Chapter 6 : Dead Or Alive
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The ground shook.
It was not something I could see, but I could feel it shaking under the soles of my feet. A deep rumbling sound filled the world around me, like an earthquake. Of course, it wasn’t an earthquake; this wasn’t Earth. Nevertheless, the world quaked.
I was sitting at the base of an orange tree in the Orchard, my back pressed against the smooth trunk. Above me, the golden leaves and twisted branches swayed as the world vibrated. My eyes found my companions, who all looked equally bemused. James and Lily had been deep in murmured conversation, but now they looked around, their eyes searching the world around them for the source of the commotion. To my left, Beth and Jam stood hand in hand, and I wondered how we all knew that something was drastically wrong. An ‘earthquake’ shouldn’t have been something unusual, not in a world where nothing made sense and no rules were obeyed. Even so, a sense of dread filled the pit of my stomach and goose pimples rose on my arms.
“What’s happening?” Lily asked, her voice almost lost in the sound of the world shaking. Her green eyes were wide, her expression anxious. The five of us huddled closer, our fears mingling.
“Something is very wrong,” Beth said, her small voice sounding fragile.
I leant on the trunk of the nearest tree for support. When my hand touched it, the smell of oranges filled the air around me, the sweet scents making me feel nauseous. Visions of my latest encounters with the living world filled my mind, haunting me.
It was how I knew my Luna was in danger; I had seen her with my own eyes, fighting the establishment. Part of me felt proud that my daughter was actively fighting the system. It was something I had thought should happen, yet I had never had the courage to do it. An oddball couldn’t fight a battle on her own. Yet my daughter, my extraordinary Luna, was fighting the oppressors like a true hero. James, Lily and I had discussed at length the return of Voldemort. It was something that plagued our minds, and it seemed that recently more so than ever we were connected with the living world. We were drawn to it as though being pulled through quicksand. I often didn’t have the choice to resist, the orange tree controlling more than it ever had. I had been watching helplessly as my Luna and James and Lily’s Harry built up their defences. I knew that eventually the time would come; I had never thought it would be so soon.
As the rumbling sound increased, I covered my ears with my hands and shut my eyes, blocking out the sound and the noise. Around me, leaves started to fall to the ground. When I opened my eyes again, the white world was covered in orange, red, and yellow leaves. The trees around us became bare, and when I looked up I could see the white sky far, far above us.
“It’s You-Know-Who!” I cried above the rumbling. “He’s changing us!”
James laid a comforting hand on my arm. “It’s not him, Aurelia. It can’t be. With his fractured soul, he can never touch us here. This world is too pure.”
I nodded shakily, but I still didn’t understand. What if he came to Skeleton Wood? That place was certainly not pure. I shuddered at the thought and looked around me. I could see the trees visibly shaking, their branches swaying jerkily. Fear filled me, bringing tears to my eyes. There was so much about this world that I did not understand; how could I possibly be placated? Although James was sure that he couldn’t strike the white world, I could never be sure we were safe. I already knew that my afterlife differed from those who waited with me; what if only I was vulnerable? And what of my Luna? She was in much worse danger than I was… I could never move on until I knew she was safe. And for that, He Who Must Not Be Named would have to be banished from all worlds.
As quick as a bolt of lightening, white noise filled my ears, causing me to double over. My ears throbbed, my eyes watered. Momentarily, I was blinded as the noise echoed around the world outside me, too. It pierced me, my skin becoming red hot. It seemed to be pulsing, coming in waves of high-pitched noise. I gritted my teeth, unable to bear the noise for much longer. White light burned the insides of my eyelids, making me stagger. I tripped and fell through something cool and soft, like silk.
As soon as I lost contact with the veil of silk, the noise ceased, my ears now ringing from the lack of noise. I opened my eyes and stood up. We were standing by a stone archway that was raised on a small platform in the middle of dark room. It seemed as though it would fall down at any moment, and I was amazed through my fear that it was still upright. From the archway, a black veil was hung, and as I reached out for it, I realised it was silky. There was no breeze in the room, much like the white world, but the veil fluttered slightly. It was clear that I had just fallen through it.
I couldn’t see the roof, and it was almost as if the room opened out onto the night sky, except there were no stars. Steep stone steps rose up all around me, reminding me of an amphitheatre though it was rectangular in shape. I looked behind me and saw Lily and James standing together, hand in hand. They both had the same expression on their faces: one of fear. I had never been anywhere like this place before, and that immediately worried me. Although I had coveted the unknown and mysterious when I was alive, this place had an overwhelming atmosphere of death. It was like no living place I had ever been, yet it did not seem as though it was part of the white world.
“Where-” Lily began, but James hushed her, putting his fingers to his lips. I knew immediately why he had shushed her; I heard a door open somewhere nearby.
I spun around, searching for the source of the noise. My eyes looked up, seeing light spilling out of door-shaped hole at the top of the stone steps. Voices carried down to the bottom of the pit where the three of us stood. The voices approached us slowly, cautiously, until they reached the platform where we stood. It was then that I saw her.
My Luna, my beloved daughter. She was hanging to the back of a group of about five or six, her eyes trained on the archway. My heart thudded, panic settling in my stomach. None of us, dead or alive, should be in this room, I knew that for sure. It was not natural. My eyes drank in all of my daughter, her appearance scaring me even more. She looked dishevelled, hurt, fearful.
I looked away briefly, my eyes falling on Harry, who was looking at the archway with an enraptured look on his face.
“What’s happening?” I murmured, my voice carrying across the platform easily to where Lily and James were standing, entranced as their son moved closer, only an arm’s breadth away. We were standing on opposite sides of the veil, our worlds separated by that silky curtain. I reached out for it, my hand connecting with the material, making it flutter slightly.
Those who accompanied Luna and Harry did not have the same looks on their faces as their friends did. Their eyes darted about, panicked, not fully understanding the veil’s effect.
“Luna?” I called, and I saw her stare at the veil with such longing that it nearly broke my heart. When Lily and James saw how Luna reacted to my voice, they, too, called for their child.
“Who’s talking?” Harry said loudly, a frown forming on his face. “Someone’s whispering behind there.”
My heart raced. He could hear us. Lily and James called again, louder. The veil fluttered again as we breathed into it. I called for my daughter, praying that she would hear me, that she would know I was there. I had longed for so long for any kind of contact with my daughter, just watching her never being enough. To think she might be able to hear my voice again, to have that contact brought tears to my eyes. “Luna!”
Harry’s friends exchanged worried and confused glances, as though he had gone mad.
“I can hear them too,” I heard Luna murmur, as she moved closer to the veil, her eyes fixed on it. She was so close, close enough to touch through the veil. “There are people in there.”
The tears fell from my eyes, flowing down my cheeks and dripping onto the stone by my feet. I cried her name again and again as she gazed into the veil with such longing.
I wept bitterly as they dragged themselves away, sure that they were going somewhere far more dangerous than where life and death met.
“They’re gone,” I whispered into the veil, feeling Lily and James’s mutual devastation as our children left the room. “They’re gone.”
With all my heart I wanted to run after them, to join them, to drag them back. But my feet were rooted to the ground, rendering me unable to move at all. I was helpless, just a witness to the world around me, passing through but never leaving an impression.
The darkness around us began to fade as white filled the space.
“No!” I cried, not wanting to leave the veil in case they came back, wanting to spend the rest of my death waiting for Luna there. I didn’t ever want to return to the white world, the lifeless world.
We didn’t, however, return to the white world. The white became brighter and brighter, blinding my eyes once again. I shut my eyes as tight as they would go, but the white still seeped through my eyelids. White noise filled my ears, and I screamed, the pain overcoming me. What was I doing here? This death was worse than any sorrow in the living world. Why was I being tortured so?
My eyes snapped open, the blinding light fading as I did so. James and Lily stood before me in the white world, looking at a stone archway identical to the one in that dark amphitheatre. This one, however, could have been built that moment it was so new. The stone was smooth and clean, the veil hanging straight. As my eyes fixed on it, it began to flutter violently, swinging backwards and forwards. The whiteness around the archway began to glow, the light pulsing as a body fell through the veil from nothing.
A man lay on the ground, as cold and still as the archway which he had fallen through. His eyes were shut, his mouth fixed a smile. Lily screamed beside me, and my eyes widened in horror as the truth slowly dawned on me. This man was dead. Stone cold dead. It shouldn’t have terrified me, not when I was also dead; at least I was still conscious. His unruly hair framed his face, making him look almost holy.
“Sirius?” I heard James say from beside me, his voice breaking. He knelt beside him, laying a hand on his rigid arm. “Can you hear me?”
My hand covered my mouth, trying to stifle the horror that came from deep within me. As I saw Lily’s ashen face beside me, I realised that she was about to fall. My shaking arm gripped her shoulders, allowing her to lean against me as she sobbed.
I tore my eyes from the body, looking instead for the pristine archway. I saw with disbelief that it was gone. I nearly screamed at the disordered way in which the white world worked. Nothing made sense, nothing obeyed any rules. When I looked back again, I saw the old lady standing beside the body, her serene face smiling. She reached down, her smooth hands touching Sirius’s chest. James stood back, his face perplexed. I watched as Ariana held her hands over the place where the man’s heart was, and to my horror I saw him fading. It was almost as if he was a Patronus, made of silvery light. He slowly floated apart, his silvery essence spreading into the white world around us. It was the first time I had felt a breeze of any kind in this afterlife, and I knew it was the particles of the man that was creating it. Ariana bowed her head, her smile still fixed upon her face, and she herself disappeared.
I shuddered, my heart resuming its calm pace. I had never been so close to death as I had in that moment, and it scared me more than anything. Time did not pass in the real sense of the word, but my death was slowly spiralling towards the end, my moments numbered. I could not wait around forever, sitting in my orange tree.
Disclaimer: the dialogue spoken by Harry and Luna in this chapter is taken from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 34, page 683, British Edition. Property of the awesome JK Rowling
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