Chapter 28 : Unwelcome & Unforeseen.
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“Today this could be, the greatest day of our lives
Before it all ends, before we run out of time”
- The greatest day of our lives, Take That
I’d always assumed that when you were approaching the last few months of your life everything would slow down to give you time to think and really relish every last second. Then again, I’d also thought that four months before the end of my life I’d have achieved something, be growing up and actually able to give people decent advice. Instead I was still the same old Mary (maybe with a few differences I suppose) and I still couldn’t stand myself of the situation I was in. Wasn’t there supposed to be some kind of acceptance and then some sort of peace?
I guess that’s the irony of life though because in no time at all I’d managed to lose three weeks and now I only had three and a half months left – funny. Bloody hilarious in fact.
One second the snow was everywhere, the next it was melted and we were stuck in detention, and the next we were all on the train to London, and Christmas was like... three days away. All my time had either been spent in class, with Becky, with Sirius or stuck in detention and the four things combined had sucked away another great big portion of my life, which I wasn’t going to get back. Three entire weeks gone, just like that.
I could barely bring myself to regret any of it though, because I’d been much happier than I had in ages... it was just shocking to suddenly find yourself face to face with Christmas when you’d thought that you had so much more time than you actually did. Then of course I came crashing back down to reality with a thump, and it hurt. More than I’d expected really. I suppose that’s the thing about comfort, when you end up being turfed off the sofa and have to sit on the stone floor instead, it always feels a lot worse than sitting on the floor had at first.
Now I was searching my mind for notable things that had happened in the past three weeks (not many) and going through what symptoms I had and hadn’t got yet. I’d only started thinking about them now that I was sitting on the train on my own (by my own choice, I just needed some time to think), which was mostly because I’d been introduced to the bitchiest of the side effects – heavy/painful periods. Painful? It was making me will on the premature Menopause it was that freaking bad.
I was in a horrific mood that everyone had decided to comment on, which had been simply charming. I was so emotional that I nearly started crying when I saw this first year kid fall over (although I think the others thought I was crying with laughter, because everyone else found the whole thing hilarious). Then it hurt to move/sit/stand/walk so I was now lying on my front on the compartment bench thing, and muttering profanities every time the train lurched too much to one side. It wasn’t just my stomach that hurt either, but my back, legs and head (although I was blaming my headache on Christmas and going home). It wasn’t pretty, which might be why despite the full hour I’d spent in here on my own no one had come looking for me yet. Surely they should be worried about me though.
Sirius definitely should have come to look for me by now, and it wasn’t exactly hard, I was only two carriages away from where the others were, and every so often I could hear their muffled voices through the walls.
“Oh shut up,” I muttered, as I heard some small children making loud noises outside of the compartment and shrieking excitedly. “Go jump off the train and leave me in peace.”
I scowled into the wood of the bench and scrunched up my face. Why did this have to hurt so sodding much?
“I’d forgotten how charming you were,” a voice said, which made me jump (sort of... it was hard to jump whilst lying down). I pulled myself up wearily and I could have sworn it took twice the amount of effort than normal. My body felt very heavy, like I’d just put on ten stone and my muscles weren’t even strong enough to pull myself up.
“Black,” I muttered in acknowledgment, sitting up and looking at Regulus, who was sitting opposite me with his eyebrows raised. I would have been surprised but that required a lot more effort than I was willing to give. My mind was hardly in the mood to put much thought into things.
“How’s your hand?” he asked, and I realised with a jolt that he had exactly the same eyes as Sirius and his amusement was shown in exactly the same way. It threw me a bit to think that he was so similar and yet so freaking different at the same time.
“It recovered,” I muttered, looking down at my hand and seeing no sign that there had ever been anything wrong with it. Well, of course not, it had been three weeks ago or something stupid that I’d attempted to punch the idiot. Now I barely had the energy to lift up my hand and every limb felt like a dead weight that I was carrying around. Arghh, sodding terminal illness. Could it not just kill me quickly and be done with it?
I didn’t mean that.
“So did my face,” Regulus said, and he was even more amused by the whole thing now. “I came in while you were asleep by the way,” he explained, although I hadn’t even thought about it to be honest. I hadn’t even realised I had been asleep.
“Why are you here?” I asked wearily, pulling up my feet and hugging my knees tight to my stomach to ease the pain slightly. It didn’t help much.
“Snape gave me a message for you.”
I froze and suddenly felt much more awake and more crap at the same time. My muscles tensed involuntarily and I gripped my legs tighter to my chest.
“He said he hasn’t forgotten.”
For a second I felt some form or relief and my body relaxed again before I realised how much the prat was messing with my mind. I was letting him have this power over me and really I should just pretend that I didn’t care and then he couldn’t use it against me. I was just so sensitive about that particular knowledge getting out – even the thought made me feel nauseous.
Then I felt angry.
“Well you can tell him that he’s a bloody fu-”
“Not that I understand much of the situation, but I have grasped that it might not be in your best interest for you to have me relay that message back to him,” Regulus said, smirking; it was so familiar but so wrong on his face. I didn’t know what to make of the whole thing. Regulus seemed to be a lot more slippery and disengaged than Sirius did, but maybe that was because I was biased and Sirius was more engaged with me because well, we were dating (well... we’d been on half a date because then we had to go Christmas shopping so we all went together as a group and kept splitting up. Sirius had been late and then we’d waited an hour for lunch at some cafe before giving up because we had to go meet the others. Then it turned out that the waitress was his ex girlfriend and she chucked our food in the bin because she thought it would be funny, and we still got charged for the meal – well Sirius did because he insisted on paying. Then he’d got really mad and acted like a twat. So really, it hadn’t been much of a date in all honestly).
“I suppose you’re going to blackmail with me that then,” I snapped, and Regulus smiled a little bit more. I hated Slytherins a lot now that I actually had a perfectly good reason to.
“I’m too tired for your games today thanks.”
“I thought you liked playing with Blacks,” he smirked, and I scowled a little more in his direction. I hated the way he referred to Sirius like that, it made me want to punch him again (that would involve moment though, so it probably wasn’t going to happen on this occasion). “I was going to simply ask you for advice.”
“Then I’m going to simply refuse. I assume Snape has some kind of plan for the shit he has on me otherwise he would have already told anyone. He’s waiting for something so I’m afraid your blackmail material is worthless,” I told him, thinking about getting up and leaving but deciding better of it – I was very tired. Plus once the idiot realised he couldn’t use me to get what he wanted (whatever that was, I’m not sure I really wanted to know) he’d leave me to be unhappy and miserable in peace. That was the plan anyway.
“You’re forgetting what happened to Rachel’s Dad.”
The weight of his words fell over the compartment. I looked up at him in shock and felt myself shaking slightly. Every muscle tensed up again and I suddenly couldn’t breathe with panic. Sirius had assured me that his parents would not find out, and if they did he’d play it down and act as if he didn’t care about me in the slightest (then he’d assured me that he didn’t actually care, which had made me cringe). Regulus could quite easily come out with it, and they were hardly going to believe Sirius’s word over his.
He was threatening to get my Dad, and probably my whole family, killed.
This was so screwed up and it sent my head spinning round in circles.
“I can make sure that neither of my parents find out about you being my brothers newest toy, thus keeping you and your family perfectly safe, and then I promise I’ll never speak to you or ask anything of you ever again,” he continued, with his voice lighter and more natural. It was almost as if it had been as hard for him to say as it had been for me to hear. Maybe his words were completely empty. He was fifteen – how could he actually do something that he knew would kill real live people; someone’s parents? He wouldn’t actually do it.
It was hardly worth the risk though.
“What do you want?” I asked slowly, feeling my insides tightening up with fear as he spoke. My voice was shaking slightly and it was all I could do to stop myself from bursting into tears or throwing up. I really couldn’t deal with something as serious as this – I was only sixteen for Merlin’s sake. How could my family’s lives be in my hands?
It was that second when I decided that anything he asked me to do I definitely would do it. How could I not? If he asked me to dump Sirius and fall out with all the others I would. If he asked me to jump off the train I would. If he asked me to tell everyone my secret than I freaking would.
“Advice,” Regulus repeated. “About Marlene,” he finished, and my eyes widened in shock and relief. My body relaxed a little bit more but I was still so full of tension that I couldn’t breathe properly. All he wanted was relationship advice. Shit.
“I want her back,” he said, and for a second he looked nervous that I’d refuse and leave him looking like an idiot. He was never going to have done it. The look on his face said it all and I allowed myself to relax completely again.
“Sure,” I muttered, and pulled myself into a tiny ball. I could do relationship advice to an extent.
I was still shocked though that a fifteen year old could threaten to have my whole family killed, for a bit of advice. That was scary and really sad at the same time. Is this really what Sirius must have grown up with? What he was going back to and had to suffer through all Christmas?
No wonder he didn’t seem so fond of the idea.
“Mary!” Alice said happily as I came into the compartment we had all been sat in originally, until I left to ‘go to the toilet’ about two hours ago. She was playing exploding snap with Frank Longbottom, but otherwise the compartment was completely empty of people, which was weird considering how cramped it had been when I’d left (considering that eight of us had decided to share a compartment). “Do you wanna play?” she asked, and I shook my head, which hurt a lot so I stopped. I stood up on the bench to pull a vial of painkiller (thank Merlin for Daniel McKinnon) out of my trunk and downing it before sitting down. My head was pounding, everything hurt and my conversation with Regulus hadn’t made me any happier. In fact I’d been forced to actually stop at the toilets on the way back to throw up my breakfast.
I was debating whether I should tell Sirius about our little chat or add it to the list of things I was choosing not to tell him. Neither sounded like a good idea.
“You look so pale,” Alice said, glancing at me worriedly.
“Oh shut up,” I snapped at her, a little more violently than I intended. “It’s not my fault I’m practically allergic to the Sun.”
I’d been acting like this all day so she didn’t seem too perturbed by my complete bitchiness and ignored my answer completely. “Sirius and the others are playing some prank or something. He should be around if you -”
“We’re not frigging attached you know. I can last for over five seconds without his company, if you can call it that,” I muttered, collapsing down onto the bench to find that it was much more uncomfortable than I expected. “Where’s Lily?” I asked after a few moments of silence.
“She went after James,” Frank said, playing his card carefully.
“To apologise,” Alice added. “About half an hour ago. I bet they’ll be dating in a week. Frank reckons a month.”
“It will probably be four months,” I said bitterly, and Alice looked slightly confused. I decided it was best not to elaborate and clutched my head as my brain pounded against my skull. “I fucking hate Christmas.”
Then of course, to add the cherry on top of the cake of shit, the game of snap exploded at the same time the door burst open and my brain fell out of my head (at least that’s what it felt like).
“Nice entrance,” Sirius concluded as they stood framed in the doorway like some kind of group of super heroes, but without the Lycra outfits or James (who I assumed was talking to Lily).
“Sodding hell. Is the noise necessary?” I asked with my eyes shut tight and my hands still clutching my stomach.
“Hello sweetie,” Sirius mocked, sliding down to sit beside me. I ignored him and kept my eyes squeezed shut to block out the light. “You missed me?” he asked. He was in a good mood, a very good mood considering he was practically begging for attention like some over excited dog.
I pushed him away as he attempted to invade my personal space bubble and then he seemed to give up and talk to the others instead about some amazing prank they’d just pulled off or something.
“The best thing is we can’t get into trouble for it!” Sirius proclaimed excitedly. I guess I couldn’t blame him for blowing off some extra steam considering what he was going to be stuck with for the next week. Plus the painkiller potion was beginning to take effect now and my head merely ached rather than bloody killing me slowly, so I decided to open my eyes again and rest my head on his chest as he talked. “Because there’ll be no proof by the time we get back,” Sirius added, curling his arm around my shoulders and resting his chin on top of my head. It felt like he was protecting me from everything else in the world.
“We could still get into trouble,” Remus reasoned.
Sirius looked down at me seriously and ran his fingers over one of my cheeks. “You okay?” he asked quietly, and I nodded pathetically, even though we both knew it wasn’t true. He pulled me into his lap a bit more and I wrapped my arms around his shoulders and buried my head into neck. He put his arms around me comfortably and carried on talking to the others but a little quieter. I could feel his chest expanding as he breathed in and out, and his heartbeat through his skin. I closed my eyes again and let myself drift off away from the compartment into sleep.
“Mary,” Sirius nudged me softly. “Mary. You need to wake up,” he said, and I found myself clinging to the sleep I’d been immersed in, but instead someone poked me quite viciously and I snapped my eyes open.
“I hate you Lily Evans,” I spat at her angrily, and she rolled her eyes. I was very comfortable in Sirius’s lap and wondered how long I’d been asleep for.
“We’re nearly there,” Lily said in explanation.
Bloody hell. I must have slept for hours. It’s a good job Sirius hadn’t needed the loo or anything. Still, my head felt clearer and the pain in my stomach had faded slightly so that now it was merely uncomfortable and annoying rather than being so painful that I couldn’t function.
“I have everyone’s presents although you’re not allowed to open them till Christmas!” She pulled out a bag and began passing presents around. They were all wrapped up perfectly in paper that had moving Santa sleighs and twinkling stars. “Alice, Remus, Sirius, Mary, and one for Becky, which you can give her, Frank, Peter and... James,” she said, as she handed them to each person. The Marauders looked surprised that she’d got all of them presents. Money wasn’t exactly plentiful in Lily’s household and I knew how much personal stuff she must have sacrificed to buy them all something. “It’s not much,” she assured them.
“My turn,” I declared, to try and move past the awkwardness. I pulled out my own bag of gifts and handed them out. “It’s not all that great,” I told Sirius when I handed him his parcel. “I’m not very good at buying presents.”
He shrugged and shook it in the way that everyone does when they get a present. “I didn’t put my name on it either, so they won’t know who it’s from if they look.” Sirius pulled me back down onto his lap and wrapped his arms around me again in gratitude. I felt a lot better.
This set off a chain and suddenly everyone was giving each other presents. I noted the Marauders hadn’t given each other presents and I guessed that meant they were meeting up at some point in the holidays, or had already given them out. “Merry Christmas guys,” I said fairly quietly, and I’m sure no one but Sirius heard me, who just held me tighter.
“Sirius? Presents?” James asked, and Sirius nodded.
“You’re going to have to budge a second Mary,” he told me, and I got up and watched as he opened his trunk and pulled out two large parcels (I was pretty sure that his trunk had to be magical to fit them both in. “Alice and Lily,” he said, handing them over. They looked a bit shocked by the sheer size of what they’d been given and I couldn’t blame them. “I went all out this year,” Sirius explained. “I tried to spend as much money as I physically could.” Then he was zipping up his trunk again and sitting down.
What about me?
For a second the question was on the tip of my tongue but I held it back.
Still, my boyfriend hadn’t even got me a Christmas present. Sure, what I’d brought him was crap (some Zonko’s product he mentioned he was running low on) but at least I’d made an effort.
“Chill Mary,” James said, laughing at my expression.
“I tried wrapping yours up,” Sirius assured me as platform 9 ¾ came into view. “But it didn’t work,” he said, exchanging a look with the Marauders. “So you’ll get it when we get back to school. It’s safer there anyway...” Sirius said, raising his eyebrows slightly.
“What is it?” I complained, and the guys all just laughed.
“We’re here,” Lily exclaimed, jumping up and looking out the window for her parents. She’d obviously missed them a lot. “Right I have to go, our train leaves in a few minutes!” Lily said excitedly. I knew once we got back after Christmas she’d be complaining about her family like hell, but now all she wanted to do was get home. It was heart-warmingly sickening. “Right! Bye!” she said, yanking her bag down from the compartment and hugging everyone quickly, even accidently hugging James and then blushing – a lot. “I’ll write to you,” she assured me, before rushing out the door and disappearing.
“My dad hates it when I’m late,” Alice said as Frank pulled down her bag. James and Remus were pulling down the rest of them and everyone had suddenly become a lot chattier and louder as they all said goodbye.
“Merry Christmas,” Alice whispered as she bent down to where I was sitting to hug me.
“Sirius, mate, It’ll be okay,” James assured him seriously.
“I’ll miss you guys.”
“You know where I am,” James said to Sirius, before yelling goodbyes to all the others at stupid volumes, which made my head complain loudly.
I stayed sat where I was and watched as everyone left one by one. I glanced out the window and saw Lily throwing her arms round her mum and dad. I felt my eyes welling up slightly as I saw all these families and all this love everywhere on the platform.
Then it was just me and Sirius sitting in the compartment.
How had our entire relationship changed so much in one term? It had only been three months since the beginning of the year – it felt like a lot longer than that.
“So I’ve got to go,” Sirius said, not looking happy about it in the slightest. I found myself feeling a lot more attached to him than I’d realised I had been. “I’m sorry I didn’t get to see you properly today.”
“Or the day before,” Sirius admitted, and then he turned to look at me properly “Mary I...” Sirius stopped short and I felt myself feeling really awful for no reason. I didn’t want him to go. Two weeks is such a long time not to see someone, especially when you hardly have any life left and all I wanted to do was grab hold of his shirt and not let go of it till he agreed not to leave, write letters to me every day, and visit me at least six times during the holidays. “I...” Sirius began again, sitting so that as much of the length of our legs was touching as possible. “I’m really going to miss you,” Sirius said finally. “This isn’t making you cringe is it?”
“It’s more likely to make me cry,” I croaked, my throat tightening up at the thought. “I’m sorry; I’m just really...” I trailed off and hugged my arms around me tightly. I really didn’t want to say goodbye.
“Emotional,” Sirius finished, and I nodded, swallowing down a sob which threatened to escape. Sirius’ eyes were twinkling for a moment before he went back to the raw intense version of him that always completely stunned me and rarely appeared.
“I’ll think about you,” Sirius said, and I debated making some comment about undressing me in his head, but I kept my mouth shut and instead rested my forehead against his. Sirius brushed his nose against mine for a second so that our faces were closer than they had been in awhile. He lifted up his hand to my cheek and ran his fingers over my skin. “Merry Christmas,” he said, before closing the gap and pulling me in towards him.
I melted for a few minutes of bliss, in which I grabbed hold of his arm and squeezed it tightly. Sirius pulled away and looked down at my grip for a minute, seeming amused.
“You know I have to leave,” he said, and I shook my head, biting back the tears that were threatening to fall down my face, and holding on tighter.
Sirius easily lifted each of my fingers off my arm and smiled at me. “You are very emotional today,” he said, and I nodded feeling really vulnerable. “It’s a little bit scary if I’m honest.”
“Scary Mary,” I muttered. “It’s not my fault anyway. I didn’t ask to be female.”
“Well, I’m very glad you are,” Sirius assured me. “Time to go. Mummy dearest will be waiting.”
“Yeah,” I breathed, and reached up to kiss him again ever so lightly, before breaking away.
Sirius offered me his hand and pulled me up again. He paused to kiss my forehead. “Things will be better after Christmas,” Sirius assured me. “New year and all,” he added, and I knew it was more to comfort himself more than anything.
“Why does that make it better?”
“Because it’s new,” Sirius said, and I could tell he was struggling to come up with something.
“So if I grew a new body part, would that be good?”
“Depends whether it was a third breast or not,” Sirius smirked, and I rolled my eyes at him dramatically, which made him even more amused. What had I expected with a comment like that to be honest?
“I hate you,” I muttered.
“Nah, those two are perfectly adequate,” Sirius said, looking down at said boobs.
“That made me cringe,” I shuddered.
“I know, that’s why I said it.” He smirked, wrapping his arms around my waist and pulling me closer towards him again.
“You’re a prat.”
“But I’m your prat.”
“Stop it,” I said through gritted teeth.
“You know you love it,” Sirius grinned. Then we were kissing again. “I really really have to go,” Sirius said after another few minutes.
“Hmm...” I said distractedly, brushing a longer strand of Sirius’s hair out of his face.
“I don’t want to go,” Sirius added unnecessarily.
“I know,” I told him, reaching up to kiss him again. This time it was a proper kiss, which left me breathless when I broke away, and nearly made me cry for no reason. “See you later,” I said, and Sirius laughed slightly. We were still stood in the compartment with our bodies pressed up against each other. I knew the second he left I’d feel really lonely.
“Right. Last time. Bye,” Sirius said, and hugged me. “It won’t be long,” he said, and I buried my face into his shoulder and felt really vulnerable. I kissed his cheek then passed him his trunk so that he’d actually leave. This could go on for hours.
I turned back to look at the platform and saw how much the crowd of people had thinned since we’d started this long goodbye. When I turned around again I saw that Sirius had actually gone.
I wiped my eyes of the tears that were welling up and cursed myself for being so emotional and, dare I say it, sappy. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, because I was sure that normally I wouldn’t be so... well, emotional. I sighed and picked up my own trunk, and headed out to the platform, bracing myself for my family and Christmas.
Despite all my complaining I couldn’t deny the fact that it felt good to be at home again. It smelt different to Hogwarts and everything was so much smaller and compact that I didn’t feel quite so small. At our house all the spaces were filled up with photos that meant something to me, and it was all decorated how we wanted it to be (although I noticed that Karen had obviously added her input in the new hallway because my dad would not have chosen that). At Hogwarts everything was so freaking huge and empty so it was weird to downsize so drastically, but I really loved it.
My room was exactly how I’d left it – a complete tip – it was hard to believe that you could actually make that much mess, and I’d spent most of my first day at home tidying it up on my own. I knew I was being incredibly unsociable and I’d probably emerge by Christmas Eve (tomorrow!) and join in with the festivities and merriment, but this whole heavy period thing was still being a complete bitch, and it had hit me hard when I’d seen the fairy lines stuck up on our banister that this was my very last Christmas.
“Mary! Can you come down here a minute?” Dad’s voice yelled up the stairs, and I sighed and pulled myself up again from where I’d been organising my clothes into some form of order (and trying to make sure they were all actually in the wardrobe rather than all over the floor).
I glanced at myself in the mirror by mistake on the way past and caught a glimpse of my appearance. I’d pulled on my baggiest, warmest pair of jogging bottoms and one of my dad’s big woolly jumpers because it had been easier than unpacking or trying to find anything within the mess. Then to finish the look I’d scraped my hair back into a bun and had no make-up on whatsoever. It felt good though, not to care about what I had to wear or whatever because well... although I knew Sirius didn’t really care if I turned up one day wearing a dustbin bag, I’d feel a bit uncomfortable, and everyone in the world would be talking about it and whispers of ‘why is he dating that?’ or something on those lines would follow me round. Here no one knew me except for my family, and it wasn’t like I had much time to make new friends. So it didn’t matter in the slightest, and these clothes were comfy and warm.
“Mary?” Dad called again, sounding impatient. He probably thought I was being purposefully difficult for Karen, when really I didn’t have the energy.
“Coming!” I yelled, tucking a piece of hair behind my ears, and setting off down the stairs. “Yeah?” I asked, coming into the kitchen and seeing both Dad and Karen sitting and looking serious.
“Shut the door. Could you sit down please?” Dad said, like this was some sort of formal interview.
“Would you like something to drink?” Karen asked in the same formal tone.
“No, I’m fine,” I answered, sitting down at the breakfast table and looking at them both nervously. This whole thing was weird and I really couldn’t think of anything they could tell me – ‘we’re having another baby’ and ‘you’re dying’ were already taken and I was running out of ideas.
“Well...” Karen began when Dad didn’t talk. She trailed off and there were a few moments of complete silence where no one said anything. Then, thankfully, the doorbell went and I breathed a sigh of relief (I have an aversion to awkwardness remember?). “I’ll get that,” I said, standing up a split second before Dad did (I’d inherited that particular trait from him).
I exited the kitchen as quickly as I could, and opened the front door to find myself face to face with someone I barely recognised, but I could just about make out to be Charlie Malone. The twat who tried to get me to sleep with him for a bet over the summer. My eyebrows shot upwards and my cheeks flushed red as I realised what I was wearing. Bugger.
“Oh hi, you’re back,” Charlie Malone drawled and I realised three things in quick succession – he was really unattractive, his voice was very annoying and I wanted to punch him a lot. “And you’ve changed your hair colour. Trying to copy your step mum?” he questioned, and I just stood there with my mouth hanging open as I stared at him. It was just so surreal, the summer felt like a lifetime ago and a hazy memory but now here he was standing at my doorstep definitely three inches taller than he had been in the summer.
“No,” I spluttered, finally talking after staring at him for at least five minutes in complete shock. Of all the things, I had not expected this.
“Witty,” Charlie Malone said, raising his eyebrow. “Anyway, I’m having a new year’s party and you’re invited. You can bring some of your friends too,” he added, in a way that questioned whether I had friends or not. “Like eight till one at the village hall. Hope to see you, and your... friends there,” he said, turning away and walking back down our drive.
I suddenly realised that I hadn’t said anything and looked even more of an idiot now than I had at the end of summer. God, he probably thought that I still fancied him. I needed to say something – anything.
“Can I bring my boyfriend too?” I suddenly asked, and he turned back to me. His eyes trailed from my face down my hoodie-wearing, tracksuit-clad body, and smiled in an evil fashion.
“Sure,” he said, smiling at me in a sadistic manner. I smiled back and shut the door before realising that yes, I did have a boyfriend, which put him to shame, but unfortunately he was unreachable and definitely would not be allowed to go to a muggle party that was hosted by his half blood girlfriend’s muggle ex. I’d basically just dug my own grave because now he’d expect me to turn up with a boyfriend, or he’d think I made the whole thing up (which he probably would anyway). I swore loudly and blinked – why the hell did I have to ask that?
“Language!” Dad called from the kitchen, and I rolled my eyes exasperatedly. I’d have to ask James, Remus, Peter (maybe not) or maybe Jeremy to pretend to be my boyfriend for the night. Oh dear. Sirius was sure to be over the moon about that, especially as I couldn’t even ask him if he was okay with it before we went ahead with it. Would James even agree? Sirius would kill me if I got Jeremy to (which I didn’t doubt he would do if I asked him to). Arghh.
“Mary, we need to talk,” Dad said from the kitchen, and I rolled my eyes again and walked back in and sat down obediently. Of course my mind was no longer on whatever important issue was at hand simple because, well... what was Sirius going to think? Would he mind? Did it matter if he cared really, as it meant nothing? Except, well... it might take me snogging said pretend boyfriend to convince Charlie Malone that it wasn’t just a made up story. Well, for all I knew Sirius had his own fake Slytherin girlfriend to hide his relationship with me from his parents. Oh my God. What if right now Sirius was sitting there snogging some beautiful Slytherin girl and giving her green and silver roses to convince his parents not to kill him? God Mary, shut the hell up.
“We want to sell the house,” Dad said suddenly, and then of course I was paying attention in an instant. Sell the house? Sell the house!? Sell the only house I had memories of my mother in and move somewhere new with sodding Karen? Hello? What about mum, and what about no! She’d had enough influence in this house already with the whole painting the hallway yellow (mum could not stand yellow, period.), and now they wanted to move house completely? No way. I would not move. I would refuse.
“Sell the house?” My voice came out a little higher than I meant it to in my shock.
“Mary, now I know you have a lot of memories here. We all do,” Dad said softly. “But this year is going to be hard, and maybe it’s best to move away from some of the memories.”
“Oh,” I sighed softly, realising what they were talking about. I wouldn’t have to move, so that wouldn’t be an issue.
“I can’t lose my daughter and my wife in the same house that I bring my other kids up, I’m sorry,” Dad said, and it was the first time I’d heard him sound emotional in a while.
“It’s okay,” I said, realising that I meant it.
“We won’t move far. So we’ll still be able to visit your mum’s grave, and...”
“Mine,” I finished, realising how weird this conversation was. I was talking to my step mum about her visiting my grave, and a house that they’d all live in without me once I was dead and gone.
“We need to get a bigger house anyway,” Dad continued, his voice sounding stronger now. “Becky’s moving back in with after Christmas – rather than going back to Hogwarts. She’s got a lot better and now she needs to get back to the real world. Then there’s Ria and the new baby. We need a six bedroom house if we want to still have a spare for when people visit.”
We currently only had four bedrooms and I guess I could see why it would be such a problem. “If you really want we won’t move, but I really think it would be better for everyone. Especially Johnny and Becky.”
“That’s fine, good actually.” I smiled, trying to imagine other people moving into this house and living here not knowing that it once belonged to a witch and her family, and that two of them died whilst they were living in this very house. I wondered if I’d be able to watch that new family in our house when I was dead or if, like I’d always maintained, there would be nothing at all. “I think it’s a good idea. Just make sure you don’t paint anything lilac,” I said, and Dad smiled slightly. The only thing my mother hated more than yellow rooms were lilac rooms, they gave her headaches.
“Are you sure?” Karen asked, pulling herself and her large pregnant stomach up from her seat and waddling across the floor in the way that pregnant woman do towards the fridge.
“Yes. Although I do quite fancy a drink now – apple juice please.”
“I’m just going to check on Ria,” Dad said, smiling at me quickly before exiting the room and leaving us in peace.
“What’s it like being pregnant then?” I asked, and Karen turned to me and smiled brightly.
“Oh I just love it,” she gushed, and she suddenly seemed like a very different person to the one I had thought she was. “It’s just amazing to think that there’s a real life person there inside me,” she said, poking her stomach gently. “Only a few months to go now.”
She gasped in horror at what she’d just said. I smiled painfully and shrugged it off as if it didn’t matter. Still, her words repeated in my head over and over.
Only a few months to go now.
Hey, hope your holidays are going okay and your sister isn’t being too horrible. I’ve just found out that we’re moving house ,which I was pretty annoyed about as it’s my mum’s home, but I’ve accepted it now as we could do with the extra space, since we’re soon to be a family of seven (talk about excessive breeding). Anyway, I was busy tidying my room when this guy turns up at my door – I’m not sure if I told you about him – but basically he went out with me last summer as part of a bet to see if I’d sleep with him (which I didn’t). I didn’t exactly like him all that much, but he made me look like a freaking idiot. Well, basically, he turned up at my door and invited me and my friends to his new year’s party. Please come so that I don’t look even more pathetic (I also said I was bringing my boyfriend in a moment of extreme stupidity,and Sirius is stuck at his parents which means well... I need a fake boyfriend. You don’t have an attractive brother I don’t know about do you? Potential fake boyfriends – James Potter (Sirius would trust him), Remus (again), Pete (maybe not...), Jeremy Wood (Sirius would kill him, but he is boyfriendish material and he would agree), and Daniel McKinnon (lives locally and has proved himself to be willing, however is slightly stalkerish). Any other ideas would be welcome.
It’s Christmas Eve now and we’ve been playing stupid board games. I also visited Mum’s grave today and ran into Marlene and Daniel McKinnon who were visiting their Dad’s grave (which is next door to Mum’s). It was the first time I’ve seen Dad cry in years and years. We all went – Karen, Ria, Becky and all. Only two arguments so far (one Becky’s fault, one mine) so everything’s going pretty smoothly, but I bet you all the money I have (one and a half galleons) that tomorrow will be a complete disaster. Hope you’re having fun!
P.S. Can you send Mud (that’s my owl if you’d forgotten) on with Alice’s letter.
Hey, I’ll keep this short because I rambled a lot in Lily’s letter and it’s getting pretty late now. Basically I need you to come to this New Year’s party, so keep that night free please. It’s twenty five minutes till Midnight Mass now (we always go as my mum wanted us too)and I have to write letters to several more people before I can go and I really don’t want to be late. I’ll write to you again tomorrow I expect, thanking you for your lovely gift, but you probably won’t get this for a while ( I can’t remember where you live, but I’m pretty sure it’s not close). Anyway, please reply as soon as you can and invite anyone else you can think of as I need to look popular.
I bet you didn’t expect to get a letter off me right? Well, I’m sorry about that but I need you and the Marauder’s help. Remember that guy who dated me for a bet that I told you about? Well he invited me to his New Year party and to invite my friends, then I mentioned a boyfriend... So I need a fake/pretend boyfriend for this party as Sirius is unavailable. I hate to ask, I really do, but do you think maybe you or Remus could do it? I think Sirius would trust you most as you’re in love with Lily, and the other choices he wouldn’t be quite so pleased about I think (Jeremy Wood, Daniel McKinnon). Please think about it and help me out. Come even if you can’t help me out as it will make me look more popular at least. Merry Christmas!
P.S. Can you send on the other letter with the owl (his name is Dirt and he’s my family owl - don't ask why a muggle family has their own owl, it's a long story) or with your own owl. As I want replies as quickly as possible. Thanks.
Fancy helping me out on New Year’s Eve? Merry Christmas.
Mary (McDonald) x
I have more time than I thought before midnight mass so I thought I’d write you a letter even though I can’t send it. I’ll rip it up once I’m done I expect, but that means I can be completely honest. So it’s Christmas eve and I haven’t seen you in like two days, and I’m not going to lie and say I’m missing you that much because two days really isn’t very long and it’s been busy. I will say that I’m surprised how mushy we have become. I think it’s really disgusting. I can’t believe you’ve done that to me and it makes me quite angry. Especially as I know this won’t last long.
You are a complete jerk and you’ll get bored of me in a few weeks, which I know completely so I’m not going to let myself get attached, which means that I won’t have to tell you my secret. You see, I’m dying. That’s right, three and a half months left. I bet you didn’t see that one coming? Well neither did I, but I guess life’s just a bitch like that. Or a bastard, whatever way you prefer.
I picked up the letter and ripped it down the middle, crushing the pieces of paper and chucking them into the bin at the side of my desk and clenching my fists. Somewhere Sirius was stuck with is damn awful family whilst I was panicking over a stupid sodding party invite. I didn’t even know why I was angry anymore. At Sirius? Myself? Merlin knows and nobody cares. I gritted my teeth and threw every last piece of parchment into the dustbin before kicking the bin over so that the paper scattered over my carpet (which you could now see due to hours of cleaning).
“Midnight mass!” Dad called softly, as Ria, Johnny and Karen were asleep. He knocked on my door and stood in the door frame and looked over at me. “You’ve done a good job with the room,” Dad said, and I nodded, tears springing to my eyes.
This was my last ever Christmas, my last ever midnight mass, my last ever Christmas eve – slowly ticking past me second by second. Relentlessly ticking and moving forward, whilst I was stuck behind in some stupid rut that got uglier by the minute.
“Hey hey Mary Fairy, don’t cry,” Dad said, coming closer and standing in front of me awkwardly.
“I really love you Dad,” I said softly, stepping forwards and hugging him with all the strength my arms possessed. That was all it took really, one step and I was transported back in time to when I was young and could easily fit into his arms, and would do so daily. When had I last hugged my dad? When had we last had a real conversation? So much had changed and slipped away and it was time at least something moved forward apart from the time.
His fingers went up to my neck, like he’d always done when I was tiny, and it was instantly soothing.
“Come on now, there’s no need. Father Paul’s sermons aren’t that bad!” Dad said, and I let out a shaky laugh.
Maybe Sirius was right, maybe things were about to get better – but not because they were new, because things were going back to the old way and reversing themselves.
“Let’s go,” I said, stepping back.
It’s true that Christmas loses its appeal the older you get, although I had that process speeded up considerably by the untimely death of my mother, but it’s inevitable. Christmas isn’t that big of a deal anymore, except that it costs lots of money and causes lots of arguments. This year though something had changed, and for a few seconds on Christmas morning I felt a spark of the same old magic from years before.
“Mary,” Johnny whispered, and I opened my eyes wearily. Glancing at the clock I saw that it was seven and it vaguely registered in my mind that there had been a time when I would have taken a lot of self control to keep in bed till then on Christmas Day. Johnny obviously was still excited by the concept and seemed to be almost bouncing on his heels with glee – I bet he’d been awake for a couple of hours, willing the time to go a little faster, before deciding that seven was late enough for me not to kill him. “Merry Christmas!” he said excitedly, still in the same hushed voice. I pulled myself up a little bit and saw the box of presents stuffed in a cardboard box in the corner of my room – it had probably been there when I’d come back from midnight mass and just gone unnoticed.
“Come back in half an hour,” I muttered, rolling over and closing my eyes shut. Sometimes six hours of sleep just doesn’t cut it.
“But...” Johnny protested, but I was already drifting off again. I could vaguely hear his footsteps exiting the room and the door shutting behind him, and I buried my head further into my pillow and tried to grab the remnants of the dream I’d been having (about Lily’s cat and a black dog running around a field), but suddenly my body wasn’t tired and heavy anymore. Instead I was itching to get up and begin ripping open the coloured packages in that box. I opened my eyes and glanced over at the box and tried to weigh it up for size – there was more than last year, but a lot less than what we’d gotten when we were little in the years after Mum’s death. Actually, there was a lot. Loads in fact. All wrapped in shiny paper and sealed with sellotape.
Half an hour more sleep, then you can open them.
I closed my eyes and turned over, but suddenly the sleep my body craved was evading me completely and I couldn’t get comfortable in my bed (which was very different to the four posters at Hogwarts). I opened my eyes again to find that only three minutes had passed since Johnny had come into the room. Sod it. I got up, walked across the room and took a proper look at the box of presents. It was even larger than it had looked from further away. They’d really outdone themselves. I picked up one of them and ran my fingers over the red shiny paper – it was definitely the posh stuff. Where were they getting all the money from? With a new baby, a child under five, and a house upsizing they had to be getting more income from somewhere? Surely? I pushed the thoughts out of my mind and grabbed yesterdays hoody from the side and pulled it on over my head.
“Hmm...” I said quietly to myself, before grabbing one strange shaped package from the side of the box and lifting it up. It was quite heavy, but not extremely so. It had smooth edges and it squashed under touch. Shower gel, I decided, placing it back and picking up another box. This one was obvious – a box of muggle chocolates.
“Mary,” Johnny said from the doorway, grinning from ear to ear.
“Let’s get your box in here,” I said, following him out.
Come quarter to eight Johnny and I had gone through half of our presents shaking, squashing, listening to them and feeling around them to guess exactly what was hidden beneath the wrapping. Johnny also had a fantastic haul of gifts and I guessed that Karen and Dad were trying to make this Christmas extra special.
“Can I wake them up now?” Johnny asked eagerly, and I nodded, getting up myself (which made my knees click).
“I’ll get Becky, you get the other two. Failing that, just wake up Ria and make her cry,” I told him, reminding myself of years ago when we’d always acted like this. It was so strange.
“BECKY!” I yelled at the foot of her bed. “GET UP!” I yelled, and her tiny body jumped slightly before she pulled the pillow over her head and groaned into the pillow. “Christmas,” I told her, shaking her lightly (I was too scared she’d snap) and purposefully being as annoying as possible. “Christmas!” I repeated, only to be ignored once again. “My last Christmas.”
“Give me two minutes,” she muttered into her pillow.
“We need to take our boxes downstairs,” Johnny said, struggling to pull his out of my room where he’d brought it in twenty five minutes ago. I nodded and grabbed the other end of his box.
“Well then,” I said, and we carried it downstairs together. I turned the Christmas lights back on and they flashed and flickered on the Christmas tree just like they had for years and years. I smiled as I saw a bauble I’d made in primary school with black and yellow scribbles all over it.
I practically ran up the stairs to carry my own box down, then Ria’s, and then to put the kettle on to fill Becky with enough caffeine that she’d be able to function. I felt like I was full of alcohol or something – I was practically buzzing with Christmas spirit as I turned on the radio (which was naturally playing Christmas songs) and turned it up as loud as it could go.
“Hurry up Becky!” Johnny was yelling upstairs. “We’re all downstairs waiting for you. Look at all your presents.”
Karen looked naturally beautiful as she came downstairs dressed in a silk pink nightgown, which didn’t even clash with her red hair. Dad was lucky to have her.
“You don’t like toast do you Mary; I was going to make everyone some for while we open presents.”
“I like toast,” I admitted. I just wasn’t in the mood to lie today. Everything was going so...well. “Thank you so much Karen,” I told her, before skipping over to the sofa to open presents.
Eventually we were all down stairs with our presents, preferred drink, and slices upon slices of toast.
“Can we open them one by one?” Becky asked, although I knew that would only highlight the fact that some people had less than others. Plus that method was incredibly slow and never lasted for long.
“Just do them all at the same time,” Johnny contradicted.
“Mary?” Karen asked. I shrugged. Did it matter?
“All do one, show it to each other, then do the next,” I decided, grinning ad I began ripping the paper off the shower gel I’d identified earlier.
Two hours later we’d all unwrapped impressive amounts of gifts. I was now the proud owner of: a wardrobe worth of clothes; new make-up, which was considerably better than the stuff I used at the minute; a set of books that were apparently Mum’s favourites, which I simply had to read before I died (which nearly made me cry); new underwear (thanks Karen); some more magical supplies (I don’t know how they got those); more chocolate than I could possibly eat in three months; stationary in strange novelty shapes; a set of quills with spots and stripes on; shower gels and creams by the bucket load; pads of paper in different colours and textures, more books (some of which I actually wanted to read); a set of beauty vouchers from Karen, which I could spend however I saw fit, and vouchers for several beauty parlours, for massages and the like. Then there was some muggle music and videos, which I’d only be able to watch in the last two weeks of the holidays, but were still appreciated. The best of all though, also from Karen, was a scrapbook diary type thing that she said I could use to record my last memories. It was actually rather brilliant and I was practically drowning in new stuff.
“Karen, thank you!” I exclaimed, hugging her and jumping about excitedly. The Beatles album I now proudly owned was blasting out in the background, and I was just about learning the words to some of the songs, even though I’d never really heard any of them before today. “Will you come with me when I use these?” I said, holding up a handful of vouchers. “I might go brown again,” I decided. “Natural... sort of.”
“I think that would suit you,” Karen nodded, and smiled at me. She had on a brand new silk dressing gown thanks to dad – a maternity one that fit much better and was a gorgeous shade of blue. “Becky can come with us too, girls day,” Karen smiled. “I’m going to go help your dad with the dinner,” she said, standing up and walking through the sea of paper on the floor. Mum used to make us take all the tape off and fold up the paper to be used again next year, but Karen just let us make a mess. I liked that.
“Mary!” Johnny called, brandishing his fake wand that I had bought him (because it amused me). I’d done pretty much all my shopping at Zonko’s and they all got joke presents that made them laugh. Becky absolutely loved her new gobstone set and was now trying to work out the rules. “Duel me Mary!” Johnny exclaimed, and I laughed, grabbing my own wand from the floor (why did I even bother carrying it around really?) and held it out in the same manner, as if it was a sword. “Say your last words young sir,” I said, jumping backwards and forwards like a prat. Johnny poked me in the chest with it and the fake wand promptly turned into a cloud of feathers, which floated to the floor.
“No fair. I want yours,” Johnny complained, and I laughed, handing over my wand and picking up his (which had turned back into a wand now) off the floor. It’s not like Johnny could do any damage with it in any case. “I’M A WIZARD!” Johnny yelled, waving my wand around in his wand in swishes and flicks. Becky looked up from her gobstones and laughed at Johnny’s antics. Now he was prancing about like some demented ballet dancer as ‘yellow submarine’ played very loudly. “I’m a wizard!” Johnny repeated, and suddenly a trail of red sparks shot from my wand and onto some of the paper on the floor, which of course caught fire.
“Shit!” I yelled, as the fire spread across the paper on the floor. I grabbed Ria off the floor and handed her to Becky before snatching my wand from where Johnny had dropped it.
“Ow,” Johnny muttered, looking down at his hand which he’d obviously burnt.
“Aguamenti!” I yelled, and two drops of water left my wand. Shit. I threw my wand to one side. “FIRE!” I yelled, hoping that someone else would have some bright idea that might help, as obviously my magical abilities today were definitely lacking.
“Aguaament! Augmenta! Aguamenti!” Johnny repeated, picking up my wand again. He produced a trickle which still wasn’t going to help when it came to putting out the fire which was spreading fast across the sheets of paper.
Becky picked up her cup of tea and tipped it onto it, which doused it almost completely.
“What?” Dad came in, yelling as he saw the scene in front of him and turned pale.
Then Karen came in carrying a bowl of water, which she chucked over the rest of the burning paper.
Then we all just stopped and stared at our singed carpet and the general mess there was on the floor. Then my thoughts switched from that to something else – Johnny could do magic. One more potential case. Nate’s words were running through my head and I felt my whole body freeze up with more panic than the fire had caused.
“- It’s very rare, if not in the history of your family, however once in the genes you only have about a 5% chance of not getting it. In that respect, your brother is very lucky.”
“Yeah, but he can’t do magic,”
“Yes, which is why he hasn’t got it, and we think it’s because your mother had so little magical power when he was conceived that he didn’t inherit magical ability, or Ephaiyadaphia.”
Dad seemed to realise this at the exact second I did; our eyes met and I bit my lip when I saw the look in his.
A/N - Reviews? Talk to me on my MTA page? Cheers... :)
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