Home is where the heart is. Or so, it's supposed to be where it is. My heart was scattered in tiny little pieces along my street and through the local church's graveyard. As I filed through the rows of trees with Marcus behind me, I did not regret apparating with him. We walked in silence, just like we had through Diagon Alley. Only the formalities had been exchanged when he insisted to make sure I got home safe and now I was, I wondered what he expected me to say next. I could see the distant glow of the kitchen light and I sighed. I didn't want to go home.
"Shall I leave you here then?" Markus spoke, standing beside me. His deep voice echoed in the darkness, it had to be past midnight now. I nodded and forced a solemn smile. He smiled back and lifted his hand onto my shoulder. Who would have thought that a man whom I had met only hours before could make me feel so wanted and so safe. I stepped away towards my 'home'. "Cora." I turned around as he called my name once again.
"If you ever want to talk or...another walk, I work in the small antique store in Knockturn Alley. It's easy enough to find..." I found myself smiling naturally as I mouthed a 'thank you' towards him. Turning my back on the dark figure, I shivered. I should have been scared but as Marcus remained present in the shelter of the trees, I felt some sort of reassurance. I wasn't so alone anymore.
We hadn't really spoken much as he walked me up and down Diagon Alley. He waited until I had calmed down, until I could acutally look at him before he started up a conversation. He made little observations, trying to amuse me. We walked for a long time before I realised that I really needed to go home. He had offered to see me off safe. How could I refuse?
Locking charms had been set on the front door and I was forced to knock. The temptation to turn and apparate away again was very much present but I had to show face. Disapearing overnight after the day of my Mothers funeral would be enough for my father to disown me. He didn't need anymore reasons to fuel his anger. Leaning against the white porch, I heard heavy, uneven footsteps and the sound of wood colliding with the floorboards.
"Cora," I muttered as someone’s face appeared at the lounge window, staring out at me. The door edged open and Moody stood there with his wand pointing out at me. I didn't understand it, Death Eaters weren't exactly going to come and knock before they decided to take your life away. They were opportunists; they didn't have time to wait for someone to appear at the door. "Sorry, I didn't realise I wasn't allowed into my own house-"
"Stop your whining. Where've you been?" I pushed past him, ignoring his question. He sounded more like my father and I hated that. He didn't have any authority over me. I continued down the hall and turned into the kitchen where my brother stood, his face as pale as ever. Various Order members were sitting around the dining table and they all stared at me. My head lifted up to Richard. Perhaps I owed him an apology.
"Are you not going to answer his question? They've been out looking for you all night! I think it's the least you owe them." My head fell a little as I looked over his shoulder out of the window. I spoke his name to hush him but he continued. "I can't believe you! What are you playing at? We buried Mum today, Cora! Why do you always have to run away?" I shivered at the sound of him using my full name and at the volume of his voice. He was angry. He was right.
"Richard..." It was all I could manage.
"Don't bother. Maybe when you finally get your head sorted out and stop disappearing, you can find Dad and tell him you’re sorry. He's been worried sick and today of all days-"
"I don't see him pacing the floor boards. I don't see him concerned. He's probably tucked up in bed without a care in the world. For all he knows, I'm lying in a ditch somewhere thanks to the Killing Curse and you know what, I bet he actually feels relieved." I met his volume and I matched his tone. I was angry too. That's why I had left. I had been rejected from the family as I was the one to blame for our Mother's death. Not the followers of the Dark Lord, oh no, it was me. "Don't deny it. You heard what Dad said this morning and you didn't even try to disagree with it. You'd be so much happier if-"
"That's enough." Moody had intervened, stepping between my brother and I. He obviously knew what was coming next and had saved Richard from the painful words. I stared at him for a second, my eyes beginning to fill with tears. It hurt to think that I was looking like the bad person in all of this. I wasn't, I was supposed to be the good person. I was doing the right thing when I joined the Order but it was backfiring on me all of a sudden. I watched as Richard clenched and then unclenched his fists as he walked out of the kitchen and walked up the stairs. My head lowered hiding my vulnerability once again. It was all too much.
The room fell silent once more. Moody remained by my side, mumbling and grunted every now and again. My head was spinning from the tears, the anger, the tiredness and the small amount of fire whiskey. I lifted my hand and brushed it along my forehead.
"Are you okay, Cora?" His voice was not as comforting as I remembered it to be and the familiarity made me feel very aware of how I had outed all of my feelings and anger in front of Order members. James was at the doorway. He had been the face at the window checking that it was actually me at the door. My eyes fell shut as I heard whispering from the dining table. Dorcas and Remus sat, discussing how to handle me. What else did they have to speak about? As I looked up, James was staring at me. Did I look okay?
"Where were you today?" My voice cracked, it was quiet and I was subdued. Silence fell, Moody sighed and I could see Lupin's head turning to James.
"We were there, Cora. I promise..." James took a step forward as I looked up at him, expecting more of an explanation. "We were there. We couldn't come close; there wasn't enough of us to keep an eye on the perimeter. We were trying to keep you safe; we didn't want anyone turning up and..." James continued to ramble and I let me eyes close once more. I was so tired, tired of it all. The excuses, the let downs, the sense of loss. Moody must have sensed I wasn't listening and he piped in.
"You understand that you are a target now. If they went after your Mother then it's clear the Death Eaters know who you are. You should know that. Pulling a stunt like you did today and disappearing for hours it's not acceptable. We wasted time and effort looking for you when we could have been trying to find out which piece of scum it was that killed your Mother." I am not sure what he was looking for, whether he wanted an apology or simply a nod to show that I had taken in everything he had said. I remained still and silent. "For Merlin's sake!" He yelled and my eyes opened. Dorcas was on her feet and Lupin slowly joined her. They told me they'd be back in the morning and I still didn't reply. I had nothing to say to them and I glanced over at them as Dorcas calmed Moody as they walked out of the kitchen.
Lupin whispered something to James and he nodded. Suddenly, James and I were alone again. However, this time he was not comforting me and this time, he seemed frustrated and annoyed. I was a hassle for the Order now, they had to babysit me. My role as member seemed to be slipping and James seemed to be bearing the brunt of it. After all, he was truly the only one of them who could reason with me.
"We'll be back in the morning, Cora. Caradoc said you've not to worry about work for now but we can talk about it then." He walked over to the table and picked up his cloak. My eyes flickered between him and the wooden floorboards.
"Are you coming as my friend or as the Order?" It was almost a whisper but as James looked down at me through his glasses, I could tell that he had heard every word. "Because, I honestly don't think it's the Order I need right now." As my eyes glazed over with tears, I realised I had rendered James speechless. Maybe he didn't know how to be my friend anymore or maybe, he just didn't want to. Either way, he didn’t reply and he walked to the door.
"Try and get some sleep. Goodnight Cora." And with that, he was gone. Just like the rest of them.
Morning came quickly and I could feel the early sun warming my face as it creeped through the kitchen window. I had dozed off on the kitchen table a few times through the night but I was still as exahausted as I was before. There seemed no end to it all and as I brushed the hair out of my face, I could hear my brother moving about on the floor above me. It was only six thirty but I knew I had to get out of the house. I would go shopping or go and pick some flowers like my Mother would. I didn't care that I was a target for Death Eaters, I didn't care that my presence around the house was needed. I had to get out before my brother, father or the Order made an appearance.
Quietly as I could, I rushed up the stairs and into my room. A fresh change of clothes and a quick freshen up later, I was once again pulling on the black cloak I had been living in for the past few days. It seemed appropriate, it matched how I was feeling and it covered me up. Next door, my brother continued to shuffle about. Richard would probably hear me leave and he would probably get angry at me but I was doing nothing wrong. I couldn't stay in the confined space for any longer. I opened my bedroom door and stepped out. I had made it half way down the stairs before Richard appeared.
"Where are you going now?"
"I'll be back, Richard. I'll go and get something for lunch, we can talk then." I echoed James' words, promising to talk later hoping that it would have some effect. He stared at me for a moment, his eyes as heavy as mine and then nodded. I tried to smile as he turned away and headed back to his room. Relief flooded over me and at the same time, I felt predictable. I was running away again, just like Richard said I would.
I flooded to Diagon Alley this time, it seemed much less suspsious and spontaneous. My Mother always preferred flooing when she would go shopping and it seemed only right to do things her way. It was still early morning, the streets weren't bustling just yet and the noise of everyone beggining to set up shop was a distraction. Heading down the cobbled Alley, my mind suddenly returned to the one person who had not questioned me in the past few days. My thoughts turned to the mysterious Markus Dorment.
His actions puzzled me. The way in which he carried himself was simply alluring. I couldn't help but stare at him but then again, as he had chased me down these very cobbles away from the Leaky Caldron. I thought he was going to hurt me, kill me and yet all he wanted was to make sure that I was alright. That was more than what any other person had done for me since my Mother's funeral and he didn't even know my problems. He was simply kind and that scared me. What was in it for him?
I found my feet taking me towards Knockturn Alley. I had an sudden urge to find him and ask him the many questions floating through my head and it was the only place where I knew to find him. I had never been down that creepy alley before, when I was young my Mother always held my hand a little tighter if we had to visit the shops near it's entrance. I was willing to walk down somewhere for a man whom I had only met once, a man who had scared me and a man who had who I had met in a pub. I forced myself to stop.
What was I doing? Richard was right, I was always running away but Moody had a point too. I was always running in the wrong direction. I was a target now, I couldn't be running about with strange men on my own. Well, Markus wasn't exactly what you would call strange but the fact I knew nothing about him was concerning. I let him take me home, I let him see my weak side all because I couldn't afford my own drink. It was stupid and it was careless. Maybe I had done something like that before and that's why my Mother was now gone...
Walking away wasn't easy but I couldn't go exploring down into Knockturn Alley in hope that I might stumble upon the shop where Markus might be working in. I began to power walk my way back towards the top of Diagon Alley without stopping to get something for lunch or to even glance at the pretty flowers. I had to get back home, I had to stop running away and I had to avoid trouble or taking risks at all costs.