You know life ain’t normal when Regulus Black is standing in the middle of your neighbour’s kitchen.
“What the hell are you doing here?” I asked. I’d just come in for a glass of water. For some strange reason, since Mum died, Chris and I have celebrated our birthday at the Potters. Not that I was complaining – Mrs P was a great cook.
He smiled. He looked a little younger than me, perhaps fifteen or sixteen. I knew quite a bit about the old Pureblood families (because I’m really weird like that), but very little about the Black brothers themselves. Of course, the name Sirius Black was well known: a devastated young man wrongly accused of a crime he didn’t commit; a fallen soldier in the war against tyranny and oppression. And Harry Potter had made sure that his younger brother’s great sacrifice didn’t go unsung.
Regulus Black wasn’t as well known or loved as his charismatic older brother, but he was still a hero.
And he was standing in my brother’s best friend’s kitchen.
And he was cute
And dead, but who really cared about such trivial things?
Dark hair, light eyes, and a certain devil-may-care quirk to his smile.
“Hello, Ellie,” he said, still smiling.
I frowned. It was a bad habit of mine, frowning. Dad liked to joke that I’d have permanent frown lines by the time I was twenty. But I couldn’t help it. I was one of those people who worried about stuff. “What are you doing here?” I asked again, more confused than surprised. You’d think you’d get used to dead people popping up randomly in your life, but it’s not every day you get someone who’s practically a celebrity popping up in the bloody kitchen
“What do you think I’m doing here?” he asked, still with that infuriating smile on his face. It was kind of cocky, and so very self-assured.
“Aren’t you the bloke who died trying to destroy that Horcrux, but didn’t quite make it?”
He shrugged, his smile coming down a notch from ‘I’m-the-coolest-dead-guy-ever’ to ‘yeah-I-almost-defeated-the-Dark-Lord-so-I’m-trying-to-be-humble’.
“So what are you doing here?” I asked again, my frown becoming deeper. “You do
know you’re dead, right?” It had happened before. A lot of people couldn’t move on because they just didn’t realise that they were dead. I actually have no idea how they ended up near me. Maybe there was some sign pointing my way on the ghost plane or something…
He rolled his eyes. “No. I’ve just been roaming around the place for the past forty or so years, walking through walls, never aging, and being ignored by the general population, and I still
think I’m alive. And I’d heard you were good.”
Was a dead dude actually looking at me like I was stupid? The nerve!
“Then how can I help you?” I asked, coldly, heading over to the tap to get my glass of water.
“You can’t,” he replied cheerily. I had my back turned to him, so I couldn’t see his face, but I’d bet that if I looked up, he’d have his stupid smirk back in place.
Dead or not, teenage males were annoying as hell.
“Then perhaps you can answer my first question,” I said with false sweetness. I turned around to face him again. “What the hell are you doing here?”
He shrugged, and smiled benignly at me. “Kitchen designs fascinate me.”
I scowled. “Go away.”
Still smiling, he replied, “No.”
“Because you need me.”
I scoffed. I’ve been doing this shit for twelve years now, and every single ghost I came across, needed me. I
never asked for them. They
always came looking for me
didn’t need to get to the other side (really puts that joke about the chicken crossing the road into perspective, doesn’t it?); they
did. “Believe me, pal, I most certainly
don’t need you.”
He smiled mysteriously, but didn’t say anything.
“So, go away,” I said. I could hear the defensiveness in my tone, and I internally cringed. So not the tough image I wanted to project here.
“You’re in for quite the year, Ellie Anderson.” Another smile. “I think we’ll be seeing a lot of each other in the near future.”
Before I could snap out an utterly brilliant comeback to such an arrogant comment, I heard someone come into the kitchen from behind me.
“Ellie? Who are you talking to?” I whirled around to face Chris.
I grinned, and said, “Oh, you know, Regulus Black.”
He grinned back, playing along with what he assumed were my usual antics. “Oh, I thought so.”
“What are you doing here?” I seemed to have asked that question a lot in the past five minutes.
He shrugged. “Just came to see what you were up to.”
I held up my glass of water. “Just came to get a nice, refreshing drink of some dihyrdrogen monoxide!”
Chris gave me a look. It’s usually the one he gives me when I’m being especially nerdy. “Okay. Just don’t stay here too long, with your hydrogen dioxide.”
He gave me another look. It’s the one he gives me when he doesn’t actually care about what I’m saying because he thinks I’m being a nerdy idiot.
I think it’s oxymoronic too.
“Whatever, Ellie. Just finish your water and come back to the living room. You’ve been antisocial long enough.”
I nodded and he headed back out.
I took a deep breath and turned back around to face the dead dude again.
“Your brother doesn’t know?” he asked, looking curious.
“Know what?” I asked back coldly, taking a few gulps of my water. I knew what he was talking about. I just didn’t want to say it.
“That you can see people like me.”
“No.” It just made lying to him every day so much harder. I’d lost count the number of times I’d looked into Chris’ face, right into his honey-gold eyes (which were identical in colour to mine, actually, although they seemed to suit him better. On him, they looked all artistic and dreamy. On me, they looked weird) and pretended like I was a total loon, talking to myself and acting antisocial.
Not that I didn’t talk to myself and act antisocial a lot of the times, but I think it’s important to make a distinction here.
I could feel Regulus looking at me intently, although I was still aggressively trying to drink my water.
“You should probably tell him,” he said simply.
“And you should probably move on into the light,” I snapped back. I looked up at him again. He didn’t even seem the least bit affected by my jab at his non-moved-on state of existence. “What are
you still doing here, by the way?”
“Well, we were having such
a lovely conversation, and I can’t bear
leaving this wonderful
kitchen just yet. I mean, have you seen the tiles on that splashback?”
I glared at him, waiting for him to get to the point.
Noticing my glare, he grinned again. I could see and talk to ghosts, but I can’t actually touch them, so I knew it would be futile to take a swing at his face to wipe that stupid smile off his face.
And even if I could do that, it’s not as if it would matter. The guy’s dead already.
“But seriously, you should tell your brother.”
I glared some more. It wasn’t as if I didn’t want
to tell him. Chris is a pretty chill guy, and we’re pretty close, but I was worried that this was just too weird for words. We shared practically everything with each other. But this was just something that I couldn’t share with him.
Or anyone, for that matter.
They just couldn’t understand.
Regulus and I stared at each other some more.
Finally, I broke the silence. “Seriously, dude. What are you doing here?”
“Like I said, you need me. Or at least, you will.”
“What is that even supposed to mean?” I asked, rolling my eyes. Does the guy want to help with my Potions homework? Because even Rose isn’t as good at Potions as I am. And I’m pretty sure Rose is at the top of our class in practically everything, ever.
“It means that things are about to get interesting for you, and I’m just really happy that I can tag along for the ride,” he shrugged again and smiled. I bet he thinks that it’s real charming, that smile of his.
And if I thought about it objectively, it actually was.
“Do you know how boring the afterlife can get?” he went on, not seeming to notice my little side track analysis. “I mean, they all tell you that Death’s great. You get to wear those cool white robes, and chill in the clouds with Jesus, and there’s free wifi…”
“Wait. I thought you were a Pureblood. Since when were you into wifi?” I asked, now seriously confused. In my experience, dead people liked to cling to their previous lives like they were lifelines, for lack of a better word. It was often these things that kept them stuck here.
“I’ve been dead for forty years, Ellie. Death can get pretty boring if I can’t livestream the latest episode of Doctor Who.
“Okay… But that still doesn’t explain what you’re doing here. Clearly
, you’re enjoying your current state of limbo, and don’t need me to help you move on, so –”
“Someone’s coming,” Regulus said suddenly, interrupting me. He cocked to his head to the side. “And I have to go. TTYL!”
“Ellie?” I whirled around again towards the door.
“Mrs P! Er… what are you doing here?” I asked, feeling off-balance. I mean, TTYL?
She smiled at me and cocked her eyebrows. “This is my kitchen, I thought I’d pay a visit.”
“Er, of course! Come in, come in!” I pushed myself away from the sink and tried to shuffle myself awkwardly out of there. “Not that you need permission to come into your own kitchen, of course! I mean, like you said, it is
your kitchen…” I wasn’t usually this bad around people after an encounter with a ghost. Twelve years can teach you to evade and lie like nobody’s business.
“Actually, I was looking for you,” Mrs P said, acting as if she entertained complete weirdos in her kitchen all the time.
Then again, she does have the misfortune of living with Albus Potter.
“Um… okay.” I stopped awkwardly halfway to the door to their living room.
“Come. Sit down.” She motioned towards the dining table.
I followed her and sat down awkwardly on the edge of my seat.
Bloody hell, it was as if I’d never sat down at a dining table before!
Skipping all preamble, Mrs P said, “I have something for you.” She pulled out a box from what seemed like nowhere (and it could have been – you can’t really tell with magic) and put it in front of me on the table.
I stared at it. It was a little dark blue velvet box and my fingers were just itching to open it and see what was inside.
“It’s a birthday present,” Mrs P said after I just kept staring at it.
“Oh, um. Mrs P… that really
wasn’t necessary. I mean –” I spluttered. I was flattered, so being a complete noob when it came to social situations where sarcasm wasn’t functional, my brain shut down and left me alone to flounder through.
“Open it first, and see what it is, before you decide you want it or not.”
I stared at the box some more.
wanted to know what was inside.
I was terrible with surprises.
So I reached for the box and opened it.
Inside, there was a watch.
I felt my lips mouth a silent “Oh”
. The watch had a little lid over its face in old, burnished gold, attached to a soft, black leather strap. I gently took it out of its box and clicked the lid open. Inside, there were Roman numerals engraved around the rim, with the hands on top of clear glass, so you could see all the cogs inside making the clock tick away. Inside the cover, I could barely make out that something was engraved there. I brought it close to my face to see what it said. After squinting really hard (the writing was like, really small) I finally made it out:
Many a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceased
“It’s… beautiful,” I finally said, gently returning the watch to its box and snapping the lid closed.
Mrs P looked pleased. “I’m glad you like it. It’s yours.”
“But I can’t!” I looked up to see that Mrs P was watching me.
“Because…” I looked around for a reasonable answer. Since Mum died, Mrs P had become about the closest things I had to a mother. Those first few days without Mum around, she’d made sure that all three of us were still eating. When our first day of Hogwarts came, she took us to King’s Cross and showed us how to cross the magical barrier. When our birthday rolled around, she always insisted on celebrating it at their house.
“You’re seventeen now, Ellie. You should get a watch.”
“Chris got one, too,” she went on, ignoring me. “I gave him his a little earlier. I would’ve given you yours then, but you’d disappeared.”
“Just came to get a glass of water,” I smiled weakly. And have a little chat with some hot dead dude who couldn’t stop smirking.
She pushed the box towards me and got up. “Well, it’s your seventeenth birthday, and you like the watch, so I see no reason why you shouldn’t keep it.” She smiled down at me, as I continued to stare at the box.
Didn’t she know what this meant?
This was a pretty intense Potter-Weasley family tradition, and by giving me a watch…
I don’t know!
Did that mean I was family, too?
“Ellie,” she said softly. I looked up into her warm chocolate brown eyes. I could totally see why someone like Harry Potter would fall in love and marry Ginny Weasley. Her eyes seemed to completely understand what you were going through. “Your mother would have wanted this,” and with that she left me alone at the table with the watch.
But not before she hit me right in the feels.
Well played Mrs P, well played.
AN: Hello! So, this story hasn’t been updated for like, forever. It’s just that, exams happened, and then I lost my muse, and then… well, yeah. So my muse came back for a second chapter. It’s a bit filler-y, but I wanted to do some more in-depth individual character exploration and introduce a couple of themes. The quote on the watch cover is by John Steinbeck, an American writer and Nobel Prize for Literature winner in 1962. It’s a brilliant quote and it actually gave me some much needed inspiration, not only for this chapter, but the rest of the story as well!
PS: I just want to thank everyone who reviewed my last chapter. All your feedback was wonderful! I'm seriously trying to work with your constructive criticisms and suggestions because they were just so amazeballs!
So, as usual, I wanna know what you guys think! How did you find Regulus? What do you think he’s up to? And Ginny? Was it just me, or did anyone else adore Ginny?
Adios amigos! :D