The end of winter break was fast approaching and with it, the departure of Jacqueline and her father.
It was a crisp and clouded Friday afternoon and they had been visiting my family and me for almost a week. Much to my dismay, they were leaving the following morning to return to France and I was scheduled to take the last train back to Hogwarts in two days.
I was sitting on Jacqui's bed while she emptied out the dresser drawers and repacked all her things into her suitcase.
"I wish you weren't leaving," I told her sullenly.
She paused in her work to look at me with a sad half-smile on her face.
"I know, me too. But on the bright side, I'll be here for a couple weeks during the summer. Plus, maybe after that your family can come and stay with us in France. Everyone would love to see you again."
I thought briefly of the old friends I had made at Beauxbatons and felt a crushing sense of sorrow. Life was so happy and easy back then.
"That would be wonderful. I really miss France sometimes."
Jacqui studied me for a minute before she turned her attention back to folding. I heard her open her mouth and breathe in as if to say something, but instead let the air out in a sigh.
"What?" I asked.
She shook her head before replying, "Nothing."
"No really, what?"
She inhaled heavily again and said "I just worry about you."
Puzzled, I asked "Why? I'm perfectly fine. I've grown to love England, really, almost as much as France. I've made some good friends at school, none quite as great as you though, of course."
She closed the drawer but didn't turn around. My eyes were focused on her back as she turned her head to look out the window to our left.
"You're my best friend. I know you too well not to see that even though you try so hard to look alright on the outside, you're dying on the inside."
My chest tightened and swallowing became a forced act. I dropped my eyes from her back and instead stared at the carpet between my feet, my hands in my lap.
"You told me you still think about Draco all the time and after being around you this week, it's obvious that you're not over him."
"How could I be?" I whispered.
There was a short moment of silence. When I heard her move, I looked up and watched her as she turned around to face me. When she looked at me I focused my view out the window at the grey snow clouds above the distant mountains. I felt her gaze scanning my face.
"How long has it been?"
Stupidly, tears were forming on the edges of my eyes. I wiped them away with the back of my hand before they had a chance to fall. I sniffed. After another moment of silence, when I was sure I could talk without crying, I answered.
"About a month."
I took a deep breath and met her gaze. I inhaled shakily and looked down at the floor again.
"I know it's been enough time to move on, it's just...I can't forget. I can't forget him, I can't forget everything we did together but most of all I can't forget how much I love him."
"How much you love him?"
"Loved." I corrected and let out a single breathy chuckle.
"What difference does it make?" I asked, my voice rising in volume. "Yes, I'm still in love with him. How could I not be! I keep going over and over every moment we spent together and analyzing them and asking myself, 'how could this have gone wrong?' Where did he stop loving me? How did I not see it? It doesn't add up. He's the best liar I've ever met and he made me believe he was in love with me too. Right up to the very end."
Tears had started to run down my cheeks and my face was hot, yet I wasn't weeping. These tears sprang from anger and confusion. It hurt more to talk about him out loud than it did to talk about him in my mind where only I could hear.
Jacqui stood up and came over to sit beside me on the bed. I continued to stare at the wall when she pulled me into her for a hug. We sat there in silence for a few minutes, her comforting me and my tears slowly dripping off my chin onto my shirt.
"Don't keep your feelings locked up inside you" she whispered.
"It only hurts more when they break out of the cage you keep them in."
"What do I do?" I pleaded as if she had the cure for my heartache.
"Maybe you should write them down. Put your thoughts in a journal and stop trying to ignore them. Don't be afraid to cry and don't fight. Just let him go."
"I can't," I said, my jaw shaking. "I can't."
"It's over." Those two words she said cut like sharp knives through my heart, piercing into the far corners where I hadn't even realized I was harboring a few last traces of hope that he wanted me back.
Sobs escaped my chest and I turned into Jacqui, crying freely onto her shoulder as I released my tears.
"It's not fair!" I choked out when I had a free breath. "Why?" I cried. Why?
"Shhh. I know," she said attempting to calm me, her cheek pressed against the top of my head. "Let it out, don't hold it in."
After I had regained control of myself and washed my face in the bathroom, Jacqui and I laid sideways across the bed, heads and feet dangling off the edges.
Jacqueline raised herself onto her elbows and looked across the room at her dresser.
"Well, I guess I should finish packing."
I raised myself up as well, mimicking her position.
"No, I'll ask Briny to finish it for you. I think dinner is almost ready. You hungry?"
I smiled at her as we both stood up and exited the room.
Downstairs I could hear my parents and Jacqui's dad talking and laughing. A sudden fear crept over me as I contemplated what I would do the next two days of the weekend before I went back to school. It would be lonely without Jacqui; that was for sure. Half of my time would be spent packing my trunk and maybe I could drill myself for Quidditch. After all, we did have a game next Thursday.
As we rounded the top of the staircase and made our way down, Woody came bouncing toward us. I envied him and his always carefree, happy mood.
"Excuse me misses, but dinner is ready!" He squeaked.
"Thanks Woody, we were just on our way to the dining room." His giant bat-like ears flapped against his skull as he nodded his approval and bounded back down the stairs and into the kitchen.
Jacqui and I took our seats across from one another as we sat down at the table, our parents still thoroughly involved in conversation . Woody and Briny served us our meals and I looked down at the plate when it was set in front of me. Filet Mignon with sautéed vegetables and a loaded baked potato. Suddenly realizing how hungry I was I grabbed my fork and dug in.
After dinner I sent Briny up to the guest room to finish packing Jacqueline's things. We sat in the living room with our parents as they discussed our schools.
"...and Beauxbatons 'az really stepped it up zee quality of education 'ze students are receiving."
Jacqui's father was filling my parents in on the updates the old school was getting and the renovations that were being made to the palace.
"I heard a rumor that they were thinking of changing the uniforms' light blue to a champagne?" Always the fashionista, my mother.
"Yes, ze opinion on a color change was voiced but eet is no longer being considered," Mr. Rousseau replied.
I remembered the soft pale blue silk of my old Beauxbatons uniform and the way the beautiful fabric felt as it would grace my knees when I walked across the palace grounds. My current Hogwarts uniform was nothing in comparison to its elegance.
My mind started to wander as I blocked out their conversation. My gaze flitted around the room, over the books lining the west wall and out the front windows of my house. The sun was shining through a break in the clouds, piercing through the darkness of the overcast day and creating a celestial scene. Even though it was winter, with the return of the Dark Lord during the summer, people talked of dementors breeding like crazy and claimed that they were the cause of the constant mist and cool weather.
"Lacey!" My thoughts snapped back to attention as I realized this was the second time my father had called my name.
Mr. Rousseau cleared his throat and asked me his question a second time. "'Ow are you fairing at Hogwartz? Ze British treat you well, no?"
I smiled my response. "Of course, I like Hogwarts very much. I've made plenty of friends and the housing system is a great way of getting students to meet one another and form bonds of camaraderie."
He nodded his head in response. "And 'zee boyz? Zey must be fallink at jour feet?"
My heart skipped a beat but I maintained my cool with a laugh.
"Oh no, I'm much too focused on my studies and Quidditch to be concerned with boys."
As he chuckled and turned back to conversing with my parents I let my smile drop and looked at Jacqui. Her eyes showed concern as she studied me but I half-smiled and shook my head. I was fine. Maybe that good cry I had earlier had worked its magic on me.
Jacqueline stayed in my room with me that night and we stayed up much too late gossiping and treasuring the last few hours we'd have together before she left and we wouldn't see each other for another half of a year.
It was a tearful goodbye and hugs were exchanged before Jacqueline and her father stepped into our large fireplace and returned home via the floo network. I stared into the fireplace even after the green flames had died down and extinguished. My mother put her arm around my shoulders.
"Don't worry, you'll be back at school in a few days and summer will be here before you know it," she said.
For those of you wondering, it wasn't like Jacqui and I could just floo to each other's houses every day. Something about the cross-country network was really backed up and flooing from one country to another was like sitting in rush-hour traffic.
"Are we really going to go and visit them in France?" I turned to her with a hopeful smile on my face.
"Of course we will. Jack was more than happy with the thought of us coming to visit, not to mention I haven't seen Marie even longer than you had seen Jacqui."
Jacqueline's mother hadn't come with them on this business trip as she was tied up in France with her store. Marie Rousseau was a fabulous designer and one of the more sought after fashion stylists in the Parisian wizarding community. She and my mother had been great friends since their days in school at Beauxbatons.
I let out a sigh.
"I just wish summer wasn't so far away."
The next day, I slumped into the house around noon, frozen and exhausted from two hours of intense Quidditch drills. The snow had just begun to fall again and as the gentle downfall increased in thickness, I decided it was time to call it quits.
Briny and Woody were running around the house, stoking the fireplaces to keep them roaring and warming the house. I set my broom against the door frame as I shed my heavy Quidditch robes and wandered down the hallway towards the study. My mother was sitting at the desk, writing with her favorite quill and scribbling away on a piece of parchment while my father sat in his lounge chair by the fire reading the latest version of the Daily Prophet. The front page article grabbed my attention; the prime minister was standing behind a podium, presumably at a press conference, and the headline read out "Scrimgeour Steps Up Defenses in London."
"Dad, are you done with the front page?"
"Sure thing, here," he said as he handed me the article.
Eager to catch up on the latest info about the Ministry's efforts against You-Know-Who, I quickly read over the article but was disappointed that it held nothing of significant interest. The ministry had been increasing the amount of aurors in the cities most densely populated by witches and wizards since July. After what had happened with Harry Potter in the Department of Mysteries in June, and with the return of the Dark Lord, the newest Prime Minister had sent aurors out on wide goose chases, following any lead as to where You-Know-Who was hiding.
"It's ridiculous, sending all these people away from their families. They'll never find You-Know-Who and even if they did, they'd never be able to catch him and kill him." I could only imagine what it was like for the families of the aurors; all the constant worrying I imagined they went through. Would they ever see their loved-one again?
"The Ministry is doing their best to protect everyone from the Dark Lord. Besides, that's what the job of being an auror entails. It's their duty to track down and imprison those who use the Dark Arts and they knew that they'd have to be away a lot when they took the job."
"But still. I know that if I were an auror right now, I'd want to be home protecting my family." Dad just shrugged in response and went back to reading.
I folded the "Prophet" page and stood up, walking around the room.
"Hey mom, you don't happen to have a blank journal or notebook lying around do you?"
Part of me hoped she said no so I would have a legitimate excuse not to follow Jacqueline's advice and write a journal about my break up with Draco. She glanced up from her paper and thought a moment.
"Actually I think I might, look over there. The last time I bought stationary I think I brought home some blank journals and put them on that shelf."
Crap. I walked over to where she pointed and after looking through a couple of stacked books, I found a journal with blank pages amongst them.
"Deciding to keep a diary?" she asked.
"Yeah, something like that" I said absently. "Thanks."
I left the study and wandered up to my room. I grabbed a quill off my desk as I passed and went to curl up on the chaise lounge under my main big windows. I sat looking out at the lawn with the journal on my lap for a while. Was I strong enough to do this? Could I handle re-living the past four months in full detail on the slight chance that once it was written down, I could cast those days away from me for good, as easily as I could throw the journal in the trash?
Taking a deep breath I opened the cover and looked down at the creamy first page of book. I dipped my quill into the ink well on the window sill beside me and rested my hand against the page, tip hovering above the parchment.
Well, I was already at rock bottom, the only way to get out was to claw my way up. So I set ink to paper and started to write.
My name is Lacey Aurélie Badeau, and this is an in-depth recounting of the past couple months, during which I experienced the darkest, most painful, beautiful , loving, worst and best moments of my life since meeting Draco Malfoy.