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Chapter 2 : Let's Sit in the Back
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Neville was screaming at me, “Hide!” His face was that of pure horror. I thought he might cry. With a final look at me and a security check to his right and left, he closed the closet door on himself.
I wasn’t scared. Whoever was coming, let ‘em come. What could happen? I wasn’t gonna be a pansy like Neville and hide from whatever was coming. I would face it head on. I’d be a fucking man. Try it sometime, Neville.
All of a sudden I heard feet that sounded like they were dressed in heavy boots grow louder and faster outside the house. They banged on the doors and walls. I felt my heart beat faster. The distorted voices threatened to come in the house by means of force. I heard them conspiring behind the racket of fists and boot-clad feet knocking on the walls.
A picture of Luna that was framed and hanging on the wall fell to the floor in a pool of shattered glass. It startled me. I whipped around to look at it but more shattering came from behind me. Three or four Death Eaters had broken through the windows, their wands raised at me.
I knew I didn’t have my wand. I knew I couldn’t defend myself if I wanted to.
I ran. Fuck being a man; I wanted to live.
I clambered up the stairs of Neville’s house and felt my heart jump to my throat. I launched myself inside Neville’s room and looked around. Gotta be somewhere to hide. Quick. The footsteps were not far behind. Without thinking, I moved a huge lounge chair in front of the door. Strategically placed furniture was no match for Death Eater magic, but it couldn’t hurt.
Neville didn’t have a closet in his room. He just had a rod with all his clothes hanging near the rear corner. I threw myself behind some long dress robes and took two deep breaths. My heart was pounding out of my chest. I could feel the Death Eaters trampling up the stairs. That lounge chair looked like a fucking toothpick now.
I held my breath, praying for help. As soon as they come in, they’ll kill me. I cornered myself. I trapped myself. I killed myself.
My lungs were on fire. I could feel my pulse in my ears. They were breaking the door down. This is it. What if I suffocate before they find me? Either way, I’m dead. I can’t breathe. This is the end.
I woke up with a paranoid shake, my body soaked with cold sweat. I still had the same feeling in my chest, like I couldn’t breathe. The covers were over my head. That’s why.
Fucking dream. That was scary. Shit! What kind of pansy am I? Fucking dream had me scared.
Wiping my face with a sloppy hand, I got out of bed and felt the cool, morning air collide with my shirtless chest. The sweat dripped down the small of my back. Disgusting.
All my school stuff had been packed and ready to go for a few days by now. Not that I’m any bit responsible. I knew I’d be too lazy to do it the morning of or the night before school.
First day of school. The thought was bittersweet in my mind as I walked down the stairs, half my attention still on that dream. Finally a seventh year. Last time I’ll have to get up to get the train. Maybe Dad’ll be here to see me off this year. Yeah, right.
I peeked around the corner into the living room. I wouldn’t have even minded seeing him asleep on the couch with some chick who wasn’t Mum. But he wasn’t there. Again.
My dad worked for a successful Muggle business full time. He worked late into the night and early in the morning. I never see him. I basically live alone. He and my mother divorced when I was thirteen. I haven’t talked to her since. And people wonder why I turned out to be such a piece of shit.
I opened the fridge door and chugged some orange juice from the carton. I grabbed the carton of milk and a box of cereal, put them in a bowl and started shoveling it in. Then the phone rang.
“Nobody’s home,” I yelled at it. “Nobody’s ever fucking home!” It kept ringing. I didn’t even stay and listen for who it was on the answering machine. I scooped another spoonful of cereal and ran back upstairs to get dressed.
I stood in the doorway of my abandoned house and took a look at it. The paint was faded and stained on the walls. The hardwood floor creaked underfoot with every tiny shift in weight. The answering machine light blinked in the next room. I wondered how long it would be before someone listened to it. Probably by the time I come back next summer.
I felt my pockets, making sure I had my wand and my smokes. I thought about leaving a note for Dad, but immediately felt like an idiot for even considering it. When he gets home tonight he’ll be drunk out of his mind. He probably won’t even notice I’m gone until I come back next summer.
I took my trunk and locked the door behind me. I threw my luggage in the backseat of the piece-of-shit car I bought earlier this summer. It was the only reason I needed a job, which I quit for school last week. Besides, it’s not like my responsible parent-slash-guardian can cart me around wherever I want, whenever I want. I needed a car to get myself around, especially now that I’m pushin’ eighteen. Pushin’ legal.
I don’t drive it very often. Only when I have to. I never take it on Tuesdays with Neville, ‘cause we started that tradition before either of us was even eligible to drive. I turned t he key and the car revved to life. Really old, loud, shitty life, but it ran. The car was really cheap. When I bought it, the only thing I cared about was if it had a functioning motor, because that was all I could afford.
I drove to King’s Cross station in silence. It was too early in the morning for music. My car alone was loud enough to wake up the neighborhood by rattling along down the street. Between running stop signs that were unnecessary that early in the morning and deciding not to use turn signals, I found myself thinking about school this year. Not just that it was my last year, but what I would do after school. Neville knows exactly what he wants to be. Herbology teacher at Hogwarts. And I have no doubt that after he graduates from Hogwarts and takes up advanced schooling, he’s gonna come back and fucking do it. And Luna... goddamn, that crackpot’s probably gonna end up as Divination professor. She’d fit right in.
Yeah, they were all destined to do something. They found their path to be someone. Me? I have no fucking idea what I’m supposed to be. I hate everything about school except the girls, and I’m barely passing all my classes. All the teachers say I have ‘great potential’ but for what? Potential to be what? Why does the world need Clyde Rogerson? I dunno. Maybe it doesn’t.
Maybe what I’m destined to be is exactly what I’ve become already: a bum. A loser. A nobody. I mean, look at me. I’m seventeen years old and I’ve already gotten myself addicted to drugs, I almost got my girlfriend knocked up, I live by myself, and I’ve already got gray hair. There is nothing about me that makes me different from anybody else in the world. I’m a generic drone of the average seventeen-year-old. Subject number 1337.
When I was all nice and depressed, I found myself at the King’s Cross station. The walkway was full of Muggles that I just wasn’t in the mood for seeing. Happy couples kissing each other before departure. Families with tons of kids running around. The artists that have no emotional attachment to this world board the train by themselves. Sickening.
I shut the car off and unloaded my belongings from the backseat. I tried to ignore the Muggles around me as I attempted to keep myself from throwing up. I walked to Platform Nine. Making sure no one was looking, I plowed through the barrier.
As soon as I got to the other side, a first-year boy stared at me, his mouth open like a monkey. I was not in the mood. “What the hell are you looking at, punk?” I said to the child. His mouth closed immediately and I walked away. Fucking kids.
“Clyde!” said Neville’s voice. I saw him a good distance away, standing with his Gran, Luna, and her father. He started waving his arms frantically, as though his screaming my name across the whole platform wasn’t enough to get my attention. Stop, Neville, you look like an idiot.
“Hey, everyone,” I said as I walked up to them, trying not to sound bitter.
“Clyde, darling, is that you? My stars, you’ve grown so much. Come here, honey,” said Neville’s Gran. I hugged her, careful not to harm her old bones. She was like the universal grandma. She could be anyone’s. Her hug took away some of the hostility I was feeling.
“Clyde, I’d like you to meet my father,” said Luna in her floaty, pothead voice.
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Lovegood,” I said, shaking the man’s hand. This was why parents loved me. I was so good at first impressions. Got me a lot of dates, too. A lot of one-night-stands.
“Should we get going?” I said, trying to speed this shit up.
“I’ll see you at Christmas then, Luna?” said Luna’s father, hugging her. I couldn’t hear anything they said anymore. It was all muffled.
Neville hugged his Gran and promised he’d behave himself. I wondered what it felt like to hug your father or mother or even your grandmother. A hug is to show affection. To show that the person really loves and cares for you. What does that feel like?
When they all broke apart, I truend to Luna’s father and asked, “Excuse me, Mr. Lovegood, but would you mind taking my car back to your house until summer? I’m sorry I won’t be able to pick it up earlier than that.”
“No problem, Clyde, my boy,” he said, clapping a hand on my shoulder.
“Thank you, sir.” I handed him my car key. “It doesn’t run very well, but it does the job.”
Mr. Lovegood gave me the okay sign, turning his forefinger and thumb into a circle.
“Arite, let’s go,” I said.
We all started toward the train, where a man in uniform stood at every entrance with a huge sack. When we approached him he said, “Wands, please?”
“I’m sorry?” said Neville.
“Hogwarts has decided to collect the wands of students until in the safety zone of the school, in response to the tragedy that occurred in Spain.”
“That’s bullshit,” I said.
The man gave me an adult look. The look that said, Darn hooligan. “Wands, please, or I’m afraid you will not be permitted to board the train.”
“Arite, arite, hold on to your wig, we’ll do it,” I said. We plopped our wands, our life support units into the sack. Stepping onto the train, I felt naked.
“D’you guys mind sitting in the back? I need the back.”
“Sure, Clyde,” said Neville as we plowed to the caboose.
“Why does he need the back?” Luna whispered to Neville.
“So he can smoke,” Neville whispered back. Even though Neville didn’t approve of my smoking, he respected me and our friendship and didn’t make a scene. That’s why he’s my best friend.
Luna and I didn’t really know each other. I don’t think she likes me very much, and she has the right. I used to make fun of her constantly, before she started dating Neville. But she’s such a girl. She’s physically incapable of holding grudges.
When we reached the last compartment, the door was closed and through the frosted-glass window, I saw that someone was already in there. But I didn’t care who the hell it was. I was gonna sit in my fucking caboose. I threw the door open and I almost cried when I saw who it was. Vandelia Karamanos was sitting in the corner, looking out the window, her hands folded in her lap like a princess. Before speaking, I blessed myself with the sign of the cross.
“Excuse me,” I said with my first-impression charm. She looked at me with eyes of an angel. “Do you mind if we sit here?”
She shook her head, smiling, gesturing to the empty seats.
“Thanks.” I sat down next to her and Luna sat across from us with Neville, who shot me an excited look. My returning look told him to shut the fuck up. I really needed a smoke but felt an overwhelming embarrassment doing it in front of Vandelia.
The train sounded its horn loudly as it lurched into motion.
“Excuse me,” said Vandelia. “I’m going to wave to my parents.”
When she walked out of the compartment, her knees almost hit mine and she habitually looked at me with an apologetic smile. My heart zoomed across my chest.
Deciding to take full advantage of her absence, I opened the window, pulled a lighter and cigarette out of my pocket, and lit up.
“Dammit,” I said after my first drag. “Last one. Oh, well. I’ll get more when we get to school.”
“Uhm... just out of curiosity, where do you get them? You’re underage, aren’t you?” said Luna.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said, taking a long drag. I didn’t have time to talk. Any second now Vandelia would come back and I’d have to finish up.
I smoked that fucking cigarette so fast I got a headache. I couldn’t even enjoy it because I was worried Vandelia would see. When I was done, I threw the butt out the window and closed the window.
She came back when the school was no longer in view. “What’s that smell?” she said, sitting down. Her nose crinkled up in disgust. My stomach did an involuntary flip at the adorable act. “It smells like... smoke.”
“I don’t smell anything,” I said, shooting a look at Neville. He stifled laughs.
“What is that – so gross –" she started to say.
“I’m sorry, where are my manners? I don’t believe we’ve been properly introduced. My name is Clyde Rogerson.”
“And I’m Neville Longbottom.”
“My name’s Luna Lovegood.”
I turned to Vandelia, holding her hand up to my face, waiting to kiss it. (Her skin smelled like peaches.) It was a bold move, but the ladies like ‘em bold. “I’m Vandelia Karamanos,” she said. Like I didn’t know her name. “Call me Vandy.” She smiled at me with her sparkling eyes of two different colors.
“Charmed, I said, still in my first-impression voice. I pressed her hand to my lips gently. I thought I would enjoy it more, but all I could think of was how dirty my mouth was. Cursing, smoking, kissing lots of random girls... And Vandelia – excuse me, Vandy – was so pure. Her reputation was clean and everything about her, skin included, glowed with innocence and perfection. By kissing her hand I felt like I’d tainted her.
She smiled at my charm. My fake, plastic, rehearsed charm.
We sat in awkward silence for about ten more minutes, having nothing to do but stare at each other. I couldn’t stop feeling guilty about ruining Vandy. This was why I didn’t want to make a move; she was too good for me. But she’s sitting right in my fucking box, I can’t just do nothing! I could do nothing when I was alone and avoiding her. Out of sight, out of mind. Not anymore.
Suddenly the train lurched, sending us all jerked out of our positions.
“What was that?” said Luna, gripping Neville’s arm.
“I dunno, I said, getting up to look out the window. The train had slowed to a stop. We seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. All there was on either side of us was endless field and forest. In front of us, nothing but track stretched for miles, save for the rest of the Hogwarts Express that was turning a corner up ahead, nearly out of... sight...
“Fuck!” I screamed, banging my fists on the window. I watched the train go around a turn and vanish into the endless forest. Out of sight. Not out of mind.
“What is it?” said Neville.
“We’ve been separated from the rest of the train!”
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