ears as if it were yesterday.
I move to her bed, hugging the photo to my chest. I am so tired. I try to block out the memories, but they keep coming, flashing through my mind as if it has become a movie reel. I see Dad as he has one foot always in his study during birthday parties and I see Mum teaching Lucy how to dance. I choke back a sob and a scream. Instead, I bury my head into her pillow trying to push it all away and to keep the bubbling wails from rising from my throat.
And the tide rises higher still.
Note: Thanks for reading guys! Also, massive thanks to marauderfan who continues to help with this story as a beta. She has a wonderfully fantastic eye. :)
“Molly,” Dad says right outside of my door. I don’t answer right away. I’m too preoccupied with looking at the wall. I sometimes see her face there. Other times her whole body will appear. “Molly?” His voice sounds less drained then it normally does, so I drag my eyes away from the swirling panelling.
“Okay, I’ll come down,” I reply quietly. He must have heard because he leaves; his footsteps pad away down the corridor and to the stairs. My eyes land on the photo. It lay in pieces on my bedroom floor. Its been there for a week. Or, more specifically, it’s been there for eight days, thirteen hours, eleven minutes, and fifty six- no - seven seconds. I have a clock on my wall, a real one, and I watch it go around. And around. Sometimes it makes me dizzy, but most of the time I simply like how I can hear the ticking of the second hand. It beats with my heart.
The house arrest has been lifted. Yesterday. Yes, it was yesterday. They told us we were free to resume our lives. But what life that is, I don’t fully know yet. Lucy isn’t cleared of all charges, but I suppose it pays to have The Chosen One as an Uncle.
There are still check-ins at the Ministry and our mail will probably be randomly intercepted. I think that is what they said anyway. I get confused sometimes, when I think of the present. Everything is so quickly changing. Somehow though, I think I can beat it if everything remains like it was like glass figurines on a mantle place.
I want my my job and my flat overlooking muggle London. With all the lights and street noises buzzing around; an endless night. They always remain the same, no matter what happens. I’d still be an anonymous entity walking through the crowds and no one would look at my slantwise as if I am a grenade.
I sigh and pull myself off the bed. My muscles protest as I stretch my arms out and around to release the tension building. Pulling on a jumper I leave the room, leaving the door slightly ajar behind me. The hallway smells fresh and it’s then I realize I haven’t properly left my room in a while.
James is by the door with a cuppa. Steam is rising from the top and he holds it in his hands, letting it warm up his red fingers. I remember the owl he sent me yesterday and am surprised to find I’d completely forgotten about it in the course of twenty four hours. I don’t forget things, even if they are things I don’t want to do. Going to tea with James isn’t something I want. We’d never did it before and it doesn’t make sense to start now.
The only reason I agreed in the first place was because of the imploring looks from Mum and Dad. They’d looked like I’d given them a gift the moment I said yes. I suppose it is all inconsequential now. I had forgotten and here I am with an old jumper and my hair pulled up into a high bun, looking very much like I’d just pulled myself out of my bed.
“You look great,” James enthuses. I smile weakly and pull on my shoes. I know he won’t take no for an answer now. That isn’t really James’ way. He gulps down the steaming tea with a small grimace. “Thanks for the tea.” He says to my parents and he hooks his arm along with mine and we apparate away.
Diagon Alley looks different somehow. Not because this is my first few steps of freedom again, that is a moot point and I don’t fancy myself caring. Not really. Freedom is only a matter of perspective anyway. The whole place seems like I’ve fallen into Wonderland. Not that it has changed too drastically, but the air smells different. People are rushing, their cold eyes trained on one another, small street vendors have opened up when none existed before.
But maybe I see it different now. The thought drags itself across my mind and I frown and try to focus on James’ chatter. Distraction. It is probably what I need. I cannot look and see the changes now. I let James lead me down the busy street. An older couple with grizzled salt and pepper hair is staring at us; their attention makes the hairs on my arms stick up.
“We need to stop by my studio for a moment, I forgot to lock it,” James is saying. He grins at a few people we pass and admires an amulet a woman is claiming will turn anyone who doesn’t own it into a toad. She shows others to James; ones she promises will give out an ear splitting cry or give a person boils if touched by the wrong person.
“You don’t want any of your heirlooms disappearing, do you?” The shop owner said. Her eyes are gleaming at James as he fingers a few of the pendants.
“What if they just grabbed the artefact and didn’t touch this?” James asked. He holds up a bronze coloured one that had a sun etched into the centre.
“It’s- it’s extra precaution. You would, obviously, need to place it in an opportune position to get its full usage,” she explained, a faint blush graced her wrinkled face. James smirks and put the pendant down.
“Oh, right, very clearly. Thank you, I can see these would be helpful,” James says and then puts a couple sickles down on the table to pay for a small green one. He smiles and slips it into his pocket as she explains what incantation will activate its protection properties and thanks him for his purchase.
We walk on, weaving down the alley. Our feet make soft patters on the cobblestone street. We pass by the Quidditch shop where the old oak tree has grown so wild it covers most of the store window. There are still teens crowding around it though, trying to get a glance at a new broomstick.
“These new shops are completely approved by the Ministry,” James says after we were nearly at his studio which is on a little side alley off Diagon. “They’re sprouting up everywhere because of what happened at Erete’s a week ago. And, I suppose, because Knockturn is out of the picture, for now. Anyway, the Ministry has their little monopoly on business which suits them just fine, but isn’t really fair to the shop owners. They’re just trying to make a living.”
“What happened to them?” I say. James doesn’t reply right away as we reach his studio which also doubles as his flat. He walks in and gives the place a quick look to make sure everything is in place. His bed is in a corner behind a mangy looking curtain and there are canvases leaning against the walls. An odd looking metal sculpture is hanging from the roof. Happy with the quick inspection, he locks the door and we walk back the way we come.
“Their house was broken in to and something- don’t ask me what- was taken. Apparently it was a big deal though. Anyway, everyone loves the Erete’s; they throw such excellent charity events. So, everyone is up in arms, again.” James snorts. I nod my head, but I’m not sure if I understand it all. It seemed very rare to have outright robberies. Wizards and witches usually have a bit more class than that.
Lucy would probably have found the whole thing thrilling and daring. She’d imagine it happening to her. I smile when I picture her face, the gleam in her eyes as the story soaks into her. She can always put herself into different roles. It is why she wants the theatre and cinema.
“Oh Molly, but can you imagine? I think I would die,” Lucy says. She is next to us. I shake my head at her as she bounces around. She must have come from her bookshop. Perhaps the shop was slow- but then - “Or offer them some tea if I woke up, perhaps that would put them off taking my stuff. Either way, it would be perfectly thrilling.”
Her laugh fills the air around us. I know she will buy a pendent as well. She thinks they look pretty and she always rages against how the Ministry makes it so difficult to own anything. It is then I understand why James even bought the pendent. Not because he actually wants protection, but wants to simply help someone who is trying to make a living.
“No one would steal anything from you,” I say to her. She cocks her head for a moment.
“Eh?” James says, looking at me. My chest tightens and I look to the side again, but she has danced away, perhaps to look at some pendents, or perhaps she’s simply gone. So gone. I close my eyes and breathe. Trying not to see her face so clearly as it twirls itself around me. Can she really come through the crowds like she does? So alive like she never left in the first place.
“Nothing, nothing,” I say.
James nods. He doesn’t press any further and I appreciate it’s him next to me and not one of the other cousins who never know when to stop pushing. He continues to chat, letting his voice fall and rise as he reaches different parts of the story. He is talking about Hogwarts. It is a safe topic and it carries us to the Leaky Cauldron. We slide into a seat by the window. James goes to the front, so I look out the clear window to London beyond.
The brick buildings rise up with their imposing grand windows. Taxi cabs and Double Decker buses zoom by while some pedestrians take their chances and dodge in and out of traffic to cross the road. A couple pushing a pram pass right by my window, but they don’t notice me observing them. It always strikes me as strange that we can hide in such plain sight.
I continue to look out of the window, noticing the loiterers at some sort of side shop smoking a cigarette. A woman is standing with them; her back is turned, but her dark hair falls well past her shoulder blades and she seems out of place. Them with their yellow work jackets on and her in plain muggle clothing. Her head turns a bit and I see the slight upturning of her nose and a flash of blue eyes. My heart stands still for a moment, but before I can get a better look, she claps one of the men on the arm before leaving; away from me and her long hair flies out behind her.
“Here we are,” James says. My attention flashes back to the Leaky Cauldron and James has just put a teapot and some cups on our table. I smile a little and mechanically pour the tea into a cup. I try to stop the feeling that this is wrong and I should go. I don’t know where I would even go, but it is so suffocating to be here. I would wash my body clean from all of this.
It seems like it could be an everyday thing. Something normal that happens between family. But I never met with James before. Only at family gatherings and even then our contact was limited. No, this is very strange. It makes me feel the loss so much stronger. I hate the feeling as it builds up inside me. How wrong this is, how different and strange. I wish the moment would disappear, melt away into toushands of atoms. This only feels like a salve. Something we do to put on a salve.
There is also the newspaper he brought. It’s lying on the table, a page from the inside is half hanging out and I recognize the mop of hair peaking out from the photo. It’s an old photo I can already tell. It’s grainy and faded. I pull the slip out and saw a younger version of my father on it. It looks to be from when he first began to work at the Ministry. His face seems harder, more concentrated and unforgiving. Not the father I know, who, although may be strict and have exceptionally high expectations, is not the man staring up at me.
My fingers trace the letters on the news report. Anger immediately grows up inside me when it hits me what the writer is saying. It doesn’t make sense how they make the connection, but then, I do not know much of my fathers past. Only the bits and pieces he’s recently said. The reasons why he’s always held his distance.
“Can you believe this?” I say quietly. I look up at James who is watching me intently. He raises his eyebrows, which usually hang a bit too low on his forehead. “They are demonizing my father, according here - The Weasley family, although were crucial to the Second War’s end, do not come out with a clean slate. A tale too often left untold has finally come to light with the recent report that Lucy Weasley, Percy Weasley’s youngest daughter, was involved with an underground smuggling troupe before her untimely death.
Most were surprised when the family were put under house arrest since they’ve always been held with high regard by the public. However, Percy Weasley had a fall out during the war with his family. The details were never clear, but many believe during this time Mr Weasley grossly misrepresented himself and his boss and in doing so it allowed Mr Crouch’s death and rise of You-Know-Who. Although there were no indication Percy Weasley was in league with the Death Eaters, it is clear there was negligence on his side during the situation. Whether is was purposeful or accidental we may never know, but what is clear there is a darker side to Percy Weasley than first thought.”I stop reading for a moment. Silence passes between us and neither of us break it. Just breaths that drift out into eternity.
The only light comes from the floating lanterns and the roaring fire in the middle of the pub. The pub continues on as normal, everyone too used to the dim lighting. Hannah keeps ringing orders through and customers dip in and out of the busy place. The floorboards creak and groan under the pressure.
“Then here further along they say some more about it - He is also notorious for throwing himself into his work. Most of his coworkers agree and say he is usually in the office, even on holiday’s. Dedication to work is always a good trait, however, spending little time with your family would not let him see what his own daughter was turning into, it could even act as a catalyst for such behaviour if behavioural theorist Tiberius Goldstien is to be believed.”
James lowers the paper so I can’t look straight at it. He puts his hand across the page, his brows knitted together. I breathe in, my brain still ringing from the words that were dripping across the page.
“You don’t need to read anymore, they don’t know anything,” James says. He sounds so hard when he says it. So much more like his father than James. “They’re just trying to make a story, but if they have to bring baggage from the war up - they’re clearly scrapping the bottom of the barrel.”
I nod, as if I agree, but I can’t help but feel angry with it. Angry is better than feeling so numb all the time anyway. At least I can still feel. My eyes wander around the pub. Hannah is now at the bar, filling a pint for an older witch and a young serving maid is cleaning up a table by the fire. A man walks into the pub then, two children follow him close behind. Our eyes meet for a moment, his blonde mop of hair falls into his pale eyes as he smiles.
I recognize his face from somewhere, but I can’t place where I’ve met him, or seen him before. Perhaps it doesn’t matter, but a bigger part of me believes it does. The man with his sandy blonde hair walks over to our table.
“Hi,” he says. His girls peer from behind his legs, their wide eyes blinking up at James and I.
“Em- Hello,” I say. I look at James, but he looks simply gives me a perplexed look and offers a sweet to one of the young girls. She smiles and toddles to James and in her excitement she trips a little over her short legs. James catches her flailing arms and gives her the sweet. She laughs in delight and looks up at her father who ruffles her hair.
“I knew your sister,” he says, finally. The words are like an avalanche in my stomach. knew. “We went to school together.” I try to remember him, but Lucy always knew so many. I couldn’t remember him specifically. She was a couple years younger anyway, how could I know when I was always so focussed on becoming Head Girl.
“Oh,” I say. I don’t know what else to say to that. If he expects comfort or understanding, I can give him none of that. I can only give a higher tide.
“You don’t have to say anything, I just wanted to say I’m glad they’ve lifted the house arrest. The whole story is a load of rubbish, honestly. I knew her fairly well too and -“ he stops and a facial expression flutters across his face. I don’t understand it, it seems to be a memory and he quickly shakes himself. Perhaps he is feeling the flood rising around him too. Or maybe he realizes I can do nothing to relieve what he thinks he feels.
“Thinking of Lucy in some underground ring of smuggling is nearly laughable. I just wanted you to know that, I guess. That I thought so-” He shrugs his shoulders, unsure himself why he was brought to our table. My heart is in my throat when I look into his pale grey eyes. They remind me of her. I don’t know why and I can’t explain it. But she’s there, fading into his cornea. “I’m Darragh, by the way, Darragh Finnegan.” Recognition dawned across James’ face at the words.
“Thank you,” I say. He shrugs his shoulders and his eyes dart around the pub. There is a momentary jumpiness in him, but it flashes so quickly by I’m sure I imagined it. He nods to us in farewell and he turns to leave. He takes the hand of one of his girls and they disappear out the back door.
“I remember him,” James says. He lifts his cup to his lips and takes a drink. “He was in Lucy’s year, I’m shocked I didn’t recognize him first off. He was only two years ahead of me.” He shrugs, it doesn’t really matter in the end, who he is. A man who lost a friend, the connection of loss is usually so strong people believe sharing it alleviates the pain. It doesn’t. It lets the pain fester and grow because you keep seeing the effects of it staring you in the face. Swirling around all of us, everyone who ever knew her.
I gulp in a breath of air because it is maybe why I see her so clearly. See her brightly like the flame she always was. Is. When I look at James, I see her sitting just behind him, twirling her hair around her finger with her face stuck in a book. The room transforms and I’m back home. There is Mum, with her limp hair, mindlessly drinking another cup of tea. It is then Lucy comes out from the walls. Maybe it is less that she is literally here, but the shared pain of a loss so deep creates her, gives her another life. But with it, it holds all of us in limbo.
“I have to go.” I can’t be around them. Not like I have because her face will always be there. Her blue, blue eyes and those blue lips. They will keep coming, our grief causing them to appear. Reminding, haunting. Whatever we call it now. In then end, maybe it is us who keep them here and our lives before death are simply a state of purgatory and not really lives at all.
I stand up and leave. I don’t need this. Not the way the waves are rising so high and swirling such a whirlwind. I hear James calling out to me and hear him trying to follow. I duck out the back, my mind in a singular thought; I have to get away. I dart around the waving arms of someone trying to barter for an amulet. The crowds have thickened and it is easy to get lost in the people loitering around the alley. I feel relief come the further I go. Her eyes don’t seem to be following me quite as closely.
I hear my name again, James yelling to be heard above the crowd. I turn my head a moment to see how far behind he is and I can’t make him out. I duck behind a man with a barrel chest and skitter into an open door of a shop. I breathe again and the tide recedes, back into the ocean. I watch James pass the shop and stand for a few minutes just to be sure he’s fully gone.
It’s then I look around and notice I’m in the apothecary. The owner is looking at me slantwise and when I turn to face him, he immediately looks down to the newspaper. His fists clench so I can see his knuckles turning white.
“Aren’t you-” I don’t let him finish and I dart out of the store. Unsure of why I’m running from him, but the encounter leaves me feeling cold inside. So cold like I jumped into the sea during winter.
Back in the alley I look around, but seeing no sign of James I walk to Nott and Crom’s Publishing House. Her eyes wouldn’t follow me here. She rarely stepped foot here, thinking it too stuffy and unimaginative. My eyes look at the lines in the walls, the pinstripes and old stains. They tell stories of their own and, of all places, they belong here.
My desk is still in the far corner and the place is still buzzing with activity. Nott’s office door is standing ajar and I see him leaning back in his chair. Kenneth Greene is pouring over a manuscript, probably mucking it up like he usually does. He has never been a good editor, far too lazy about the details to really make a name for himself.
I walk further into the place and as soon as I do I’m noticed by the other employee’s. Their owl like eyes follow me as my feet click across the wooden floors. My eyes travel up the arches and the closed doors, the empty floor space. It seems familiar and yet strange to be standing here. It is time, though to be here. To get on. To muddle through the changing tides and waves.
Nott must have noticed the change in the atmosphere because his door squeaks open.
“Miss Weasley,” he says. He stands at his door, his arms swaying next to him. Everyone’s attention zips to him. For a moment, the only sound is the fluttering of parchments to the ground as one of the new secretaries dropped everything in her hand. The moment is over and everyone turns away, the normal scratching of feathers and ink and murmur of voices assault me. I want to cover my ears. It’s so loud. “I didn’t expect you. Please, come into my office.”
He dithers at his door for a moment, his eyes nervously looking around before turning and heading back into his office. The door is left open and I walk through. I have been in here countless times before and nothing here has changed, at least. He clears off a little space on a chair and places the folders and parchments onto the floor, the only flat space in the room still available. He motions for me to sit before sliding into his own straight back chair behind the desk.
Nott says the mess makes the process feel more alive, but I can never understand it. I get distracted by the piles surrounding him and I don’t hear when he begins to talk. I am busy, instead, trying to straighten a pile of manuscripts on his desk. Some of them dated from a few months; some from a few weeks ago. I notice my own writing carefully scribbled along the edges of many of them. They shouldn’t still be here.
“Miss Weasley, do you understand?” Nott says. I snap back to attention.
“I’m sorry, no,” I say, not willing to admit I didn’t hear a thing he’d said previously. I try to concentrate, beginning to see coming might have been a mistake. But I want my job. Need it like I need breath. I can’t continue with my family surrounding me, their pale reminders of a sister whose fragrance still drips in the air.
Nott coughs a little, holding an off-white handkerchief to his thin, pale lips. He taps his fingers on the desk, the sound echoes around the room. It is louder than the noise just outside of his office.
“You must understand the position we’re in, no one wants to give their manuscripts to us, we’re on a tight enough budget as it is. There is nothing we can do, really. Perhaps, perhaps in a few months things might be different, but right now we can’t - can’t,“
“Can’t employ someone like me?” I say, finishing his stuttering sentence. I close my eyes. Blackness. Then deep breaths before her eyes float behind mine. I wonder what she sees. Or saw. It clicks into place though. The older couple earlier, the newspaper, the apothecary shop keeper. Their faces flash before me. Now this. I shake myself and open my eyes again to see Nott staring at me.
I nod and scoot my chair back. It screeches on the floorboards. He stands up and holds open the door. He is nothing, but proper. Emotionless cloaked in propriety.
"She was never involved,” I say, letting the anger I felt crash into me. I look him straight in his eyes and I see a storm reflecting back. He doesn’t comment, simply frowns and waits for me to leave. There is a reason his name got plastered on with Crom’s and it isn’t because they went into business together.
“Your personal affects will be sent to you, good luck, Miss Weasley.” I nod again and I let my eyes drift around the room. No one is catching my gaze and for a moment I can feel her in me. Feel the mad desire to make a scene and dramatically leave with flair. Maybe then they will see what their closed minds are not seeing now. That I am merely caught in a crossfire.
But no matter, time will tell. Time will always tell.