Chapter 17 : Me
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Tori Heron’s body was found two days ago, at the bottom of the Black Lake.
It was the mer people who found her.
After Rebecca and I uncovered the scrap of parchment from under my bed, we took it straight to Headmistress McGonagall.
We ran through several corridors towards the stone gargoyles that guard her office. The whole time Rebecca looked like she was about to faint - she was as pale as a ghost but had a determined expression on her face. When we finally got to the bottom of McGonagall’s office, it was only to find that we needed a password to get in. We - or rather I (as Rebecca had collapsed against the wall by this point) tried every password I could think of; Dumbledore, Chocolate Tart, Transfiguration, etc, etc, but to no avail.
Then, just as I was about to give up, McGonagall came hurrying down the corridor wearing a tartan dressing gown and a frazzled expression on her face.
“Now what on earth is all this fuss about?” she had asked irritably, and over in the corner Rebecca gave a horrible shudder.
Wordlessly, I handed McGonagall the note.
For a few moments, she just looked down at it, clearly rereading it several times. Then she looked up at me very seriously, through those square spectacles of hers.
“Where did you find this note, Miss Parker?” she asked, and I was surprised when her voice came out slightly shaky.
“Under my…under Tori’s bed,” I’d answered quietly.
After that, everything happened so fast. McGonagall summoned all the Heads of Houses - Professors Longbottom, Slughorn, Smith and Flitwick and ordered a thorough search of the Hogwarts grounds. Then she insisted that Rebecca and I go up to bed immediately.
That night I lay awake for a long time, staring up at the dark ceiling. I could hear the gentle breathing of Aine and the twins but from across the room, I could hear Rebecca crying quietly.
It was awful.
But nothing was worse than the assembly where we all found out. All the other students knew about this sudden assembly was that it had something to do with Tori’s whereabouts. As we hurried down to the Great Hall early that morning, everyone was chattering excitedly. They thought Tori had been found - alive.
“We should have known she’d wait until the end of the school year! It makes so much sense!” I heard one girl telling her friend as I entered the Great Hall and hurried to sit with the gang.
The noisy laughter and talking ebbed away as Professor McGonagall stood up and stared around at us all very seriously. James, who was sitting next to me, squeezed my hand. He still didn’t know about the suicide note at that stage. I hadn’t had time to tell him.
“Hello everyone,” McGonagall began. “I’m sorry to call you all here when the year is almost done. But…”
McGonagall spoke calmly and gently to us. She told us in the only way she must have known how. She gave us the facts.
An initial din quieted to only a few hushed sobs. Without meaning to, I looked at Rebecca. Tears were pouring silently down her cheeks. Clementine had her arm around her. I was glad. Rebecca needed comfort.
McGonagall explained quickly, without gruesome detail how, after Flitwick had conversed with the mer people, her body had been found in the middle of the Black Lake. It appeared she’d walked out onto the iced over lake and drowned. It wasn’t certain whether this was accidental.
Ignoring the painfully tight grip James had on my hand and Aine, who had her head pressed into Mickey’s chest and was shaking, I thought back to the dream I’d had at the start of the year. The one about Tori.
She’d been in the middle of the lake then, hadn’t she?
Had the universe been trying to send me a sign?
Had I been having a vision, the type Professor Moon talks about, without realising it?
For some reason I found myself searching along the Gryffindor table, looking for a certain green-eyed boy.
I saw him quickly, sitting next to Rose Weasley who was hard to miss, what with her flaming red hair.
Albus looked as though he were etched out of marble he was so still. His eyes were fixed on the top of the table, but I could tell he was not really seeing it at all.
All that happened two days ago.
Hogwarts has been unusually quiet ever since.
I haven’t seem James since the assembly. Fred says he’s barricaded himself in the dormitory and won’t come out. Everyone is on edge, constantly in danger of bursting into tears.
And I…I don’t know where I sit. What should I feel about the girl I never met? Whose body was found two days ago, whose photo’s were on my wall for the majority of the year?
Whose boyfriend I stole.
I feel sick with guilt whenever I think about this.
How could I have been so selfish with James? The world is bigger than just me. Me and my problems. I should have realised that and stayed to myself. I should have stayed the old, bookish Charlie Parker. The one who had no friends and preferred books to people.
Why did I have to meddle in what I didn’t understand?
Today is the last day of term. Tori’s memorial.
I walk down to the Great Hall alone, staring at my feet. I can hear people murmuring at me. The only thought that is going through their minds is that I am the dead girls replacement.
They’re right, of course.
I’ve kept to myself since the assembly. Aine keeps trying to talk to me, but I push her away. I don’t want her sympathy. She knew Tori first.
I’ve been told that the hall is usually decorated with the colours and emblem of the house that won the cup. This year, for the fourth year running, Gryffindor won it. The hall should be hung with red and gold. But instead, as I walk into the hall, I see black drapes hanging from the ceiling. The house tables have been removed, to be replaced by rows and rows of chairs, all facing the front.
At the front row sits a single woman, who I’m guessing is a relative of Tori’s. She is staring straight ahead of her with an unreadable expression. She is not crying but there is a handkerchief clutched in her hand.
I see Aine, Fred and Mickey in the second row. James is with them, staring down at his feet. Aine sees me and waves for me to join them, but I shake my head.
I’m not ready to see James yet. And I don’t want to intrude.
Instead, I go to sit alone at the back of the hall, waiting for the seats to fill up.
Then McGonagall, who is wearing robes of midnight black, steps forward, a sombre expression on her face.
I close my eyes as she begins to speak. Everyone is absolutely wordless and motionless.
I hear McGonagall saying how Tori represented the characteristics of a Gryffindor - how she was brave, determined and loyal. I hear her saying that she will be missed by all. That she will always be remembered.
And then…then the eulogies begin.
Rebecca is first. I watch her stumble up to the platform, and look out at the sea of black. Her eyes are red and her skin is puffy, but she takes a deep breath and begins to speak calmly. “This is my first memorial,” she says uncertainly. “And I don’t really know what to say. I know to be sad and I know to honour Tori. But that’s all I know.” She takes a deep breath. “Up until a few days ago, I believed that Tori was still out there somewhere. I guess I was wrong. I always worried about Tori, even though she always acted like nothing was wrong. She always put on a brave face - she was the most courageous person I know. She never let anything get to her. Though she was only here for a year…I think Tori made a lasting impact. I think people changed because of her. For the better. I know I did. Tori helped me out of my shell, and I want to thank her for that.” Rebecca, who has remained so brave throughout all of this, is finally beginning to crumble. Her eyes and tearing and her lower lip is wobbling. I find myself looking away, because for some reason my own eyes are watering, too. “Remember Tori,” says Rebecca. “Remember Victoria Heron.”
Rebecca lowers her eyes and steps down silently from the stage, taking a seat next to the woman sitting in the front row. Shifting my eyes, I turn to see that James is now standing in front of the hall.
I stare at him in disbelief.
I had no idea he was going to speak today. I’m not sure how it makes me feel, to be honest. Then again, do I have a right to feel anything?
James doesn’t rush into talking. He stands there for a moment, before a line appears between his brow and he looks around at us all.
And then finally, he begins to speak. “This is very difficult for me, of course. Tori was…she was beautiful. And really vibrant.” He shrugs, a small smile playing in his lips. “There was just something about her - she would have loved having you all here. Everyone being here today is the best way to honour her, I think.” He stares into the distance, as though seeing something beyond the stone walls of the Great Hall. “I will never forget Tori, or what she brought to this school. I know that much. I will never, ever forget her.”
I look down at my hands as he steps from the podium and stops in front of the woman who is of some relation to Tori. My heart is pounding painfully inside my chest, so hard that it’s hard to ignore.
Is it true, what James said? That he’ll never forget Tori? Not even when he’s with me?
The woman with the handkerchief is up next. In a cold, emotionless and almost detached voice, she introduces herself as Tori’s aunt. Subconsciously, I wonder why Tori’s parents aren’t here. “I want to thank you all for coming today. It means a great deal,” she says, before going back to her seat.
I stare at her in disbelief. What?
Up the front, I see Aine turn in her seat to give me a puzzled look. I just shake my head, equally as baffled. That was her aunt. Is that all she had to say?
At last, the memorial is over. The Hogwarts Express will arrive at the station in a few hours to take us home.
I’ll never come back to Hogwarts again. The first place I’ve actually had friends.
Everyone seems to be mingling around in the Entrance Hall, talking about Tori. No-one notices me slipping up the grand staircase and into my dormitory.
I want to respect Tori, really I do. But…something about me attending her memorial just felt so wrong. I’ve never met the girl, unless you count the frightening boggart I saw in the dungeons.
There is no-one else in the dormitory, so I take the opportunity to pack up my trunk. I pile my heavy books, spare parchment and quills into my cauldron. I fold all my clothes and robes neatly and tuck them into the trunk. I coax Bernard out from under Aine’s bed with a piece of chocolate and shove him into his carrier.
The bloody menace is about twice as fat as he was at the start of the year. He can’t resist house elf food.
I’ve just finished packing when the door of the dormitory opens and Aine comes in, looking unusually subdued.
“I thought I might find you up here,” she says gently, perching on the end of her bed. “That must have been hard for you.”
I pause. “I…I shouldn’t have come,” I say finally, looking down. “I’m the girl who replaced Tori, I…”
“Tori would’ve been glad that you were there,” Aine says firmly, and I look up at her in surprise. “It’s like James said: she would’ve loved that so many people attended her memorial. She would have loved that people who didn’t even know her were there to say…goodbye.”
“James still misses her, doesn’t he,” I say, looking anywhere but Aine’s eye.
“I think part of him always will. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t moved on,” says Aine wisely. “And right now, he misses being with you Charlie. He loves you.”
I finally look up at her, and see that she’s smiling.
“Promise me we’ll remain friends,” I find myself blurting, out of nowhere. I feel my cheeks going crimson. “I-I mean…I don’t want to lose touch…”
Aine climbs off her bed and pulls me in for a hug. “Of course we won’t lose touch,” she says. “I’d have to be crazy.”
I pat her back awkwardly. Yes, after all this time, I am still not a hugger.
Some things never change.
The train whistle blows and I press my face against the cold windowpane to get my last glimpse of Hogwarts.
I can just make out the castle, high upon the hill, standing as proud and strong as ever. Even though I’ve only been here for one year, there’s a strange ache inside my stomach at the thought of leaving it behind. I realise I’m going to miss all the strange and unusual things I’ve encountered there - the doors that don’t open unless you ask politely; the trick staircases and Peeves the poltergeist, who has made it his mission to annoy the caretaker, Filch, for many a moon now.
The train slowly rolls out of Hogsmeade station, and I force myself to pull my nose away from the glass.
I’m sitting all alone in my compartment. Back to being shy, bookish Charlie Parker from the beginning of the year. The one who’d never had a proper friend in her life. Who blushed whenever someone spoke to her.
The compartment door suddenly slides open, interrupting my thoughts. I look up with raised eyebrows to see James standing there sheepishly, his hands in his pockets.
I look away at once, cheeks burning.
I just can’t get those things James said at the memorial out of my mind. I know it’s selfish but…I don’t like the idea of James never forgetting Tori.
“You’ve been avoiding me,” James says, sitting down opposite me, so that our knees are almost touching.
I play with a curl of my hair so that I’m not forced to look at him.
Yes, I’m a chicken. I know it. But I don’t want to embarrass myself unnecessarily. Which is quite hard for me, you know. I always say the wrong thing.
“You’ve been avoiding me,” I say, maybe a little grumpily.
Merlin, I sound like such a selfish old toad! Maybe I’m not a nice person after all…
James sighs, and I pluck up the courage to look at him. I haven’t actually seen him up close for what feels like weeks. His skin is pale and there are dark shadows under his eyes. I instantly feel bad for acting so childishly. “We’ve both been avoiding each other,” James states and I have to admit, he’s probably right. “And…I miss you Charlie.”
“As much as you miss Tori?”
The words are out of my mouth before I can stop them.
Why, oh why do I have such a big, fat mouth? I blame my mother. She has a ginormous mouth, too. That’s probably why she shouts and yells so much…
“Are you really angry about that?” James asks quietly. “About what I said at Tori’s memorial?”
“No…” I say softly, looking up right into James’ eyes. I can’t read his expression at all. “No, I’m not angry. I’m just…confused.”
“Don’t be,” James says and, to my surprise, he leans forwards and takes my hand in his. An instant warmth spreads throughout my body, and I don’t pull away. “I love you Charlie. I know you’re worried about that, and I..”
“No, just listen,” says James firmly, placing a finger to my mouth. “I have to get this out before I…before I lose courage.” He takes a deep breath and I watch him intently, not sure whether I want to hear what he has to say. “When I found out Tori was dead...it brought back a lot of memories. Most of them bad. Last year, I did a lot of stupid things. And the thing I regret most is that my relationship with Tori meant that me and my brother grew apart. I’m not sure we can ever be the friends we used to be again. I loved Tori - or at least, I thought I did at the time. And even though she could be selfish, rude and downright horrible at times, I still feel like…I’ve got to honour her memory, you know? I owe her that. If it hadn’t been for me, she might not have…” he trails off uncertainly and looks at me with a certain desperation in his eye. And suddenly, I know how he feels.
“It wasn’t your fault, James,” I say firmly, squeezing his hand. “The universe already has our lives set in motion. I believe that. Don’t go blaming yourself.”
James gives a dry chuckle. “I’m forgiven then?” he asks. “You don’t want to throw a bucket of icy water over me for being such a terrible boyfriend?”
I smile, feeling happy for the first time in days. “Trust me,” I say. “If I thought you were a terrible boyfriend, you would have something a lot worse that water thrown over you.”
I hear the compartment door sliding open again, and look up to see the rest of the gang standing there. Fred is beaming (as usual) and Mickey is also smiling but Aine looks thoroughly fed up.
I frown slightly. “Were you guys listening to us?” I ask slowly.
Aine rolls her eyes and gives Mickey a playful shove. “I am so sorry about that,” she says, glaring at her hunky boyfriend. “I tried to stop them but these boys insisted on coming to eavesdrop.”
Fred flops down onto the seat next to me. “We had no choice,” he says seriously, though his lips is twitching. “We had to make sure Jamesy wouldn’t mess up his chances with Charlie. We need the fifth member of the gang.”
I look down at my feet as I feel my face flush. Fred’s words have reminded me of what good friends I’ve made this year. I have friends who actually like me. Friends who don’t want to lose me.
“What do you mean, mess up my chances?” James cries, with a look of mock outrage on his face. “I have a way with words, Fredster. I’m a smooth talking guy.”
Aine snorts, sitting down next to James. Mickey squeezes in beside her. “Have you ever heard of the word modesty James? Because you have none.”
“Ouch!” winces James. “That stings a little!”
Fred suddenly laughs. “Did I tell you about that time last holidays I got stung by those angry honeybees?”
James grins at me. “Here we go,” he mutters, at Fred launches into a long story complete with many flamboyant gestures.
As the train rolls past a field in which several chestnut horses graze, I look around at my friends happily.
Though this year has been tough, though there have been some dark moments and though it ended on a very sad note, I would not change a single part of it. Because then I would not have met these guys. The people who I’ll hopefully know for the rest of my life.
As the conversation moves on to Mickey’s trial for the Puddlemere United Reserve Team, James sits next to me and wraps his arm around my waist. “Mickey’s bound to get in,” he murmurs in my ear. “His dad is the best Keeper Puddlemere United has ever had.”
“What are you going to do?” I ask, voicing a question that’s been on my mind for a long time. “Now that we’ve left school, I mean.”
James hesitates. “I’ve always wanted to be an Auror,” he says slowly. “But my Potions exam was abysmal, I’m not sure I’ll get the required NEWT.”
“Your dad’s got a lot of influence on the Auror Office though, doesn’t he?”
James smiles slightly. “Yeah, he does. But I don’t want my dad’s help with this. I want to get there on my own this time.”
“Well,” says Aine loudly, and we all turn to stare at her. “Even if James is too stupid to become an Auror, there’s something we all have to do first.”
“What’s that?” Mickey asks, looking sceptical. I don’t blame him. Some of Aine’s ideas are…interesting, to say the least.
Aine sighs impatiently. “We’re taking the Grand Tour together, of course!” she says. “I want to go everywhere: Egypt, Greece, Australia…”
“I’ve heard there are giant scorpions in Australia that can kill you with one bite,” says Fred, shuddering. “Not that I’m a wimp or anything…” he quickly adds.
“I’ll come,” says James immediately, squeezing my arm “But only if Charlie does, of course.”
“Only if you want me to.”
“Of course we want you to!” says Aine loudly. “A Grand Tour wouldn’t be Grand without every single person sitting in this compartment.”
I beam at her. “Then of course I’ll come.”
“Promise we’ll all stay in touch,” Aine continues, as James kisses me on the cheek. “Promise you’ll all write to me…”
“Sorry babe, but I am not writing any letters,” says Mickey. “But it doesn’t matter, coz we’ll be seeing each other every day.”
“And me!” adds Fred. “Don’t forget me!”
James chuckles. “No-ones going to forget you, Fredster, it’s impossible while you’re wearing that big dopey grin of yours. And don’t stress Aine, we’ll have parties everyday.”
“With firewhiskey!” Mickey says. “And a lot of it.”
I smile to myself. “This is going to be a great summer, isn’t it?”
James kisses me on the cheek, and I feel my heart flutter like a little girl. “Bestest,” he agrees. “Because I’m going to be spending it with you.”
Right now, I couldn’t be happier.
Alright, I could be a little happier, if I had a nice big chocolate bar in my hand.
“ANYTHING FROM THE TROLLEY!” the lunch lady calls from down the corridor.
Fred springs up from his seat immediately, and I hand him enough money to buy a large box of chocolate frogs.
There. Now I couldn’t be any happier.
A/N: And there we have it - the very last chapter of Missing. I hope you enjoyed it and I hope it answered some of your questions.
I can't believe I've finished writing this story! It seems like a long time ago I posted the first chapter, even though it was just last year. Please let me know what you thought of this chapter, what you thought of the story as a whole. And if you want to read some more of my writing, please feel free to check out my author's page - hopefully you'll find something to your taste there.
Oh, and if you'd like to ask me any questions, my Meet the Author page is waiting for you...
Thank you so much for sticking around this long, and sorry for this awfully rambly author's note!