Chapter 1 : I
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Many thanks to KaityB for betaing this story for me! I hope you enjoy it - please leave me your thoughts in a review!
The castle is far too quiet.
The grounds, too, are silent, and you suspect that Hogsmeade has also fallen mute and the whole of Britain is holding its breath.
Nobody weeps for her. Had she any friends, they might have. But you were never one to dwell in what might have been. Nobody weeps for her.
Even the clouds, heavy with regret, glutted with misery, hanging low in the sky – even they do not weep for her. The world mocks her with its lack of tears – this fact does not escape you.
Nor have you failed to recognize that the inhabitants of the castle are merely passing this time – this minute, this hour, this day – until the specter of death is no longer an inconvenience in their lives. Until they can stop pretending they care about somebody so inconsequential. Until they can move along to fretting about their own mortality without having to care about being sensitive to hers.
That is why nobody weeps for her. After all, only a fool would waste tears on somebody who never existed.
And you wish that it would end, that somebody would scream to the heavens and shake the rain from the uncharitable clouds. But nobody does.
Nobody. Least of all, you.
Of course you do not cry. You never do – and certainly not for her. Not even as her limp body is carried past you, down the ancient steps, borne away in the direction of Hogsmeade, where she will be Apparated home.
Surely her mother will cry for her. There must be some justice in the world. And if her father, off fighting a Muggle war, manages to return home safely, surely he will shed agonized tears over her grave.
But not you – you who stand here and watch stoically as your solitary secret is swept away from the castle. The earth is impassive – no wind to send ripples across the surface of the lake or cause the trees to tremble and sway – almost as if it takes its cue from your expression. But whether it imitates you out of respect or out of spite – that, even you cannot tell.
If it were not for your duties, would you even be here? If it were not your job to keep the younger children inside and brush off the whispered inquiries of your classmates, would you be standing on these very steps, willing yourself to keep your head?
You’d like to believe that you would be. But even then – you know without hesitation – you would be here out of obligation. You suppose this might once have caused you to feel guilty; now you simply recognize it as truth.
Truly, you loved her. Even as she doubted; even as you suspected it went against your better judgment; yes, you loved her. You may not have worn it like a badge – that was never your way. You kept it very close, safe and secure. It was better that way, though she could not see.
"Minerva…? Sometimes I feel like even you don’t like me much."
"Don’t be silly, Myrtle."
"There you go again! That’s all I am, isn’t it? Silly and ridiculous and stupid. I know that’s what you think of me!"
Impossible girl, she couldn’t see three inches past her own insatiable envy to realize that there were bigger things at stake. You learned too late – were already in too deep – that nothing was more important than her own misery. What you could give would never be enough.
And so it went, until you finally began to wonder if you no longer wanted to give.
"You’re always too busy, Minerva! Studying and Prefect duties and Dueling Club and – "
"You wait, Myrtle, until you’re studying for your NEWT’s, and see exactly how much spare time you have then."
"It’s not like you’ll be around then, anyway, will you?"
And you grieve, of course, though they do not see it. This is how it’s always been; this is how it should be.
But do you grieve? You feel that something is amiss – but do you suffer?
Having never known grief, you assume this must be it. Being controlled as you are by your mind, you’ve come to expect the reactions of your heart to be muted. This must be grief…
So why is relief washing over you like a relentless storm? Why do you feel like you can breathe freely once again?
These are not the symptoms of a soul in mourning; your every sigh is not a lamentation. Though the anger and fear that have settled over this school have touched your heart as well, through it all there is a calm upon your spirit. Where you, of all people, should feel turmoil, instead you harbor a grim sense of peace.
You shouldn’t – you know you shouldn’t. You should mourn; your insides should cringe with despair. But you have already forgotten what there was to mourn in the first place. You remember, vaguely, clandestine meetings, silent sighs, interlocked fingers – and you, who have always erred on the side of logic, allowed yourself, for once, to err in favor of emotion. Allowed yourself to be fettered by another’s need.
Whatever the beginning may have held, it was fleeting, until you were nothing but a prisoner of your own promises. But why? You’ve never been able to answer that: why you never threw off your shackles.
It presents itself to you now – no, in truth, you knew it all along –
She needed you. And that was what you wanted…or so you thought. You craved importance, control; but your reputed cleverness didn’t extend far enough to realize when your dominance became subservience.
How can you mourn your own freedom? – You cannot. Indecent as you may be for your lack of grief, repulsed as you are by your own coldness, you feel as though you’re truly breathing for the first time.
You owe her your tears, perhaps…but you will not weep.
Her body is gone now, the final evidence of a love that never existed. Your face remains impassive as you usher the last of the gawking students through the heavy doors, and nobody will ever be the wiser. This is the way it was always meant to be.
Noise assaults your ears as you enter the castle, the silence abruptly ended as though a Silencing Charm has been lifted. They speak in whispers louder than thunderclaps; the movement of feet along the stone corridors and the creaking of door hinges grate against your consciousness like dull knives.
Above it all rises a soft whimper, a low moan, a subdued sob – all the sounds that separated you from her – they follow you up staircases and down corridors and into the sanctuary of your dormitory. In a moment of irrational panic, you wonder if she knows – somehow – of your newfound freedom and is registering her displeasure. You cannot shake the sounds from your head, and you fear that you may be going mad.
Drawing the curtains around you, you listen as the sky opens and pours out the tears it has hoarded for lord knows what reason. Distant thunder rolls ever closer as raindrops assail the windowpanes.
And above the din, you can still hear a distant, familiar wail.
Perhaps, you think, this is grief. It will subside after one restless night. Because there is nobody left to weep – no tears to be shed, and nobody to shed them. And so you pull your covers over your head and fall into a fitful sleep.
You have not yet realized that the haunting has just begun.