A/N: Last line credited to Richard Bach (also part of the chapter title).
I sigh as the carriage trundles away from Hogwarts, twisting in my seat to get a last glimpse of the castle. This is the last time I will be seeing it. It seems strange, to think like that - it's been my second home for so long, I can hardly bear to believe it. But it's true, and as the carriage rounds a corner, the school is lost from sight and I am forced to turn back around and face the others in my carriage.
You are not here, of course. You haven't been anywhere near me for months. Since April, in fact.
It was a warm day for April - it felt almost like summer. The sun was out, and there were plenty of students out on the grounds, studying or doing homework, having a laugh or dipping their toes into the lake. I was revising for Ancient Runes, myself. Exams were two months away, but it was never too early to start.
You weren't with me - I assumed you were up in Gryffindor Tower, your reasoning being it would be easier to concentrate. Without the sunlight, you would be able to complete your homework. Without the other students, you would have no fun. It's not like you weren't a fun person, but I thought, sometimes, that you became an entirely different person in my company. I had never heard stories of you having fun, or laughing, or doing anything risky. But you made a bet with me on the Ravenclaw versus Gryffindor Quidditch match the year before - that was risky. You won, but that was wasn't a guarantee. You laughed when I was around. You smiled. You smiled without me, but that wasn't happiness, I don't think. That was pride.
I was lying on the grass, enjoying the sunshine and trying to remember the difference between two runes that were similar in look, but very different in meaning. Occasionally, I wished that people back in the day had been a bit clearer. Your shadow darkened the page I was pouring over, and I looked up, a grin forming as I saw who it was. I called your name, said hello, but you didn't smile back, and my own faded as I noticed. What had gone wrong? Had your brothers been giving you crap again? I opened my mouth to ask you, but you held up a hand, scuffing your left shoe on the grass before you spoke.
You wanted to concentrate on your NEWTs. You couldn't have a girlfriend, because you needed to get as many NEWTs as you could to get a good job in the Ministry. You were sorry - you didn't want to hurt me. Once you got a job, perhaps we could try again, you said. I was dumped for grades.
I know you weren't - and still aren't - perfect. I know that you have trouble living up to the expectations people have of you. I know that sometimes, the concept of living for the sake of living is foreign to you. But that doesn't matter - I still want you. I wouldn't have interfered with your studies; I am - was - a Ravenclaw, I knew how important they were. I was trying to get good grades too. Once this carriage stops, after the train journey ends, after I get home, I'm going to enter a Potions intership and become a Potions mistress. That requires good grades - grades I got. You leaving me wasn't necessary, and if you would just look at me, I could tell you. I could tell you you have been forgiven, and that I want to be your girlfriend again. You don't, though. You haven't since April.
I glance at my companions for the journey to Hogsmeade station. All three are my friends, but I don't feel like talking. This journey is one for remembering. The world changes when we get to King's Cross station. It becomes bigger, scarier, more complicated. So I cling to my memories as some invisible force pulls the carriages closer to change. To an end, of sorts.
I can still remember the beginning. Not the beginning of my time at Hogwarts - though I can remember that too - but the beginning of us. It was after a prefect meeting, and I had misplaced a book. As the room slowly cleared, it was only you and I left, once the Head Girl had given me a nod and a smile and departed. You coughed awkwardly and I looked up, smiling at you because there was a blush on your cheeks that I couldn't help but be amused by. You were nervous, that was for sure.
You asked me if I fancied going to Hogsmeade with you on the coming Saturday, and I said yes. It wasn't because I fancied you then - I hadn't really noticed you, to be honest. I knew your name, and I knew your house, but that was the extent of my knowledge. I said yes because I didn't think it would do any harm, and it obviously meant a lot to you. The blush on your cheeks said so.
I wasn't sure what to expect when we met at the gates to go to the village. I had asked my friends - the very ones that sit with me in the carriage as we approach Hogsmeade station - if they had heard anything about you, and they said, after asking around themselves, that you were apparently a stuck-up git who was too pompous for your own good.
I didn't have high hopes.
You surprised me, to be frank. You weren't what I expected - kinder, friendlier. The pompousness showed occasionally, but not often, and I found myself enjoying the time we spent together. The end of the day came too quickly, so I asked you if we could do it again some time. The look on your face was like all of your birthdays had come at once. You agreed, and so that was that. The beginning.
The carriage pulls into Hogsmeade Station and everyone files out. The excitement makes the air buzz, almost, and I try to get one last glimpse of the castle to no avail. It's gone.
The train begins to movie, the occupants of the carriage and I in the same compartment. Someone starts a game of exploding snap, but I don't join in. You and I had a game of exploding snap, once. I won, and you didn't play it again.
I should be patrolling the train, as my last Prefect duty. There are enough prefects, though. No one is going to do anything too stupid on the way home - and besides, how would we punish them?
If you could see me shirking my duties, what would you do? You would tell me off, as Head Boy. You would probably say you were very disappointed. But you don't, because you don't see me.
We used to meet after our Prefect duties were finished - not after curfew, of course, but whenever we could. We would talk for hours, or sneak into abandoned classrooms and kiss, careful for no one to find out. I didn't care who found out - I had told my friends - but you were adamant that your brothers could not know you had a girlfriend. That was all well and good until your sister caught us once, mouth hanging slightly open in shock as she saw what was behind the door she had just opened. I laughed, but your face went pale, and you begged her not to tell. The idea that you could have been afraid of your younger brothers made me laugh more, and you frowned at me after your sister left, telling me that it wasn't a laughing matter.
Was anything a laughing matter?
The time we were stuck in the rain in Hogsmeade and had to run through the park, splashing through puddles and getting soaking wet was a laughing matter. Well, for you it wasn't, but it was for me. Once we fell over and you got mud in your hair, I couldn't help myself, and could hardly look at you without giggling. The serious expression you wore was made comical by the fact that mud kept dripping onto your nose, and in the end you smiled, almost letting out a chuckle yourself. Whoever said laughing was contagious was right.
I made you laugh other times, too - the time I imitated one of your brothers, the time I pretended I was Scottish, the time I pretended I was from Germany... I have quite a knack for accents, and you found that amusing. Even when I made fun of teachers your disapproving look was only a cover for a laugh you dearly wanted to let out. You never did, though. You were a prefect and a Head Boy, and you couldn't disrespect the teachers like that. Of course you couldn't.
The train chugs along, moving ever closer to London. It would be so much easier if I got off before London and made my own way home, but the Hogwarts Express only has one stop. I've seen you in the Ministry cars sometimes; you can drive to London. I have to stay overnight at the Leaky Cauldron if no one can get me there by side-along apparition. I wonder if your house is nice. Does it have a picket fence and a pretty garden? It must be huge, to house all those siblings. I've never seen it - you wouldn't let me come over during the holidays. You were afraid.
I have a book on my lap, but I'm not going to read it. I stare out of the window instead of at the yellowing pages, admiring the lush green countryside. It's a pretty view, I have to admit, and I'm sure I'll see it again some day. It won't be on a train, though. Perhaps I can fly here, hovering over the fields and finding out how different they look from above. There's a shriek from outside and I get up, opening the compartment door and sticking my head out to see who is making the racket. It's a Fifth Year, shouting at what I can only assume is her boyfriend. From what I hear before I cut her off and tell her to go back to her compartment, he cheated on her. You never cheated on me - I was certain of that. You may have had many faults, but that wasn't one of them.
My friends thought I was stupid for going out with you. They said you were all manners of things, and none of them were complimentary. They said you were boring, that you were too ambitious and uptight to have any fun. I didn't take heed of their words, but I could see where they got their ideas from. You weren't the kindest person. Everyone has their faults, though; I wasn't the kindest either. I am still not. I would be kind if that helped, though. If I were kinder, would you come back? You didn't after our exams were finished, though we had two whole weeks of school after that. You wouldn't even glance my way during Prefect meetings, despite the fact that I always kept an empty seat on one side of me.
I look back to see I have an empty seat beside me now, given one of the occupants of the carriage disappeared to do...well, I have no idea, given I haven't been paying any attention. This is the last time I could be seeing any of my friends for who knows how long, and I should be talking to them. But I don't.
The scenery changes outside, and it's clear we're approaching London. I sigh and turn away. I don't want to see the approach of King's Cross and the end of the journey. But it comes, and I can't help wishing that the train wouldn't stop as it slows down, approaching the station. If it went long enough, you might come and find me, wouldn't you?
No, you wouldn't. I need to stop thinking like that. But I want you. I want you back, I want you here, I want you anywhere. I pick up my trunk and file out, stepping onto the platform as other Seventh Years start crying and hugging people goodbye. I hug friends, but I don't cry. Crying has never been something I have done often.
I see my parents waiting by the barrier, and I wave, dragging my suitcase towards them. I won't keep wishing - after all, will we ever see each other again? I don't think so.
And what a caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly, after all.
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