Chapter 14 : Guilt
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I grind my teeth together and clench my first tighter onto my broom handle as I fly over to Al. He’s waiting on his broom, in the middle of the pitch, with a disapproving look plastered on his face.
“I caught it ten minutes,” I spit.
Al looks at me, clearly not nearly as impressed by this great feat as I am. “Yeah, well that was eight minutes too late, wasn’t it?” he retorts.
Two minutes? He wants me to bloody catch the bloody Snitch it two bloody minutes? What is wrong with this kid?
“You have to always be one step ahead of your opponents,” Al says, most likely reading the murderous look I’m currently giving him and deciding to grace me with his idiotic explanation. “Telborn: Ravenclaw Seeker – her usual time to catch the Snitch is fifteen minutes into the game. Patel: Hufflepuff Seeker – he’s been catching the Snitch under twenty minutes these past few games. Malfoy: Gryffindor Seeker…well I did beat her last time, so there’s not too much talent there, I suppose.”
I grind my teeth together. Honestly, this boy makes me want to take the very broom that’s currently holding me up and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. “From what I’ve seen her play, I’d say she’s pretty good,” I comment, making sure to keep my voice steady.
I can almost swear Al’s lips twitch slightly upwards at my comment, but the next second, his hard Quidditch Captain composure is back in full swing, leaving me to believe I had imagined the tell tale trace of his signature smirk. “I suppose you’re right,” he says, his voice almost reluctant to agree with me. “Keep an eye on that one. Before her loss against Slytherin, her usual time to catch the Snitch was around ten minutes. Which is why you have to go under ten minutes. Understood?”
Al nods. “Okay, then. Let’s try this again. And remember, under eight minutes!” With those instructions, he releases the Snitch and I wait the preliminary one minute before I go after it. Al flies off in the opposite direction, to go and instruct the Chasers.
The three Chasers on the Slytherin team are Al, Maddie Walsh, the only other girl besides me on the team, and of course…my brother.
My heart gives a painful lurch as I watch Al give instructions to Scorpius. The Slytherin team has, in all honesty, the Ace Chaser team at Hogwarts – even James will reluctantly admit that fact. All three of them are amazing Chasers independently, no doubt, but they’re bloody insane when put together. They coordinate with each other almost as if they’re all tuned into one Quidditch crazy, incredibly fast, hyped up mind set. Watching them play is similar to witnessing a miniature tornado let loose on the pitch – destructive, yet impossible to take your eyes off of.
Before today’s practice, I had managed to push the fact that my own brother was a part of the Slytherin Quidditch team out of my head. Oh, that didn’t mean I had completely forgotten about it – it was there, in the back of my mind, nagging me, begging to be released and acknowledged– but I knew not to dwell on it too long. It had been easy for me to pretend that my brother just wasn’t on the team, seeing as he hadn’t been present neither at the tryouts nor my first practice…but seeing him here, today, on the pitch giving it his all – it makes me want to puke. Watching him play here today…well it changes the game.
But for now, I just tell myself over and over again that Scorpius is one of the most care free blokes I know. He knows how to take a joke and at the end of this whole thing, I know for a fact that he’ll share a right laugh with me. In fact, there’s no doubt in my mind that if the situation were reversed, he’d have a good ol’ time being the spy for another team and not even feeling guilty the least bit guilty about it.
So really, I was doing nothing wrong…right?
Two hours, nine catches, and one Bludger straight into the stomach later, I clean off in the girl’s changing rooms. Maddie looks over at me sends me a warm smile.
“Great practice, Simon,” she says. “You know, you’re not all that bad.”
I grin at her. “Glad to have your semi-approval, I suppose.”
She chuckles at this. “Honestly, the entire team was afraid we’d be stuck with some mind numbing dumb Seeker. But we lucked out.”
Suddenly, I just want Maddie to leave. I give her a quick nod and a wave, signaling I’ll see her later. She does the same and thankfully departs the changing rooms without another word.
Since I’ve joined the team, I’ve tried my best to avoid each and every one of them like the plague. The last thing I want to do is get to know them and become friends. This is hard enough with Scorpius and..well…Al on the team. I don’t need to make it any more difficult than it is.
Now the only one left in the changing rooms, I finish washing up and make to leave. I really have to get out of here and get to the third floor girl’s bathroom so I can change back into myself. The Polyjuice Potion will start to wear off in about twenty minutes.
I leave the Slytherin locker rooms and start heading up towards the castle. About halfway there, I hear pounding footsteps and turn around to see Al running over towards me.
“Simon! Simon, wait up!”
I quicken my pace and pretend not to hear him, but my attempts are shot to shit when I hear Al’s heavy pants grow closer to me. He finally slows down to match my pace and turns to look at me.
“You a bit hard on hearing?”
“No, I just tend to have selective hearing,” I snap back. I mentally kick myself for that one. I can’t treat him like I would if I were actually Gold. I have to ease up on the retorts.
Luckily, Al’s face assumes a chastised expression and I realize he thinks I’ve snapped at him because of all the hard work he’s been making me do during practices.
“Listen,” he says slowly, seeming to mull over his words. “Sorry that I’ve been so harsh on you since you’ve started. I know you’re new and everything but if I start being soft on the pitch, no one’s going to ever take me seriously.”
I look at him and decide he does look genuine enough in his apology. Involuntarily, a sigh escapes my lips before I can even consider stopping it. “Okay, then. Apology accepted…for now.”
Al chuckles. “For now? What, you’re going to retract your acceptance in the future? I’m pretty sure that’s not how this whole forgiving business works.”
“It depends on how you treat me in the future,” I say. “For example, if I show up, say, two bloody minutes late to practice, I don’t want to have to run ten laps.”
“Or else…oh, or else you’ll be very sorry!”
To my dismay Al doesn’t take my stern threat nearly as seriously as I had hoped for him to. At any rate, he doesn’t offer to earn my forgiveness through the combined efforts of cakes, brownies, and tears. On the contrary, a smirk appears on his lips. “Still haven’t forgotten that, have you?”
If looks could kill, my responding glare would have surely achieved just that. It definitely does accomplish the job at hand though, because Al finally realizes what’s good for him and puts his hands up in surrender. “Okay, okay, Simon,” he concedes. “Next time you show up to practice two minutes late, I won’t make you run.”
“Don’t push me though. If you show up two minutes at twenty seconds late, you’ll be asking for it.”
I’m about to send him another glare, but when I face him, I see he’s just joking. His emerald eyes are alight with laughter and I have to remind myself how much of an actual prat he is before I do or say something incredibly stupid...which I’ve been prone to do around him.
“What about that Scorpius character?” I ask, deciding it is best to change the topic
“Oh, you think he’s cute? I can introduce you two.”
Ew…ew, ew, ew, ew, ew!
“Not my type,” I respond quickly, trying my best to keep the vomit at the pit of my stomach.
“Eh, probably for the best anyway. He has enough girls chasing after him. And of course, he would go for the one girl who shows absolutely no interest in him.” He mumbles that last part and I’m one hundred percent certain that it isn’t meant for my ears. Luckily for me, I’ve never really learned that lesson about keeping my nose out of other people’s business – especially when the aforementioned person is my own flesh and blood.
“Ah, the blondie has a lass in mind, aye?”
Unfortunately, my casual tone doesn’t really go down to casually. Al raises an inquisitive eyebrow in my direction.
“If you’re trying to get information from me about him, you’re out of luck. He’s my mate.”
“Of course not,” I quickly mend. And of course, it’s times like these when I switch from defensive to offensive.
“But what I do want to know is why I have to run laps for arriving a mere thirty seconds late, and that Blondie character can just miss the tryouts and practices without facing any sort of punishment.”
Al gives a noncommittal shrug. “That blondie character is my best mate.”
“Well, shouldn’t you keep relationships out of the Quiddtich Pitch?”
“That’s much harder said than done, Simon.”
For the second time this morning, that feeling starts to creep up again; the same feeling that had attacked me this morning when Maddie had been so friendly. Suddenly, I don’t appreciate the change of subject as much as I did thirty seconds ago. Luckily, Al doesn’t notice and continues babbling.
“Besides, Scorp and I are the best Chasers the Slytherin team has seen in awhile. His reason was valid, so he can afford to miss a couple of practices without me nagging him about it.”
I can only manage a weak nod. I know how good Scorpius can be. That’s the thing with my brother – as cliché as it sounds, once that stupid kid puts his heart and soul into something, he really can achieve whatever he wants.
Once when we were little, Mum bought me my first bike. Scorp already rode a bike with training wheels too, but once he saw that I got the same bike, he was determined to become a role model for me. Suddenly, he thought his training wheels just wouldn’t cut it anymore and convinced Dad to take them off. Scorpius spent the next five days out in the front yard, despite the weather, time of day, or anything else; his sole purpose in life had become to achieve riding that bike without training wheels. And sure enough, on the sixth day, the bruises, cuts and scrapes on his face serving as proof of all his hard work, he rode around me in circles and had proudly declared “See Gold? That’s how you’re supposed to ride a bike.”
Scorpius had changed from back then though. If possible, he became even more determined. Whether it was with Quidditch, grades, or girls, he knew he could get whatever he wanted. And yes – sometimes his head blows up to the size of a hot air balloon – but that’s Scorpius and I love him regardless.
We reach the front gates of Hogwarts and Al quickens his pace a bit to reach and open the door first and let me in. I’m all for a girl being independent and doing her own work, but opening the door is just plain cute to me and I’m pretty sure I turned slightly crimson.
“Chivalrous, are you?” I ask as he follows in behind me.
Al throws his head back and laughs. “My Grandma taught me how to respect a lady,” he replies. “I’d hold the door open for anyone, but opening the door for a pretty young lady is just common sense.”
Oh, right. Of course the bloke that I’ve used to harbor a crush on for the past five years tells the girl I’ve been impersonating that she’s pretty. It stings a bit more than I’d like to admit.
“You okay?” Al asks, turning around to throw me a curious glance. I realize that I’ve stopped walking.
“Yeah…yeah, I’m fine,” I reply, sporting what I hope is a convincing expression.
Al nods, although he doesn’t look completely convinced. “So you coming in for breakfast?” he asks, pointing towards the Great Hall. My eyes glance over at my wrist watch and my heart stops – I have less than five minutes before the Polyjuice Potion starts wearing off.
I manage to shake my head. “No. No, I’ll see you around later.”
Without waiting for another word, I rush up the many staircases towards the third floor bathrooms. I slam the door open and hurry inside – just in time too. As I watch myself, my hands slowly become smaller and the bobbed hair around my face starts coming into view as my long gold untamed locks.
I lean against the wall and drop to the floor just as the transformation completes. My mind is feeling hazier than ever. Now that I’m back to myself, I think about what Al had said to me in the great hall.
Why was the fact that Al threw out a flirty line getting under my skin so much? I had decided a long time ago that I no longer held feelings for him and he obviously didn’t exactly seem to appreciate my existence either.
That’s when the forbidden thoughts which I had locked up in a distant corner of my mind come rushing forward. No matter how much I wish to deny it, I know exactly why I’m upset.
Those words bothered me because for some stupid, absolutely unfathomable reason, I had thought that maybe, just maybe, if Hazelle was out of the picture, I would have my chance. Inside a tiny part of my brain, which I had carefully kept under lock in key, is a belief that if Al was to go for another girl, he would go for well…me.
But obviously this isn’t the case. Those stolen glances, those unprecedented bursts of kindness, hell, all those mixed signals…I had read too much into them. I had been foolish enough to think that he might have meant something by those, but obviously, he was just throwing lines at girls left and right.
And unknowingly, I had become one of those stupid fan girls who thought those signs had actually meant something.
Finally getting my jumbled thoughts together, I pick myself off the floor and brush myself off. I need to get a grip on myself. Was I really that stupid broken hearted school girl that just had a breakdown in the third floor bathroom?
I need to reevaluate my life – there is no way I am going to become the next bloody Moaning Myrtal.
Moaning Marygold. At least it has a ring to it. I wonder if Myrtal would let me share her toilet.
I take a deep breath and feel myself shudder. Today was close. I had barely made it in time to the bathrooms before I had started transforming back into myself. One more mistake like that and well…I don’t even want to think about the possible consequences. I have to be careful. This isn’t a game that I could just go back and rewind if I made a stupid mistake.
I change my uniform into my usual Gryffindor robes and decide to head the Great Hall for breakfast. Before I can pull open the door to the bathroom though, it swings open and in walks James.
“Hey, Gold,” he says, giving me a small smile in greeting. “How’d practice go? Did you note down their Chaser formulas?”
Although I really don’t feel like putting up with the first Potter brother’s shit after having such little time to recover from the second Potter brother’s shit, I decide I might as well get it out of the way now. We both plop down in the middle of the bathroom and I tell James everything I had noted down during practice.
I’m almost done filling James in with the newest formations when we’re interrupted by the one person – thing – I did not want to see.
“Whaaaaaaaaaaaa,” Myrtal screeches as she flows out of the sink in front of us. There’s almost the ghost of a grin – no pun intended – around the corners of her mouth. When her eyes land on us though, her face drops back into its normal, miserable state.
“Oh,” she mumbles eyeing James with particular distaste. “It’s you.”
James actually looks quite offended by her comment; he usually is able to charm any female – living or dead.
“Well, who you were you bloody expecting?” he snaps. “Harry Potter?”
“Close, but no…why? Does he still mention me?”
And that’s when James and I both take our queue to leave and bolt out the door. We only stop running once we reach the end of the corridor. Since the corridor is luckily void of students, I voice what’s been on my mind since the morning.
“It’s time for you to keep your end of the deal, James.”
James looks at me with a frown, as though confused as to what I’m talking about.
“You said if I were to go ahead with this Plan, you’d help me bring my grades up. Well, I’m still failing Potions and I have a three foot scroll due Thursday.”
“I did say that didn’t I?”
“Yes!” I start to feel a bit afraid that he might just go back on his word. Honestly, the kid has no honor.
He nods. “Well lucky for you, Potter boys keep their word.” Oh, looks like James at least has some honor. “Just give me your assignment and it’ll be done for you with a guaranteed O before your next class.”
I reach in my bag to pull out my assignment, but something starts nagging me in the back of my chest.
Bollocks, I know what that feeling is, but I’m just going to try my best to ignore it.
I pull out the scroll from my bag and hold it forward, but that stupid feeling in my chest keeps growing and growing.
Ugh, I hate the cold, wretched feeling of Guilt.
James reaches to take it and is already turning around to leave when he realizes that I won’t let go of the scroll. He tugs on the scroll again but I only strengthen my grip around it. His hazel eyes swirl on me, a mixture of annoyance and confusion brightly showing through them.
“Gold, this may come as a bit of a shocker to you since I know you’re failing and everything, but most people who pull out Outstanding on assignments actually have to read the directions in order to complete it.”
Oh hardy, har har.
I roll my eyes as James tries to tug it out of my hand once again.
As much as I didn’t want to say it, I know it’s the right thing to say as soon as those two words leave my mouth. Looks like Guilt won out after all. I honestly thought all of my Guilt had washed out through me as soon as I had taken that first sip of Polyjuice Potion weeks ago. Figures it would come back when I actually don’t want it to.
“I can’t just let somebody do my assignment for me. It feels wrong.”
“Don’t worry about it, I do it all the time,” James replies easily. “You won’t get caught.”
“That’s not what’s bothering me!” I explain, stuffing the parchment back into my back and out of James’ reach. “I can’t have somebody do my assignments for me. Even if I get an O, I know I don’t deserve it.”
“So, to some people, that’s called cheating!”
At this, his lips slowly curl into a smirk. “And what exactly do you call sneaking into Slytherin practices with somebody else’s identity then?”
I grind my teeth at that one. “That was your idea!”
“Hey don’t blame me. The monster causing the destruction is just as much to blame as the handsome mastermind behind it.”
When I fail to crack a smile, James lets out an impatient huff. “Well then what do you propose? I thought you actually wanted to go through with the Plan only if I helped you improve your marks?”
“That was the deal,” I say and suddenly I grin as I think of a solution around this. “I still want help with my grades. But I want to actually deserve them. Besides, if you keep doing all my work for me, I still won’t learn anything, James. I’ll still be screwed for OWLs.”
“And you’re suggesting…?”
“Find me a tutor,” I say clearly, confidently. “You did that before and it worked brilliantly.”
“Fine,” James agrees, although he’s still looking at me as though I’ve just gone loony. “Well, Al is brilliant at Potions so – ”
“NO!” I practically scream. “No, James. I don’t want to be tutored by Al!”
“Well, why the bloody hell not?”
“Because it just feels wrong!” I say. “He’s the one I’m spying on and making him be the one to help me just seems like adding salt to the wound…it’s like he’s contributing to his own demise.”
So I’m a bit melodramatic. However, even I’m surprised by how much sense that makes.
“Is that the only reason?”
“Of course,” I say. For a moment, I could have sworn I had seen a mischievous glint in James’ eyes but the next moment, it’s gone and he’s nodding his head.
“I guess that makes sense. I mean, I wouldn’t care, but I guess you have a bit of a conscious.”
“That, I do.”
“Oddly surprising coming from a Malfoy.”
“And you’re oddly rude, arrogant and selfish for a Potter.”
James grins at this, most likely taking my statement as a compliment in that conceited little – no big – head of his.
“You win then. And Potions is the only class you need help with?”
“Yes,” I say, failing to keep the pride out of my voice. Recently, my marks had taken a turn for the better. Potions is the only exception and had recently become my newly sworn enemy.
“Well then, come to the library at seven tonight,” James instructs. “Your tutor will be sitting on a desk near the left hand side of the Transfiguration section.”
“James, I swear if you tell one of your bimbo headed fan girls to come tutor me, I will kill you.”
He just waves his hand. “Remember. Library at seven!”
So at seven that evening, I trudge down to the library, anxious of what I might find. I turn the corner to the Transfiguration section and see –
The desk nearest to me is completely void of human existence. I have half a mind to leave – I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if James forgot, or even more so, if he just never planned on anybody helping me at all. However, remembering what he said about a Potter always keeping his word, I decide to give him a chance. I take a seat on one of the chairs to wait for my mysterious tutor.
Five minutes later, while I’m tracing the wooden lines absent mindedly on my desk, I hear the chair in front of me pull out and I quickly look up –
“Hello, Marygold,” Jen says.
Jen looks at me and blinks. She then proceeds to take her pinky and stick it in her ear. She pulls it out and examines it, before shrugging and rubbing her pinky against her robes.
Honestly, I’m just thankful I didn’t have to witness her lick her pinky clean.
So this is who James sends to tutor me? Not wanting to be rude, I restrain myself from asking her how exactly James even managed to get in touch with her. I mean, I share a dorm with the girl and I can barely even remember the last time I’ve seen her. I once heard a rumor that in order to get in touch with her, you have to light a fire and do a strange ritual dance in a fourth floor corridor where she hides out, but I haven't yet had the time to test it out.
Not to even mention the last time her and James had any public contact was when he had decided to ask her out as a joke in the common room. She had openly rejected him and he had finally been brought down two notches off his high horse. I still had to thank her for that one…
Jen doesn’t bother making any small talk with me, or even explaining whys she’s here. Instead, she just pulls out a Potions book and slams it down in front of her.
“The key to potions is becoming one with the ingredient. If you imagine yourself as that Horklump juice or Pygmy Puff, you will find that you will become much more connected to the Potion. Mistakes will not find their way to you.”
“…you put Pygmy Puffs in potions?”
“Only their eggs, taken before the first full moon since they are laid,” she explains easily. “You can’t ever find those in a regular potions shop, so I find it’s much easier to just breed them at home. You may borrow some, if you so wish.”
“Right…thanks for the offer, but I’ll pass.” I make a mental note to check under Jen’s bed for an army of egg laying Pygmy Puffs.
Besides for that little incident though, Jen is actually a very good tutor – most probably the best I’ve ever had. In fact, I learn loads more from her than I’ve ever done attending any Potions class at Hogwarts. The easiest part is because Jens just so well – frickin’ weird, for lack of better term – there’s no pressure or awkwardness from either side to make useless small talk. For the next two hours, she sits right in front of me, telling me exactly what I need to know to make my essay an Outstanding. Then, at nine o clock sharp, she picks up her Potions book, gets up from her seat without making any excuse, and leaves the library, not even waiting for my thank you.
Still marveling at how surprisingly successful my tutoring session went, I decide to stay in the library, and just read over and tidy up my essay.
It’s only five minutes after Jen leaves that I hear the chair slide out in front of me and I look up to see Al taking a seat. One look at his face tells me that I don’t want to talk to him right now. His eyes seem hardened and his lips are turned into a scowl.
He doesn’t offer me a greeting; he just sits there and looks moody, so I decide to be the bigger person.
“Good morning to you too, sunshine.”
He looks up at me and seems a bit surprised, as though he only just realized that I have been sitting here the whole time.
And then…he transforms. If I haven’t seen him have mood swings so many times before, I would almost have thought I imagined it. The emeralds in his eyes seem to visibly soften, and his shoulders suddenly relax.
I just nod my head in reply. I’ve already told myself hundreds of times that I’m not going to get sucked into this Al situation again, so I decide the safest option is to turn my attention back to my homework and just bloody ignore him.
Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done.
“Whatcha workin’ on?”
When I don’t answer, he leans across the table and I look up to see his eyes scanning my homework.
“Well, well, well,” he says, mildly impressed. “I’ve always got the impression that you weren’t too good with Potions. But what you’re writing down right there – well that’s at least worth an Outstanding, that is”
“I’ve had help.”
Okay, so maybe that’s not the most mature thing for me to say, but Al really isn’t in my good books at the moment. However, Al isn’t as offended as he should have been, because he just chuckles.
“I love my Mum, but Potions isn’t really her thing. You need to ask Aunt Hermione about that.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Or you could just come and find me, you know.”
It’s not what he says but rather the way that he says it – his voice suddenly barely more audible than a whisper, as if he is shy to say it, as if he’s suddenly trending in unknown waters – which makes my eyes snap onto his.
“I don’t mind helping you,” he murmurs across the table, firmly holding onto the newly established eye contact. “I actually enjoyed it last time.”
Suddenly, I feel as if there’s an astronomical force keeping me there, preventing me from breaking eye contact with him. I remind myself that he’s a shameless flirt and he was being a right arse to me the last time I had spoken to him, but for some unfathomable reason, breaking the connection we have now isn’t even an option because at that moment, I could basically feel the veils of resentment we both had put up around each other slowly start to fall.
“So what’s going on here?”
We both jolt a little as Scorpius loudly slams his books down in between us on the table. He glances at each of us quickly before grinning. “What are my two favorite people up to?”
“Oh, nothing at all,” Al replies casually, his entire demeanor changing yet again. He leans his chair back onto two legs and plasters a bored expression on his face.
The sudden anxious sensation slowly leaves me, and I mentally scold myself for feeling disappointed of my brother’s sudden arrival.
My brother’s sudden arrival…
In the library?!
“Scorp…are you lost?” I say.
“No, why would you ask that?”
“Are you feeling well, mate?” Al adds, dropping his chair back down. He stands up and feels my brother’s forehead, as though looking for a temperature.
“What’s with you two?” Scorp snaps, taking a step back from us. My eyebrows lift at his sudden retort – Scorpius never snaps at anyone.
“Well…it’s just that you’re in the library…” I explain. I mean honestly – the last time I’ve seen my brother in the library equipped with a backpack and actual books was, well…never.
“I’m studious,” he explains, as his eyes scan the library. However, after ten seconds of this, he picks his books back up and stuffs them in his bag. “Actually, never mind. I just remembered I’m too brilliant to actually have to study.”
He turns to leave, but stops abruptly. “You coming, Al?”
Although it’s meant to be a question, his tone makes the command in his statement apparent.
“Of course, mate,” Al says, picking up his own bag before following my brother out of the library. He doesn’t spare me a second glance, which makes me thankful I didn’t say anything I would have later regretted to him while he was here.
But surprisingly (and serving as proof as to how much progress I’ve made) Al’s not the guy on my mind right now as I watch their retreating figures leave the library. It’s Scorpius.
First of all, Scorpius never snaps – not at his best mate and definitely never at his sister. He’s one of the most care free blokes I know, besides for Fred. And even more so, his recent – visit, for lack of better term – is only one in a series of pointless appearances my brother has been tending to make recently.
Randomly, Scorp will just show up in the Gryffindor common room, have a quick pointless chat with someone and then leave as if he has no other care in the world. I mean it’s Scorp; yeah, he probably doesn’t have any other care in the world. But regardless, his behavior has been getting odder by the day.
So of course, there’s only one thing left to do.
Being the nosy-yet-caring, meddlesome-yet-lovable sister that I am, I decide I must get to the bottom of this.
It’s times like these when I wish Scorpius still kept a journal.