Cody’s leg was throbbing from the impact of something hard hitting it. The pain had a sudden start, and was now reverberating through her shin. For a second, she struggled to orientate herself; the surroundings were dark and unfamiliar. The surface upon which she lay was stiff and cramped.
There was some kind of moaning noise coming from her left? A ghost, perhaps? She brought a hand up to the side of her temple. Where was she?
Something soft and slightly hairy graced her left calf. What was that?
And suddenly it hit her. The room. The bed. The cockroach on the floor – cockroach? Is that what that was? With a squeal, Cody flung the covers off her in one fluid motion, panicking. She groped for her wand, and then remembered that she didn’t have it.
Her eyes had yet to adjust to the lack of light, and it took a couple seconds for her to comprehend the sight she was seeing. There was no cockroach. It was a leg. A hairy leg. A male leg.
Cody’s head whipped around to her left. Oliver. Right. It was just Oliver, she was perfectly safe. No Death Eaters. No Dark Magic. Safe. Her erratic breathing began to calm down a little. And that was when she realized that Oliver was still... well, he was still asleep. But he was also still moaning and thrashing gently. His finely chiselled features were contorted in discomfort.
This was hopeless. Cody shook his shoulder harder. “Oi, Wood.” Was he having a nightmare? Sighing helplessly, Cody raised a hand reluctantly and slapped it across his face with moderate strength.
Oliver sat up with a roar, and had Cody’s arm in a circulation-hindering hold before she could even react. His other hand instinctively reached for his wand – which wasn’t there, of course. “What the...?”
Cody let out a muffled gasp of surprise. “What’s your problem?”
Oliver squinted at her in the dark. “Wronski?”
“No, Wood, I’m the freaking Cookie Monster.”
He released her wrist, throwing it away from him. “Sorry,” he mumbled darkly, turning away to look at the opposite wall.
The tension in the air was palpable. There was no denying it – things were awkward now.
“Are you – are you okay?” asked Cody hesitantly. “You were – at least, I think you were having a nightmare.”
“You were moaning in your sleep and basically looked really uncomfortable and –”
“I know,” Oliver said hollowly, cutting her off. He was still looking away.
The air was stiff. Cody got up and padded over to the window on her toes, praying to Merlin all the while that she wouldn’t step on any cockroaches – alive or otherwise. After she peeled apart the curtains, it took her a fair bit of effort to pry open the window. It looked – and felt – like it hadn’t been opened in decades. She was rewarded with a nice gentle breeze swishing into the room.
During this time, Oliver had sat up in the bed to lean against the headboard and was now looking at her curiously.
She could see better now, the combination of her eyes having adjusted and the beams of moonlight streaming in through the windows. Cody loped back across the floor and jumped into the bed quickly before she could encounter any pests. She settled in to lean against the headboard as well, bringing her knees up to her chest and wrapping her arms around her bare legs. “Do you want to talk about it?” she asked softly.
Oliver was silent for so long, she was afraid that he wasn’t going to answer.
“Last year – the Battle of Hogwarts – ” he swallowed thickly.
“You were there,” prodded Cody.
He nodded. “Yeah.”
“Is that what you were dreaming about?”
Oliver shrugged one shoulder. “I don’t know. Maybe. Probably.” He raised the other shoulder, and then lowered it. “Yeah.”
“Does that happen often?”
Cody lay her head down against the tops of her knees. “I’ll bet it still haunts you. When the day comes, you think you can move on, that you can get past it. But you can’t. Night – darkness – brings it all back. The memories. The sights. The feelings. The smells. Everything – it’s all there.”
“It’s all there,” Oliver agrees, repeating her words. “So real, it’s like you’re reliving it.” He splayed out the fingers of his left hand, looking at them. “It was... it was brutal.” Beside him, Cody nodded, but Oliver was still looking down and didn’t see it. “I just – Merlin, some days I just want to forget. Forget that it happened, forget that I took part, forget that I was there, you know?” He grimaced. “But then I feel terrible. Terrible that I should want to forget, that I could even think of forgetting. I mean, after all the sacrifices, after all that everyone’s been through – how could I possibly wish for something so selfish?”
“That’s not selfish,” Cody said softly.
“I graduated a few years before the Battle of Hogwarts,” he said abruptly. “I went back though, for the battle. Once you’re part of Hogwarts, it becomes you. It’s part of your blood. You’ll always be a part of it. So we went back. We heard the call for help and we went. The whole Quidditch team, everybody.”
Cody nodded. She could relate. She understood what he meant.
“So there we were. And there they were. And so we fought.”
This wasn’t news to her.
“We fought for what we believed in, what we thought was right – what we knew, beyond any doubt whatsoever, was right.” He drew a sharp intake of breath. “We fought because we were able.” He turned his hand over to look at his calloused palm. “McGonagall and the others, they tried to send the children, the under-aged, away. They didn’t want them to fight. And with good reason, of course.”
A shiver slithered through Cody. She knew how this story would end. “They didn’t listen,” she said hollowly.
Oliver shook his head. “No. No, they didn’t listen. And so they fought.”
“Against powerful Dark wizards.”
“Against powerful Dark wizards,” agreed Oliver. “Wizards whose skills were far beyond their own.”
“And they died.”
“They did.” Oliver let out a choked off sob, trying to strangle it in his throat before it could fully escape. “I remember – I remember the brief reprieve in between when – when we were able to collect some of the bodies. So many. So young. So familiar.”
Cody buried her face deeper into her knees, shielded by a curtain of hair.
“They kind of blended together after awhile. All the faces. All the bodies. They became this one intangible mess. Which was terrible; each and every one of them deserved recognition – as individuals, as heroes.”
Cody didn’t say anything in response to this. She agreed fully, and a sort of mutual understanding seemed to be passing between them.
“I remember this one little boy – Colin Creevey. He was underage as well, and he’d fought – and then he died.” Oliver closed his hand into a tight fist. “So many losses, so many people I couldn’t save.”
“I know what you mean,” Cody said into her knees.
“I carried his body with Neville Longbottom – you’ve probably heard of him. Anyway, between us, the two of us carried his body into the Great Hall. We found the corpse under a giant’s club. It was brutal. The way his eyes were so glassy – so blank – so empty, so emotionless, just staring like that, unseeing...”
Cody’s head reappeared from the shelter of her knees. “That’s a sight you never forget.”
“No.” Oliver cleared his throat wetly in an effort to subdue another sob. “Fred – Fred Weasley. He was one of my best friends. George’s twin. One of the best beaters Gryffindor has seen the likes of. Murdered. Just brutally murdered, just like that. Presumably the work of Augustus Rookwood.”
Cody’s heart clenched uncomfortably. The name Rookwood was familiar, unfortunately.
“Fred, Lupin, Tonks... so many losses.”
Cody could feel her blood boiling in fury again as the memories began to resurface. The pain. The anguish. The agony.
“It’s been a year.” Oliver dug the palm of one hand into his right eye, rubbing viciously. “Every day I wake up and wonder, ‘why me?’ and ‘why them?’ Why am I still alive? Why aren’t they?” He let a long breath of air whistle through his teeth. “And then I think – about whether I’m living up to their memory, whether I’m making it worthwhile that I’m still alive.”
“And sometimes, I don’t know if it’s enough. I mean, for Circe’s sake, I play Quidditch for a living. Some days I feel so useless, so asinine. I mean, honestly. How trivial is it that all I focus my entire life on is some game?”
“Quidditch means everything to you – even I can see that.” Cody turned and sought his eyes in the dark. “Look at me. You exude passion about the sport, and that’s what makes you alive. Finding something -- having something – that makes life worth living, is absolutely crucial. And that’s what Quidditch is for you.”
“You have to let yourself heal, Wood.”
“You know what else is really messed up?” He lets out a slight mirthless laugh. “Despite how much I want to forget, the thought of actually forgetting scares the crap out of me. I’m afraid of forgetting, of not doing their memories justice.”
Cody let out a mirthless chuckle in response. “Dying is easy – all you have to do is give up. Now living – that’s what’s really and truly hard. Being left behind – that’s what’s hard.”
A wracking sob escaped from Oliver at last, his shoulders quaking with the effort of – unsuccessfully – trying to hold it in. “I just don’t know anything any more.”
Without really thinking about, Cody’s hand reached for Oliver’s in the dark, and they clasped together, fingers intertwining. It felt secure. It felt right. It felt warm.
It felt safe.
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