31st August 2019: Seb
Hearing the word 'family' actually made me shudder. The only time we seemed to use it was when the parents decided that we needed to 'get to know each other again'. It was just a pretentious way of saying 'Let's try and appear somewhat normal to everyone else, shall we?', though I seemed to be the only one that could see that. My brothers were perfectly happy to get in the car, the only Muggle invention worth having, and sit on a mossy, damp hillside eating stale food and freezing to death in the unwelcoming Scottish climate. The only people in support of me were my senile grandmother and eight-year-old sister, and they weren't much of an argument, really. So, every year, without fail, I got dragged with them as we painted the picture of perfection for nobody in particular.
The only other time that it could be applied was our trek to London to send me off to school, and that was merely to show off our pureblood lineage. As we packed our stuff off to the inn in Knockturn Alley that we usually stayed in, I pondered which was worse: school or home. At school, I had just myself. I didn't need to worry about anything or anyone else, but it was boring and unchallenging. At home, I had the constant company of three irritating brothers, but then my grandmother and sister, who were the only reason I was still living at home. It was a close call. Family probably won the fight, just for the falsity that shrouded us like a strait-jacket.
I was forced into a room with my most tolerable brother, Alexander. Unlike the others, he'd learnt not to argue to me and to keep to himself. We rarely exchanged a word between us which suited me down to the ground. He clambered into bed at ten and I waited until he'd fallen asleep before making my way into the bathroom.
I ran a tired hand through my hair, shaking my head so it fell back into place messily. I gripped the edge of the sink and leant closer to the mirror. My eyes hosted their usual shadows from lack of sleep and I stifled a yawn. It was far too early to be going to bed. I made my way back to the bedroom and took a book from the top of my trunk. In the moonlight that was seeping through the dust ridden curtains, I began to sink deeper into the role of Germany in the Goblin Rebellion of 1769.
My tiredness clearly was heavier than I'd thought because the next thing I knew, it was seven o'clock and I was wide awake. Alexander was still asleep in the neighbouring bed, and I was still dressed. I shook off my clothes, stuffing them into my trunk and showered quickly. Even when I re-emerged, he was snoring gently. I threw on the cleanest set of clothes that matched and cast a disapproving glance at my brother, mouth wide open, a pool of saliva stretched across the pillow. Vile.
No surprise, when I got downstairs, my father and youngest siblings were already awake. Mother wouldn't be rising for at least another hour and a half, when she would then rant and rave for not waking her sooner and start her fussing. Chances were they'd try and leave my grandmother there. They'd been constantly trying to offload her onto Mother's other siblings for the past fourteen years to no avail. Mother wanted the house and she got the baggage that came with it.
"Morning Sebastian," my dad said, his voice far too cheery for the time of day that it was. Juliana, blonde hair tied in a long ponytail down her back, got up from our father's lap. As I took a seat, she plopped herself down on me, glowering at Father who evidently was not comfortable enough for her. I pulled her back into me, helping her bring her breakfast closer. Why we all had to come, I'd never understood. It was far too much hassle.
I took a necessary bite of toast to prevent any fussing from my far too-overprotective father, who was just one of those awful people who are just nice
. No-one should ever be described as nice after the age of ten. It was sickening. Once I'd politely and pointedly chewed, I gave Juliana a shove to tell her to get off me and wandered to the door.
"Where are you going?" Father demanded. I turned and reached into my pocket. Before I could pull the box of cigarettes out, he waved a hand. He disapproved, naturally, but had no ability to stop me. He only asked that I not broadcast it before the family. Seemed to think they idolised me or something in his naive delusion.
I slunk outside into the morning September sunlight. It came down harshly on the road, bouncing off windows at strange angles and casting eerie shadows over the cobbled walkway. I leant against the mangy wall, careful to avoid the threatening looking plant that was growing out of the brick, and lit up my first cigarette of the day. The smoke embraced me in a tight cloud and I rested one foot back on the wall, leaning my head back against my support.
"Seb?" Jules' voice broke my peaceful silence and I glanced down. All of the others knew I smoked, despite Father's meek attempts at hiding my habit. She leant next to me, looking up as though I were some idol of hers. Not far from the truth, really, given that she hated Father's over protectiveness with a passion and Mother can't stand to be near her for long. It probably sums her up well to say that she absolutely delights in picking fights with her eight-year-old daughter.
"What?" I asked her, upon realising that neither of us had spoken a word. She chewed her lip then opened her mouth a little before closing it. Her arms, tiny, crossed over her chest and she spoke firmly and frankly.
"Have you ever been in love?"
I nearly choked. She looked curiously up at me, green eyes gleaming with anticipation.
"No," I replied, "and where've you had that nonsense from?" I didn't really need an answer; probably one of those Muggle fairytales that Father insisted on reading to her. Ridiculous, really. All of them. She either didn't hear me or chose to ignore it.
"Why not?" she demanded, eyes narrowing to slits. "Have you never had a girlfriend?" I sighed. I couldn't tell an eight-year-old that the seventeen-year-old brother that she idolised had never gone further than make-out sessions in empty classrooms.
"One," I lied. It could have been one, it should have been, if I'd had my way. I felt the scowl of contempt painting itself on my lips and tried to disguise it behind a hand. "Just the one and no, I didn't love her. She wasn't a nice person."
Just saying the word made me want to vomit. It was, naturally, a complete lie. Grace had been one of the kindest people in the year. It hadn't been her fault, nor mine. Fate – that's what some people might believe. Bad luck was more up my street. I put my cigarette out on the wall and turned.
"Come on, let's be getting in." The sun may have been shining but there was a chill to the air. She obeyed and, through the final cloud of smoke, we returned to the family.
It never took us long to get ready. We were at the platform half an hour early, same as usual. Spying a cloud of red, Mother dragged us to the far end of the train, muttering about 'blood traitors' and 'false heroes'. My grandmother kept shooting glares behind her, and perhaps it was only Mother's firm grasp on her forearm that prevented her from turning around and saying something.
I was forced into loading the trunks onto the train, my mother complaining of a bad back and my father too pathetic to be able to do it alone. As soon as the last one, belonging to Stephen, who was starting school this year, was loaded, I walked to head off.
"Sebastian!" I cringed. My father was right behind me and I turned to glance at him. He insisted on using my full name, despite my intense hatred of it. I followed him to a relatively empty part of the platform and dug my hands deep into my pockets, looking at him expectantly. "Now, Sebastian," another horrid habit he had – adding your name to every sentence in case you've forgotten it, "are you okay?" I knew it. I bloody knew it. That was all he wanted: to know if I was all right.
“I’m fine.” It came out a little harsher than usual and I noticed him cower a little. Being almost half a foot taller than him, it wasn't unusual.
“I have been meaning to talk to you, Sebastian.” I looked at him expectantly, trying to look as interested as possible and failing miserably.
“I think you need to start looking at what you want to do next year. You only have one year left at Hogwarts, Sebastian. You have no idea what you want to do with your life. Don’t you think you should be out there, looking?” I shrugged. He was right: I had no idea what I wanted to do. Seventeen isn’t an age that a person should have to make such a big decision. He sighed.
“Honestly, Sebastian.” I knew he was thinking that if it were Alex or Stephen in my position, they’d have made their choices by now and be well on the way to achieving their goals. “Do you have to be so indifferent to everything?” Although his voice was as boring as ever, it did seem to have an edge to it as he said it. Something new: desperation? Annoyance? Anger? It summed everything up so perfectly. Had he never heard of the saying ‘The opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference?’ Maybe then he’d understand. I yearned to say it, just get it over with, but I opted for a shrug. His nostrils flared slightly.
“What I am trying to say to you, Sebastian,” I cringed, “is that I can offer you a job as an Obliviator in my department, if you would like to accept it. You will start from the bottom. I will not give favouritism just because you are my son. There is a genuine opening for next September," he explained. I tried not to look as horrified as I felt inside. Working with my father would be a fate worse than death. "At least promise me that you will consider it.” I looked down at him and sighed.
“Whatever. I’ll think about it.” I could at least pretend to show a mild interest, just to get him off my back. He seemed satisfied with this answer and nodded slowly, the silver in his moustache glinting in the sunlight. "Can I go?" He nodded slowly and I dismissed the disappointment radiating from his expression without a second thought.
I hunted down the rest of the family swiftly. I gave my mother an obligatory kiss on the cheek then let my grandmother envelope me in her surprisingly strong grip. She gave me a hurried kiss then shooed me away, returning the dissatisfied glower to her wrinkled visage. I said goodbye stiffly to my father and Jonathan, my youngest sibling, who was clutching Mother's hand and looking at me with some trepidation. Juliana was at my father's side. I held my arms out and she jumped up at me, burying her head in my neck. I kissed her cheek and set her down.
"I'll see you soon," I promised, though as usual, I would not see them until I had to. Next summer. I pulled myself onto the train, finding a seat amongst some quiet looking third-years and picked up the book that I had been reading the night before.
When the train left the station, I felt nothing. This year was going to be no better than those before it. It was just another year of learning things that I didn't need to be taught, sitting through meals that needed to be eaten and wondering how I could get out of it all with my sanity.