Chapter 1 : The art of crying
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I cannot tell you why some people die young and some people live forever. I cannot tell you why I was never an adult, physically at least, or why life was snatched away from so many people I loved. I cannot explain to you what it is to die – not yet – because one day you will learn. When the time is right, you will learn. All the questions you ever wanted answered will become irrelevant, but you will know the answers.
I cannot stop you from thinking of death as a threat no matter how much I would like to relieve you from the worry; to free up your life for living. I can’t. Not yet.
You’ll know and you will understand.
And I’ll be there, waiting.
It happens like this.
Mary dies before she is seventeen years old and I keep on living. My life is divided up into a whole series of befores and afters: my timeline sliced down the middle with the critical point and before Mary and after Mary and those few precious years where we both lived on the same earth at the same time and our lives collided.
It will take a little time for it to sink in. There will be trips of the tongue where I have to stop myself from saying ‘Mary’s dormitory’ and moments when I have to remind myself that she is gone and I am living. It will seem so incredible that a person could suddenly not exist – that the Mary who kisses me now just doesn’t exist anymore. Dead. I will dream of a body decomposing; of skin falling off a skull, of muscles rotting away and a corpse that was once a person.
Then I will hurt. I will cry and clench my fists into my stomach and try to remember how to breathe.
At first, I will detest her for it. I will hate her for causing everything to turn out like this; for defining my life with tragedy before I am an adult. I will yell at her inside my mind for making me love her and breaking my heart and ruining any chance of happiness I ever had. I will blame someone. I will blame myself. I will blame Mary.
And then I will miss her.
I will ache and hurt with it. I will debate over and over with myself whether to fill the holes she has left or to rearrange things so that the holes are not so obvious. I will torture myself on the days when I don’t think of her. I will count the firsts – the first time I laughed after Mary, the first time I felt happy, the first time I kissed someone. I will catalogue these experiences, each and all, and wonder what Mary would have said.
It will become more difficult to fill in the gaps in conversation.
I will let go. I will move on. I will live and my friends will marry and we will grow old together. And Mary McDonald will become a bedtime story of those days before tragedy touched our lives and tainted our perceptions. She will be the lullaby I tell someone else’s children – of a girl I once loved, who died before she was seventeen years old, who spoke fluent sarcasm and dyed her hair purple and was scared of being boring.
And they will ask ‘do you still love her?’
And that’s the question I do not know the answer to.
That is the future, painted out in front of me, and everything in my body rejects the idea. I do not want that. I do not want to lose Mary to death and to become that teenage boy who lost his girlfriend. I do not want my heart to be the epicentre of these aftershocks. I would like not to care. It would be nice to just be a vaguely sad. I would like my heart not to break.
So I say ‘if I fell in love with you’ and I push her away from me, because the grief has already started and the denial helps to numb the fear; a whole part of my life being over before it ever really started.
Emotion chokes up in her throat and I think selfish Sirius. But then I think, I continue after she stops. And then I think of her corpse again and a heart ceasing to beat.
And so I try to save myself.
On the ninth of March Nate says “she’s gone,” and the world doesn’t stop.
She fell down on the stairs on the eighth of February. Missed Valentine’s Day. I hadn’t made any plans but I was going to – I was going to do something. Now I think maybe I’d never have thought of something right, anyway, fucked it up – but it’s a moot point because that’s all Valentine’s Days ever ruined and drained of meaning and done with. Damned stupid holiday anyway.
I didn’t play Quidditch against Hufflepuff. Disappeared before the game and left James to find the reserve sharpish. Whole Quidditch Team pissed off and no one said anything against me. Won anyway.
We were told that she wouldn’t make in into April on the seventeenth. On the twenty-second she woke up from the fall. And on the ninth of March Mary McDonald died.
And none of the dates meant anything at all. Mary hadn’t been alive for more than a few seconds; she died before, disappearing, lost something of herself when she fell down those steps that I couldn’t understand. And it wouldn’t matter if she died tomorrow, or the day before, or lasted out the extra ten days until her seventeenth birthday. It didn’t matter. The date didn’t matter, yet the number kept going round in my head and cementing itself into my brain, and I knew that I’d hate every ninth of March and every February Seventeenth until I’ve joined her there in hell.
Dead Mary looked much the same as dying Mary. That’s what I thought in the moments after Nate’s announcement. I thought that perhaps I’d imagined the switch between life and death to be more pronounced, but there it was. That was the brutality of a terminal illness, I decided, hunched over in my chair and staring at this corpse – Mary – that I barely recognised. Mary had thinned and shrivelled up into herself, barely functioning in those last two weeks, the last days unable to form coherent sentences. Death was written over every line in her face, and I could near see her skull, see death staring out at me from her eyes.
And I hadn’t wanted to remember her like that, but Mary was dying before the day I knew her, and by the time I’d accepted that this talking corpse was Mary that was gone too.
So Mary was dead and the room was thick with it.
And what do you say? What do you do?
It was no more real than it had been yesterday or the day before, it seemed so strange that dying had an end point. She was already dead and so how could she die. Mary. Mary. Mary bloody McDonald. Her heart had stopped; bodily functions finally ceasing. Brain dead. Gone. Just gone.
And the funeral was arranged for next week – the sixteenth – so it was a good job she’d died now, really, or else the booking at the church would have to be rearranged. And three days after that it would be Mary’s seventeenth birthday (except it wouldn’t, not really), and then it was only another ten days until James turned seventeen and, apparently, the world wasn’t about to stop.
So it had really happened. Mary McDonald was dead.
And we were going to grow old and age and the clock would keep ticking and people would grow up and move on, and maybe one day we’d all forget that on the ninth of March when we were just seventeen, a girl died whilst we sat and watched.
Nate pressed his fingers against the place where Mary’s pulse used to be, as if double checking, as if he was trying to convince himself it was real, and then he squeezed her hands – just the once – before letting it fall to her side and standing up.
“Time of death,” Nate glanced at his watch (and it kept damn ticking onwards), “One twenty five.”
Mary’s Dad’s jaw was slightly slack, eyes slightly stunned. Lily had balled her hands into fists and she was crying. James had his head bowed. Everyone, it seemed, was reacting as if something had just happened. As if something had monumental in the situation had shifted slightly.
And it hadn’t.
Mary died and I felt nothing at all.
I spent those few minutes asking myself how I should feel, and how I should react, but I didn’t have any damn answers. I sat there and I tried to bring up some measure of feeling. I sat and I waited for my heart to break and it didn’t.
There was nothing but me, there, in the hospital wing thinking things like: at least I’ll be able to see Thestrals now, and she was cutting it fine with the funeral.
And then, what I would never admit to anyone, I thought thank God. Thank God it’s over.
Because the corpse Mary who couldn’t speak wasn’t my Mary, because Mary was twisted and broken, and death ruined her. Because every day she kept on living, a part of me still believed that she might keep on living still.
I’d wanted a clean break. But death took Mary slowly, and at the end she told me that she was ready to die, and that she regretted nothing and I refuted that with every part of my body that could feel emotion. I wanted to hold onto her. I wanted her to fight for me.
I sat in the hospital wing and I looked at Mary, who both was and wasn’t Mary at the same time, and I thought about how I’d let her go and how little I felt when regarding her dead body. I thought about the relief. I thought about everything and felt nothing whatsoever.
I cried anyway just for something to do.
Mary’s Dad found me before he left the castle to shake my hand.
I could just about trace out some familiarities to him and his daughter, but it was disconcerting and uncomfortable – Mary, all wrong and displaced on someone else’s face. I put that down to the fact that I wasn’t exactly well versed in the etiquette of meeting girlfriend’s parents, not that there’d ever been anything preceding this where I’d even have considered the prospect as viable, but it wasn’t very good with parents anyway.
No doubt something to do with being disowned, but parents disconcerted me slightly. James’s parents were different but they hardly fit in with the parental conventions – normal parents who grounded children and wrote them letters and shook their daughter’s boyfriends hands were beyond the scope of my comfort zone.
Particular given Mary was dead.
“It’s Andrew,” he said, after I’d called him ‘Mr McDonald’ and then he offered me a smile and said, “I’m sorry I didn’t get to know you better.”
I wasn’t entirely sure whether I was sorry. Of all the regrets I have, not knowing Mary’s parents very well was not particularly high up on my list – but I nodded anyway because the man had just lost his daughter and I was her boyfriend and I couldn’t seem to find it within me to care. And because there was nothing much else I could do.
“You loved my daughter.”
“Yes,” I said, but the words have a hollow quality and I can’t seem to find the meaning within them. I loved Mary, Mary, Mary… “I love her.” I repeated.
Mary’s Dad’s eyes glazed over.
“Thank you,” He said, stretching out his fingers and sliding his hand through my own. I’m not sure the last time I shook someone’s hand – certainly not for years, certainly not something I did very often. Maybe Magnus Potter, because he was quirky and into those sorts of formal gestures. But this made my skin crawl. Brothers in arms. We loved the same girl, in one way or another.
I tried not to think about the fact that I’d fucked his daughter and he probably knew that.
“Johnny…” He said, trailing off slightly, “he’ll be starting Hogwarts in September. Would you..?”
“I’ll look out for him.”
The moment came two days later.
It wasn’t my heart, either, it was my gut. And it was like a bludger to the gut, but relentless and throbbing and piercing all at once
I’d spent the minutes waiting for some slicing pain in my chest or at least something, but my heart was being too reliable at functioning as just an organ – it seemed to be beating at the same steady, usual pace without any heed to the fact that I should be feeling something.
Every corridor silenced when I approached them and I hadn’t ventured down to a meal time for fear of punching anyone who looked at me in the face. Instead I ate in the kitchens, with a dazed Lily and a silent James for companions (apart from when I managed to ditch them, which I tried to do often – pretending like I was upset was beginning to be a strain). The whole thing was frankly hilarious; with Dumbledore apparently announcing things about funerals, being let off work, whispered conversations between teachers about where the body was.
There was this girl wearing a purple scarf. And it was Mary’s shade of purple. And I repeated that in my head, expecting the same feeling of vague amusement without any connection to it all, but suddenly it hurt.
I couldn’t stand. I needed to get out. Needed to get away from Hogwarts where Mary’s ghost walked through every damn hall, couldn’t stand being in this building where Mary died and I kept on living.
And Mary was dead.
I was shaking.
Stumbled into an empty classroom, sat down on one of the desk, pressed my fingers into my forehead and waited for the pain to just stop. To end. But ohmygodshewasdead and that meant gone, and that meant that this was the end and yet it wasn’t, because people were still going through these motions that didn’t bloody matter.
Didn’t cry. Couldn’t. But some unfathomable time later – and I didn’t really care how long it had been - it let up enough for me to stand up and walk out.
And my heart still didn’t break, but there was this dull aching feeling where it used to be.
The tears found me in the shower.
Before then they had been crocodile tears, or near enough, and I was more taken with the fact that I was able to produce tears than the actual feeling behind them – before Mary, I couldn’t remember crying after graduating childhood and I thought that after Mary I’d likely give up the practice again.
But it was in the shower when the tears came of their own accord and at first I barely realised I was crying. Then I turned off the flow of the water, sank down the wall of the shower and cried, really cried, the sort of tears that came from some clogged up place in my stomach, which forced their way through my chest and came, strangled, out of my throat: loud, shameless tears that I didn’t want anyone else to hear.
I turned the shower back on but stood out of the water, just crying, until my throat hurt too much to continue.
Then I stepped back under the water and turned up the heat till it hurt.
The next day was the first I went down for breakfast. And I didn’t go because I wanted to, either, but I could feel people watching my empty space at the breakfast people and judging things and saying things – if they wanted to see what it was like then I didn’t see who I was to rob them of the privilege.
Between skipping breakfast entirely and sneaking down to the kitchen I’d avoided having to face this castle this early in the morning. Now I went down early, before the rest of them were up, and sat drinking black coffee on the emptier end of the Gryffindor table. I had a sore throat and it was difficult to breathe as if, somehow, I had given myself a cold through crying too much.
I didn’t know whether the others in the hall were talking about me or not, because I felt so entirely separate from the lot of them that I just didn’t care.
Besides, it wasn’t like this was the first time I’d given the castle reason to talk about me. From sitting down on that stupid wooden stool and being designated ‘Gryffindor’ to my dead girlfriend, there was always something.
James and Remus arrived half an hour later.
James said “nice to see you, mate.”
And I looked at him and grunted, “wish I could say the same,” and then we both grinned at each other for a second, before the smile died on my face and I had to burry that too.
But, it had been there. For a split second, I had smiled.
This is why I cry.
Mary McDonald is a person who once lived, and breathed, and thought things.
And if you separated her into boxes, all those memories and moments, and those particular expressions she had, and all the thoughts that crossed her mind and all the things that she felt and everything that she once was, then she still would not be Mary.
And so someone could ask ‘what was she like’ and I could say that she was pale, and had all these witty comebacks, and that she had a brother and a sister and a half-sister and one on the way, but they would still not know Mary. And I could say that I loved her and they could ask ‘why’ and I would not be able to explain.
I would think about tracing circles across the back of her hand and tucking a piece of violet hair behind her ears, I could think about kissing Mary, about listening to her cry, about breaking her heart because I wanted to save myself, and I could think about lying there and listening to her breathe when she had two weeks to live. And they would still not understand the depths of Sirius and Mary, of all that there was and that all I have lost.
I cry because no one understands how much has been lost. Because Mary will never talk again, never think again, will never press her lips against my cheek and cry for no reason.
I cry because when I think of Mary I want to smile.
Time happens and then it just keeps on happening. There is a funeral and classes and Quidditch and parties and life and I’m not entirely sure whether I am over the shock of it yet.
“I don’t think Lily Evans thought much of me talking to you.” Sarah Bones said looking up at me from her place in the hospital wing, for which I was partially responsible for putting her in – at least, my friends had been.
Lily exploding her potion was the most amused I’ve been in weeks, purely because she was so woefully transparent and ridiculous. Hopeless, idiotic James. His ‘accidental’ putting Sarah in the hospital wing, in doing so preventing her attendance at the Quidditch party and thus preventing her trying to flirt with me more. There was a healthy dose of self-preservation, too, as that cauldron could have exploded on anyone. And then, afterwards, the frantic apologies to anyone who would listen. If James wasn’t so pathetically besotted with one Lily Evans then I imagine Sarah would have been just fine.
“I imagine not,” I said, trying to prevent myself from grinning too much. The image of the wild look in Evans’ eyes, James madly reaching out in some mock heroic poise, and the chaos that ensued.
God, Mary would have loved it. Found it absolutely bloody hysterical.
“She’d have probably tipped it over me if you hadn’t provided an alternative,” I shrugged, glancing at her before letting my gaze drift back to the windows, “so cheers.”
“Is that why you’ve come to visit?”
I shoved my hands in my pocket. I wasn’t entirely sure how I’d ended up in the hospital wing, actually; James had been fussing and feeling oddly guilty about the whole thing (which led me to the hysterical conclusion that it wasn’t quite as much of a spur-of-the-moment-accident as he’d made out). He had been insistent on visiting, but he was also attempting to put on a party and was worrying about Lily’s ridiculous behaviour and… and I’d volunteered to do the hospital visit.
And considering how much she’d been irritating me in the potions class I couldn’t pinpoint exactly why I was here, but we were all doing stupid things at the moment. I imagined Lily probably had no decent explanation as to her accidental indiscretion with Diggory (although I could probably figure out a few answers for that one for her).
It had taken the others by surprise though. They’d gone silent, one of those all-encompassing silences; the sort of silences that seemed to haunt the subtext of every conversation with things that we weren’t going to talk about, like Mary and grief and terminal illness. But every silence would be filled by those looks as if they were waiting for me to spill my guts and start talking. Which I wasn’t.
“Nothing better to do.”
“Because I didn’t think you exactly wanted to talk to me earlier.”
“Yeah, well,” I said, glancing away and staring at the floor for a few seconds.
“Must be frustrating.”
“What?” I asked, looking up at her feeling oddly startled.
“Everyone… everyone’s talking about you,” Sarah Bones said, pulling herself up in her bed and looking at me seriously.
“That’s not exactly new. I’m a hot topic of conversation, Bones.”
“It’s… it’s a bit different.”
I wasn’t sure if I agreed with that or not. The Gryffindor Black, the disowned kid, the Marauder, the bloke with the dead girlfriend – they all seemed to have a lot of things in common. The really irritating thing was they all seemed to invoke some sort of sympathy in people and there was nothing more irritating as the ‘poor Sirius’ attitude that everyone adopted on spontaneous occasions.
I mean, if it was a choice between coming across as a complete bastard and someone who deserved sympathy I’d take bastard every time.
Especially because I had been a bastard. I’d been damned horrible and useless to Mary most of this time, so to now have people lining up to offer me condolences was just plain irritating. Maybe I wanted someone to treat me like a normal human being for a few minutes – for Sarah Bones to start trying to flirt with me even though it was grossly inappropriate, and frankly, really made me question her moral position, but at least she wasn’t throwing me a goddamn tissue.
“People will get bored,” I shrugged.
It’d just become another afterthought.
Sirius Black, Marauder. Oh, wasn’t he disowned? Didn’t his girlfriend die? Wasn’t his brother a Death Eater?
“That’s a bit… crass.”
“So,” I said, turning to look at her, “I can’t say people will get fed up of remembering Mary and you’re allowed to flirt with a guy whose girlfriend’s been dead just short of two months?”
“I…” she paused, “I didn’t mean to offend you.”
“Frankly, Bones, I couldn’t give a shit,” I said, kicking back the chair and standing up, “but there are other people in this castle who could. I’m not the only person who lost someone important. So, you know, you should expect to get covered in a burning cauldron of potion for being such an idiot.”
She blinked a couple of times.
“I was just… trying to be nice.”
“Yeah, well, Lily Evans doesn’t always appreciate nice all that much. Oh,” I said at the door, “if you could find somewhere else to sit in potions that would be lovely.”
It felt good to lash out. It felt good to be allowed to say anything I damn wanted without having James and Remus giving me those looks, as if they’d been expecting this sort of behaviour all along. It was nice not to have all my behaviour logged and checked off against their own prescribed beliefs about how grief should work. So, maybe I definitely fulfilled the bastard criteria in my conversation with one Sarah Bones, but damn, it was the most I’d enjoyed a conversation with another person since Mary died.
“What happened with Bones?”
“Oh,” I said, “I had words.”
“Did you make her cry?” James grinned, pulling out a bottle of something that looked strong from under the bed and conjuring up a couple of glasses.
“Dunno, Mate,” I said, smirking as I glanced back up at him, “didn’t look back.”
“You could at least have left her with a pack of tissues,” Remus said, holding up his glass for James to fill it and then taking a sip.
“She probably already had one,” I muttered, watching James pour a significantly less full glass before handing it over to me. God’s sake not made of glass. I raised my eyebrows and didn’t take it off him. He placed it down on the floor next to me. “Just in case I started crying to her about my dead girlfriend,” Remus drew in a sharp breath and the moment seemed to suspend over the dormitory. Christ. “Tissues and sympathy sex,” I took the bottle out of James’s hand, deliberately ignoring my half empty glass and taking a swig. “Cheers.”
This is how it felt to be abandoned again.
It felt like there was someone with a pair of scissors chopping parts of me away, just to see what would happen. It felt like I could lose anything at any point, because if Mary could die and Lily could just walk out of Hogwarts because she felt like it, then anything could dissolve and disintegrate.
Come back Mary.
I never liked Lily. Jealous of the amount of my best friend’s attention she could absorb by doing damned nothing, bored by James’s rants about Lily-this and Lily-that, in direct competition with her for Mary’s time too – but then we were mourners together.
And then, as much as she irritated me, we were tied together. So I watched her back and didn’t let James know about the Diggory incident, and I told Sarah Bones to leave me alone, and I beat up Snape twice (although, honestly, that was just as much for me as for bloody Evans). She was drunk and stupid at some party – and naturally I was drunk too – so I made sure that she wouldn’t embarrass herself all over again, and I thought Mary would be proud of me for this. And I thought we were in it together. And I thought, at least Lily understands how suffocating all this is.
But Lily left Hogwarts early and abandoned me to grieve alone.
If I watched out for Lily then Mary might come back. If I hexed Snape again then maybe time would shift and he’d never try and blackmail her and she’d never have fallen down the stairs and she’d still be alive, just about, for another few days. And maybe if she was still alive then Lily wouldn’t leave, and maybe if none of this ever happened then it wouldn’t feel like the grief was restarting all over again.
Rewind and Reset.
Please, damn it Mary.
“The shrieking Shack,” James said, stepping into the entrance way and glancing around the room, “should’ve known.”
I didn’t reply, instead staying silent with my head propped up by the bottom of the tattered sofa, lying on the floor and staring rather intently at my knees. I liked the Shrieking Shack because it had been so utterly ruined and we’d been the cause of that ruin; I’d watched every scratch of the carpet and pull of the curtains and slash across the sofa happen at some point or other.
It was reassuring to know that destroying something so utterly took time and patience. It was only possible to cause a bit of damage in one singular effort (and we’d certainly tried).
“Mind if I join you?” James asked, kicking off his shoes and sitting down next to me on the carpet, stretching out his legs and looking up at the ceiling.
“Can’t see why not.”
“Well,” James said, “figured you might have wanted to be alone.”
“Didn’t realise that was something you’d have considered,” I commented, joining him in staring at the ceiling.
“Come on, mate, I’ve been trying to help,” James said, “been reading books and shit.” I laughed at that, wasn’t the first time either – laughing I found, was easier than smiling.
“How am I doing?”
“Well,” James said, offering me a wry grin, “you’re doing it all wrong, mate. Completely the wrong order and I gave up trying to track it.”
“Hit me with it,” I said, smiling slightly at the ceiling, “how should I be feeling?”
“You start off with denial,” James said, retrieving a bottle from his bag and unscrewing the cap (pretty typical for James: one second trying to stop me from drinking and then next encouraging it – another reminder that none of us knew what the hell we were doing, and were just trying to make up some rules that might make sense), “and then you’re supposed to feel angry. Are you angry?”
“I’ve always been angry,” I shrugged, sitting up and taking the bottle.
“Are you angry at Mary?”
I laughed at that.
“I’m usually angry at Mary for something too.” James cracked a smile and took the bottle back, grimacing as he gulped down a little too much.
“Bargaining,” James said, “Lots of if only’s.”
“Like, if only she hadn’t fallen down the stairs?” I asked. “If only she’d told me a bit sooner? If only I hadn’t been such a…” I could feel my voice breaking slightly, so I stopped abruptly and took the bottle back. The heat in my chest made me feel alive slightly.
“Depression next,” James said, “then acceptance.”
“Right,” I said, trying to sound normal despite the fact that I could feel the threat of something building up in the back of my throat, “I’ll look forward to it.”
“You… you seemed better last week. Did something…?”
“Lily,” I admitted, “goddamn Evans leaving like that.”
“Padfoot, mate -”
“ – we were in it together,” I said, dropping my gaze back to my knees, “I’ve been concentrating on looking out for her, you know, making sure she doesn’t blow herself up. Cause, I know it’s the oldest fucking cliché but… Mary would have… she’d have wanted that.”
“Yeah.” James breathed.
I didn’t talk about it much.
“Something to concentrate on,” I said, “purpose. Something to fucking do. Shit, James, I’m so tired of this. Of mourning. I just want it to stop, now. I just want to not feel like this and for it not to hurt. And most of all I just want to stop crying all the fucking time. I’m not even upset half the time my eyes just start bloody leaking -”
“Yes, bloody leaking,” I said, elbowing James, “fat lot of good you are, Prongs.”
“I brought you alcohol.”
“Oh yeah, real responsible,” I said, grinning as I took up the bottle again, “fantastic idea. Sure Lily would love that.”
“Well she’s not here, is she,” James said, sour expression for a moment, “buggered off back home.”
“Women,” I said, smirking at James, “can’t live with them, can’t live without them.”
“Sorry,” James said, “that was insensitive.”
“To hell if I care,” I said, with another sip of the drink, “wish you’d all stop treating me like I’m breakable.”
“You did punch Peter in the face.” James said, fingers wrapping round the bottle and raising his eyebrows at me.
“Well, he was pissing me off,” I sighed, sinking backwards into my position on the floor and suddenly feeling exhausted. Grieving had a nasty habit of tiring me out, making me want to go to bed and sleep and then taunting me with dreams of Mary or insomnia.
I hadn’t minded James being here a few seconds previously. Had appreciated it, even, but suddenly I wanted him to sod off and leave me on my own again.
“How long did your book say this whole thing was supposed to last for?” I asked, closing my eyes for a second and feeling my heart rate speed up slightly.
“Didn’t say,” James said, reaching out and clamping a hand to my shoulder, “but you just tell me what you need, Pads.”
I wanted to laugh at that. I closed my eyes and thought ‘how long have you got?’
All the time in the world.
These days I usually really do try to avoid double authors notes, but there's a couple more things I need to say. Firstly I really want to thank Hanzi/Cirque Du Freak/HopelessRomanticx (depending on where you want to find her) for betaing this for me and for being the best forum friend a girl could ask for. And thanks to everyone to supporting TAOB/TAOS for all this time. And, hopefully you'll like this spin off too. So, cheers my dears! :)