Chapter 1 : Fragments, Not Yet Lost
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“These fragments I have shored against my ruins.”
– T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land, 430.
The little book is all that remains, its leather softened by hands smaller than his. Softer too. He remembers their touch, feather-like, her hands softened by lavender soap and making sandcastles. Only once had he felt them, yet the memory remains when so many others had vanished with the smoke of existence.
He tries to think of other things that were her.
Perhaps her voice. Yes.
Or not. It is too distant, silky and low like the voice of Cordelia, just as a woman’s should. He can remember her reading from those Muggle books she loved, so different from those of Lily or Mary or Charity. She read to them as they huddled around a tiny flame between running out to save the world, always from the same book, the words never making sense, but the sound, the music of the words and her voice combined, drew him toward her, the Siren song slipping through his ears.
Her voice is strong in her little book, clear enough to almost hear her song once more.
They are the words of her life, and as he stands on the bridge over the Thames in the same place where he saw her again that short time ago that felt like an age, he brings them to life once more. He feels so old now, but reading her pages, her words, as innocent as they were honest, he drank her youth.
She had no need for it now.
....if I had known that this would be the result of coming to know him, I would not be the person I am today. Our fragmented association has grown less so with time, yet still I see him in pieces, and each time we meet I see another piece that will not fit into the image I once created of this man. Yes, perhaps I do think of him as an unfinished puzzle and perhaps I think of me as the only one who can solve it, desperately seeking the pieces in the mire that this world has become.
There is a myth of the Egyptians that Sethos, brother of the pharaoh, murdered him and cut him to pieces, hiding each in a different part of the land, little knowing that the pharaoh’s wife would seek them and bring her husband back to life as God of the Underworld.
I smile and wonder, as always.
They are out again, leaving me alone to “hold down the fort”, a vulgar cliché, and one that none of my authors would use. It would be blasphemous for their pen to form such a phrase, and for all the teasing I go through, I remain loyal to my authors. There is not much else to do in the winter but read and wait for the spring to come again, the sweet showers of April returning life to this waste land.
Finnegans Wake takes its place beside me on my burnished throne, but I never touch it when alone. Reading to an empty room was so...so... I don’t know, but I don’t like it. That I do know.
In times like this, I prefer writing, taking out this small book, scraps of paper I spelled into the discarded leather of some wormeaten tome. You see that I do not use a dash in that word just as Joyce did, hating that useless piece of punctuation. I would write like him and Woolf and Eliot and Moore, but I would not live their lives, as much as I wonder what it must have been like for Wo–
No. I couldn’t do it. Death by water is not my fate.
Sirius would be disappointed, anyhow. Things have changed between us. Not “it seems”, but that we have altered and now find one another new creatures of shattered spirit and growing minds. He enjoys silence far more than one could have expected those years in school, and we sit together, shades of Cygnus and Philomela, in this lonely hole without a word, and have grown to be as one. The easy pleasantries pass swiftly into only the sound of his breathing, oddly loud, but comforting because they are real, more alive than I will ever be. To hear him there is worth more than any love he would....
Give to her.
Would should could. Any of those would begin his next line, but he resists and stares into the water, the little book open in his hands, hanging over the edge. It was the water she loved, the morbid fascination with the death of that Woolf woman some decades before, but it was always in her mind, he could see it whenever she saw the water in those long last weeks.
Voldemort wanted her dead. It was as simple as that. She gave up resisting, but he held her back, his hand taking hers one night when she made her last decision. It was the voice of her mind, but he had wanted the voice of her heart.
He turns the pages back, his heart going cold, his fingers numbly fumbling through the delicate onion skin.
She was most unlike an onion, so straightforward and open-faced that he caught himself seeking her reaction to all news, all events that overtook their lives, taking hers in the end.
It still goes on around him, the war, the endless fighting, more and more vanishing, their lives made meaningless, but he should not think of it. Even now he felt its draw, another song, less sweet, less alluring, the song of war that made his nerves twitch in expectation. He would compare it to the sound of a distant hunting horn to which the hounds rise, ready.
He resists, as she did, and looks down at the open page.
....it feels like I’m starting to write one of those diaries girls are meant to have. You know, the ones where they include all of their secrets with special attention paid to the many boys that they ought to be in love with, only to fall out of love again a few days later. If it was possible to create a list of fictional character that I was in love with, then maybe I could make an attempt, but as is–
I’m not ready to put the truth in words just yet. This book remains my autobiography of a sort, not merely a grand disclosure of confessions.
Sixteen years old and finally in love with a real, living boy. Lily will scoff if she found me writing this, mostly because of who it is. Not that Potter boy, of course, as his sights are so closely set on Lily that I don’t think he would notice a girl if she walked through his bedroom wearing nothing at all unless she had swinging red hair and glaring green eyes, yelling at him to shut up and leave her alone.
Now I’m sounding too harsh, my words coming out like sour notes in a symphony, the pitiful flautist floundering in a rapid movement, his cadences late and his, or should I say her? voice screeching amongst the mellow clarinets.
I need to get things right, hence all the reading I’ve been doing this year. I’ll find my voice somewhere in all of those books and poems, even if a single word sounds out the first chord of what will become my own music. To go to him with the right notes, a perfect song, would surely catch his ear – I don’t need his eyes, not on me – and forge a link between us. I would love that.
It has been a thing in the making, this set of emotions brewing within me....
Further, further back he turns, not wanting to know the answer before he has seen the question. No, he knows it already: why?
It is much simpler than it ought to be, but it is a question he thought of many times as they sat together, her voice calling him forth. He knew that she read for him, even as others crowded around, desperate for distraction, nothing more than that. He did not know what he wanted from her song. If only–
The book totters in his hands, leaning forward, too far forward. His fingers clasp it just in time, his heart leaping in terror, more fear than he felt on the battlefield. He can’t lose her, not yet.
It has opened to a new page, but he alters his course. Not their days at Hogwarts. He is not interested in that, only what came after. It is then that he was human, a decent thing, decent to her, at least. There was that time when.... It had to be here.
...not a surprise that I was early for the meeting. I tended to be, and it was an embarrassment, no matter how much I liked seeing everyone enter the room, watching their movements, their chosen apparel, how they reacted to each new room. There could not be many more places where Professor Dumbledore can meet with us, apart from Hogwarts itself, but the enemy would suspect. They have eyes and ears everywhere these days.
It does not take long for the room to fill, witches and wizards dropping in from all sides to say hello or solemnly take their seats, their skin pallid. It is not difficult to tell the ones who have been marked by Death. They remain untouched by all, as though they have the unimaginable disease. There is no saving them. There are so many now. I had not thought death had undone so many.
Professor McGonagall sits beside me, and we exchange pleasantries. I still find myself as cowed by her mere presence as any terrified first year even though she is all caring and worry for those of us who are but children. There was a time when I would have argued the use of that word.
The latecomers fill in the empty spaces, and the eyes of one meet mine. He comes as though drawn by a magnet, and I’m amazed that this can be possible, but he is intent on taking the seat to my left. There are no pleasantries between us. He knows as well as I that “how are you? Very well, thank you” has no meaning, and I cannot lie. It is not something that comes easily, and thus I chose to avoid it.
He was rather a different story.
“How’s the reading going?” His voice was never completely serious, a bright note in these dark days. “You must be the only one of us with a pastime.”
I kept my hands folded in my lap, looking past him, leaving only the left side of his face visible. “There is no better escape, Sirius. Except one.”
The eye darkened, and I took note of its shade. Not the hyacinth blue of my dreams, but rather a strange grey flecked with brown, maybe also green. Very strange that it took so long to see the truth of him, the real image hidden beyond my fogveiled eyes, but then again, we had never been so close. Even when we had been paired for Potions, I had never seen him as I did at this moment.
It was enough to resurrect those feelings, but my heart did not pound nor shudder nor leap. It remained maturely in place. I found that I could breath normally. Again, I must repeat myself with the very abstract “strange”. It was beyond my understanding.
I can’t be certain how much of that meeting I heard. All I could hear was the sound of his breath, feeling happier than I have my whole life....
The book remains in his hands as he stares over the water, no longer into it. Small boats pass by, heedless of the lone man on the bridge, the morning light setting him in shadow. It is very early for most people, but too late for him.
Perhaps it is time.
Time to face the final pages, their more hurried inscriptions, a mess of unblotted ink and a cracked quill.
His hand stays, turning pages, but not all. Not yet, he whispers aloud. Not yet.
...only one thing did I dare pick up from the wet ashes of my home. So many things, the things that make up a life in this world, all turned to dust, and one day I will follow. I reach down to hold the ashes in my hand, all my fears in this handful of dust. There is nothing left of them now, just as there is nothing left of my–
Eyes close. His hands clench around the little book, crumbling the pages. She always kept it so close, over her heart, she would joke, the smile not reaching her eyes for many weeks, almost all of the weeks she had left. Eventually, she just stopped caring, and that was the worst. He had been eyewitness to the change, the violent transformation that left her cheeks blotched and eyes red-rimmed, her mouth in an unmoving line and no light in her eyes.
The others were wary, or was it weary? he could not be sure. Too weary to notice the change, but he, beside her, his hand straying toward hers where it gripped the side of the bench.
He said her name.
Her words say the rest.
...strange a sound! I had thought, been determined not to be moved by anything anymore. No one would say, but I could see it in their eyes: he would come for me, still, and no one could stand in his way. Death dogs my every step and hovers over my breath each night. I had become one of those people at the Order meetings, another of the unreal dead sweeping across London Bridge, soulless, their hearts still.
I have stopped reading aloud. I know that it upsets Sirius, but he says nothing. He knows me like no other has tried. Just now...the way he spoke my name, it was heavier, his tongue drawing out the syllables, but cutting off the final S. He says nothing more than that.
If he only–
No. It’s not his fault. It’s this time, this age. There is no place for love.
I still could not discard the thought that, if he were to come any closer, we would kiss. We are alone here, the others out for the night. Even now I watch him sleep. How much I want to touch him, a single finger running along his flesh, just to know it, to know him. My finger does not move. I hardly breathe.
He has kept me from death, if only for the night. Kill me tomorrow, let me live tonight.
It is torturous.
He spoke my name and watched, knowing the state I was in. The book remained by my side, but was now ignored. I stared into nothingness instead, without concept of time. Perhaps it is the violet hour, the evening of the world.
“You cannot let him... them, make you like this.” He had stopped in front of me, finally kneeling when I did not respond. His eyes touched me; his hands did not.
If it were not for the way we had been together these last few months, I would have believed that he thought me too detestable to dirty his hands on. After all the old rumours, it would be difficult for anyone else to understand what there was between us. I cannot put a name to it, nor would I want to.
“I won’t stay in here forever.” I closed my eyes to shut him out, his giant dog-like eyes threatening to reach deep into my soul and pull me to pieces.
“The present company fails to amuse you, madam?” The words were joking, the voice was not.
What would happen next? I would quake and he would pull me into his embrace, using all of his power to protect me in a way that no one ever had. A kiss would not even be necessary; he would just hold me until the light came.
That was the ideal. I was not.
I slipped to one side and rose, feeling short beside him although most called me tall. Ungainly and awkward was the truth.
The door was my object, I could imagine the feel of the cold brass in the palm of my hand (interspersed with the imagined feeling of his hot breath on my palm) and the colder breeze hitting my unprepared body (as opposed to the shock of his kiss, of his body moving against mine), the light hitting my eyes (the light in his eyes focused on me) and my head turning up to the sun, so long unseen (my chin lifted by his fingers as he bent his face toward mine), hand raising to shade my eyes (to touch his face, tracing the odd lines of his lips and cheekbones).
My arm was roughly pulled, my shoulder wrenching when he took my hand.
I blinked. The room was still dark; the door remained shut. For nothing of that dream was real. There were no real dreams, no illusions. I well knew that, having awoken once too often.
He only held my hand in his, not a romantic gesture, but the one of saviour to a lost soul, just before it dropped into the mouth of Hell.
My eyes closed and I wondered if I waited for his next move. It was an eternity, the world falling away, leaving only us two. I had not yet turned toward him, the events of every romance novel I’d ever read passing through my mind, a mind that had only just been resigned to Death.
He said my name, hardly above a whisper.
I turn back.
Sleep softly till my song is done.
He pauses and retraces her shaking lines of ink with his eyes, wondering what he would have done differently had he but known.
But he had known, and hesitated, for the first time in his life uncertain. He saved her for a time, but not forever. Even if he had, she bore the mark, a stain that would not come off, here or anywhere.
She could not fool Death.
It was a raging quiet, like the thunder in the distance, preceding its lightning and its darkness, taking up her song in the violet light, her favourite time of day. He remembers her eyes and how they yearned for the sun and moon and stars, all the things she could no longer see, including herself.
He finds himself puzzled by her final words (no more remain, only blank pages). From speaking of the past, she switched to the present, that she turns back, but to what? Not to him, otherwise she–
Nothing she ever did was by accident, deliberation her curse.
There is the memory of waking up that haunts him. He reads and reads her words again, but the memory remains the same because she did not write it. It is another story, another song. Cold and alone, he had found the door open, dawn’s early light shining through, and the sounds of the streets awaking echoing across the floor. The nightingale’s song long silent.
All that remained of her was Finnegans Wake and that little book.
This little book.
He walks much along the river now in his long wool coat and tightly-tied scarf, the politics of the Order rushing past him in violent eddies as he holds and reads the little book, knowing that, soon, her song will at last come to an end, releasing him from these bonds.
That day, perhaps that same hour, she had been killed.
The water flows beneath him, and he stares into the murk, transfixed by its constant motion, never changing, but never the same.
The thunder roars around him now, the violet turned to black.
The little book falls from his hands. It hits the water without a sound, the leather soaking, the pages clearing, the ink vanishing into the nothing she has become.
He thinks he sees her in the corner of his eye, but no. That is but a dream.
Nothing remains to be told.
But he does not move.
“I had not thought death had undone so many.” – T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land, 63.
(there are many other references to this poem, if you can spot them)
“Kill me tomorrow, let me live tonight.” – Shakespeare, Othello, V.ii.80.
There are also echoes of Samuel Beckett’s Ohio Impromptu in this, from the reading aloud to the silence, and, especially, the little book.
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