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Chapter 6 : Moment of Relief
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My skin felt jittery, as if there were hundreds of tiny spiders crawling underneath my skin. It was uncomfortable and I ignored the urge to smack myself, whether to get rid of the jitters or to prove to myself that this was real, I wasn’t quite sure. This could very well be a dream.
Finally Amelia dragged herself away, puffy eyed and red faced. I pulled out a couple of extra chairs and some mugs to share the orange juice that we had opened earlier. There was silence. I think because we were scared that if we spoke we’d break the spell and wake up in our beds realizing that we still didn’t know what happened to him.
Could anything really be said though? It reminded me when Laura White from Ravenclaw was murdered in sixth year. Though this ended up being a completely different situation, that doesn’t stop it from stealing the words from a person. Whether the moment is sad or happy, too much of some kind of emotion limits a person from being able to articulate themselves. At least, that’s my theory on the matter.
I could very much be wrong, like when I theorized that Slughorn actually ate slugs in his spare time and I spent three weeks following him around like an expert stalker. Turns out he doesn’t eat slugs, but he always came to class with a shiny and sort of slimy visage that made me think something had to be causing it. Probably comes from staring into a potion for hours on end and your pores taking in the toxins rather than eating said slugs.
Anyway, no words, no fun little adjective like relief, joy, happiness... or anything seemed appropriate just now. There was too much going on inside all of us. Kind of like the feeling you’d get if you climbed a mountain; exhaustion and adrenaline would both crash through you, creating the sensation that you could jump off the bloody mountain and fly. But in the end, you’d come crashing to the ground. And neither of us could handled that, the crash, so we didn’t even try to find the words.
Moments like that are rare. They come and go like the fourth floor staircase which always seemed to be just as unpredictable and unavailable. Making students, namely me, late for Transfiguration every Tuesday afternoon.
Bronson was the first to crack, cutting the silence between all of us. “Here’s to life!” He raised his orange juice into the air and swished the contents around. We laughed at our meagre cheers but we all raised our own glasses and clinked our mugs together.
“Here’s to Bertram!” Amelia said a giggle burst through her lips as she raised her glass in cheers to our absent friend. She wiped her eyes again with the back of her hand.
“Here’s to forever wishing those mangy Voldemort followers suffer from testicular cancer and get tape worms inside their brains!” I said with a flourish. Henry raised his eyebrows at me but he was laughing.
“Whatever that means; what is cancer anyway?” Bronson asked. I rolled my eyes, ignorant tosser. I just smiled at him with a raised eyebrow and sipped at my juice. Let him wonder about it for the rest of his life. I’m sure I’ll forever enjoy the confusion.
The Saturday morning Prophet was on laying on the table, the four faces of a family that we didn’t know stared up at us with vacant expressions. It wasn’t the Aubrey family though and for that we had to celebrate. A few days without any news had eaten away at us like moths locked in a linen closet too long. Or like all those times I used to wait around corners to scare Edward during the summer holidays. I usually chose the times when he’d sneak into the kitchen. Too bad for me that he’d take ages in there, being a massive pig and eating all the sweets, so I’d end up just standing behind that blasted corner with all this pent up energy and no little brother to take it out on.
I caught Bronson’s eye as I glanced around, the look in it bringing back all the worry I’d tried to ignore. It was evident he’d been just as frightened as Amelia and I. We all were.
“Gods, he really scared us,” I said after a moment, glancing around at my friends. “I don’t like it- I was so close to getting pissed off at him, you know.” I tried not to let my voice waver. Bloody Bertram. Bloody Death Eaters. All of it just pissed me off.
“I remember that time Bertram pissed off Sirius Black and James Potter,” Amelia said, her eyes lighting up. I wanted to hug her for changing the subject. She knew I didn’t do well with all this... this expressing your feelings rubbish. It didn’t suit me well. “Which year was that? Fifth?”
“Sixth,” I answered with a shake of my head. “He ended up getting hexed so badly and was left at the door of Dumbledore’s office.”
“What the hell did he even do that could’ve warranted that?” Bronson asked. I shrugged my shoulders because Bertram never said and Sirius always just laughed when I brought it up and told me that some secrets are better kept that way. Though I doubted it was anything too bad because- well, Sirius was always offended over something.
“He never talked about it, though I would imagine he could have done any number of inappropriate things considering who we are talking about,” Henry said with a small laugh.
“I’m still going with my theory that he tried to ride off into the sunset with Lily Evans and Potter didn’t take too kindly to that,” Bronson said gleefully. “Nor Lily for that matter, because who’d want to go into the sunset with him?”
“Yah- he always looked better in the full light of day,” I said.
“Or maybe he found treasure in the dungeons and Black and Potter found out. However, because it belonged to Black’s great-great grandfather they obviously fought him till the bitter end for it back.”
“Amelia, that’s the silliest one I’ve ever heard, worse than the rumour that he tried feeding Sirius to the Giant Squid naked,” I said with a roll of my eye.
“Wait, which one was naked?” Bronson asked through gasps of laughter.
“I’ve heard it both ways- sometimes it’s Potter and Black, sometimes it was Bertram. Though – why anyone would believe that is beyond me because why would you try to feed someone to the squid naked?”
“Because he secretly wanted Black and Potter, obviously. It was his way of showing them his love,” Bronson replied. We dissolved into laughter and I sank into one of the rickety kitchen chairs and put down my glass of juice which was spilling all over my fingers making them uncomfortably sticky.
“I almost feel bad because he can’t defend himself here,” Amelia said after a few moments. She had put her glass down as well and was leaning against the counter. Bronson just shrugged and drank the rest of his drink.
“Aye, but he would’ve done the same if he was here,” Bronson said. He flicked his blonde hair out of his eyes but in the silence what was left unsaid meant more than any words could ever mean. But he wasn’t and he may ever be here with all of us again.
I ignored the thought for the moment. At least now we knew he was okay and sometimes you just have to focus on the positive. There was no other choice.
The conversation turned to other topics, about how hard it was to get a job and that some of our fellow classmates were starting to be worried. It had only been a few weeks since they all left school but they had all imagined that things would be easier. But no one wanted to hire someone who had no experience and no was a hard word to cope with. Bronson was even worried because the only skills he had were Quidditch and he’d been looked over by the recruiters.
“So-” Bronson started and then stopped. He stood up from the table and poured himself some more orange juice and then pulled his stocky form onto the counter and leaned against the cupboards with his back. He lifted his head to look at the ceiling and I saw him take a deep breath in as if he was calculating. Which was odd because Bronson rarely ever calculated what he had to say.
It was rare and the last time I remember him getting like this was- well, this wasn’t connected to that and couldn’t be because it wasn’t something we talked about anymore. We all deemed it toxic. Grab onto the happiness and release yourself from the pain sort of rubbish they talk about as if it was something that could be grabbed. Happiness wasn’t floating just out of reach though. Heck, it was Everest – or maybe on the other side of Everest and you had to climb both up and down it to achieve some semblance of it. Or a lighthouse where the light blinked only every so often but in between there was darkness.
“Clarence and Donna-Mae broke up,” he said. There was silence. I felt perhaps there were eyes upon me but I didn’t know because the orange juice became very important to look at for some reason and then I wondered why it even mattered.
“Well- that’s too bad,” I said finally. It felt awkward to my lips to say but words themselves were hard to deal with sometimes and even though there wasn’t a good way to say them they had to be said. To clear the air, to make it mean something but the truth is I wasn’t sure if I felt anything at all. “Does it even matter?”
They shook their heads and they bit their lips and I wondered why he had to bring it up. Why them to tarnish this day but then there would never have truly been a good day for it. Them. Whatever it was. I didn’t even know myself. I knew I should just leave it.
But the past isn’t easily left.
I remembered when we used to call him Clarey. I remembered when I hit Bertram and yelled at Amelia after it all and tried to push them all away. Or Sirius. How we made the end of fifth year memorable and finally gave me something to latch on to. You can’t forget that.
“Bully for them, really,” Bronson said after a spell. He looked up to the ceiling again and Henry balanced on the back two legs of the chair.
“Where do you think Bertram is?” Amelia asked. She collected the mugs and charmed a sponge to start washing them.
“I can imagine him on a beach somewhere with his pale, sickly skin and oogling over the locals,” Bronson said.
“Yah, he’d like that wouldn’t he? He’d be burnt to a crisp already though because of how fair he is,” Amelia said laughing.
“And he’d have more freckles which will absolutely kill him,” Henry added. I laughed because Bertram spent so much time obsessing over his looks it was ridiculous. Spent far too much time in front of a mirror trying to imagine what he’d look like without his red hair and freckled skin. Counterproductive really, but we all agreed we needed a proper girl in our friendship group and he fit the bill.
“Yah, he always thought they threw off his game,” Bronson said. They did. Or at least that’s what I always told him because I’m not a very supportive friend apparently.
“I have to go to work,” Henry said with a sheepish look on his face. “I’m already a few hours late.”
“You should’ve just taken the day off mate,” Bronson said. He stood up too, though. He could never stay long either as he didn’t want to be separated from his dear lady friend. “And it’s Saturday, you should be allowed.”
Henry shrugged his shoulders and squinted his eyes at Bronson.
“It’s important; you know this stuff I’m doing. I can’t just take a day off,” Henry said. He ran his hand through his mousy brown hair like he did when he was irked. It messed up his perfectly brushed look and he quickly patted it down again.
“I know, mate. You’re saving the world one spell at a time.” Bronson clapped Henry on the back and he grabbed his own cloak and threw it on. “You just need yourself a girl.”
We laughed and it felt right, like it was fine to just smile and be together and take the mick out of each other as if there were no other worries. Nothing else to cloud our vision and maybe there wasn’t. Maybe we could just focus on each other and see the good. Sometimes life allowed that without reminding us that things were really crap.
Henry pulled on his black ministry robe and smoothed his hair back one more time so that it was perfectly plastered to the sides of his face.
“Speaking of birds, I need to go see mine. Told her I’d spend today with her,” Bronson said with a wave of his hand. Typical Bronson. He told her everyday that he’d spend the day with her because he was whipped. Like a cookie in the oven, you know? It has to cook; it has no choice like Bronson has no choice but to be whipped. It was how he’s with every relationship he’s been in, it’s almost gotten boring.
“That’s shocking,” I said. I looked at Amelia and winked at her. She bit her lower lip and I heard her giggle a little.
“Yah, unheard of,” she quipped.
“I don’t spend that much time with her!” Bronson said crinkling his brows like he does when he’s trying to prove a point. If there was one thing he disliked it was being wrong. He put his hand on the doorknob though.
“You don’t, I agree completely,” I said with a bored tone. I avoided his eyes though because I felt myself getting ready to laugh.
“You just spend all your time with her,” Amelia said.
“Nice one Amelia,” I said, laughing. Bronson rolled his eyes and ruffled his blonde hair which made him look like a flamingo on drugs.
“You are entirely ridiculous. You’re just jealous because you’re both devastatingly single,” Bronson replied and opened the door for Henry and him. I shrugged my shoulders and stuck my tongue out at him as he left which I know is really mature and shows where my seven years of education has brought me.
Amelia was quiet for a moment before she too shrugged her shoulders. Though I knew that slow roll, it meant that the comment actually bothered her because, in the end, all Amelia wanted to do was get married and raise a family. It didn’t stop the fact that she hadn’t dated anyone in absolutely months and that her last boyfriend called her uptight.
“Load of rubbish obviously,” I said tagging along behind her as she went back to the kitchen to make some tea. “We’re single because we’re just way too awesome for men and because we intimidate them.”
“Yah, we’re fabulous and anyone who doesn’t see that is just rubbish anyway.” I patted her on the head and dropped an earl gray into a chipped mug. I had dropped it the other morning because a bird was at the window and Master Londy had jumped at it, forgetting of course that there was a barrier between him and the outside. Safe to say it startled me enough to forget I was carrying something in my hands.
Speaking of which, he was strangely absent though I blame that on Henry as he wasn’t ever much of a fan of that boy. I think it had to do with his finicky personality. But now that Henry was gone he should show up with a raging appetite.
But he didn’t show his chubby face and my eyes fell upon the newspaper that displayed the family that had died a few days ago. The one we thought might have been Bertram’s family and it felt strange to have celebrated.
To feel the joy of life when someone else had died and to taste the sweet relief when there was another family in mourning somewhere else. A family - and friends who had all wished that it wasn’t someone they knew and yet here we were making merry but forgetting that someone had bloody died and there was nothing we could do.
There was also a column next to it that described a brutal death last night and that there was suspected involvement of a Mr. Albus Dumbledore but to what extent he was involved was unknown, only that witnesses had sworn to see him at the scene. It probably had something to do with the Order, I supposed. Sirius flashed through my mind and I wondered not for the first time if he was alright. If being part of it had been all it cracked up to be.
It probably was. He lived off the danger, the unknown, and the need to prove oneself. He needed it like he needed oxygen which is why there was no place in his life for someone like me. Maybe this is how it would be as suffering always seemed to bring out the real person inside. I was this and he was that and no matter the years we had together as mates, some gaps couldn’t be filled. What wasn’t a big deal in the corridors of Hogwarts meant everything now.
“Stop reading that; you always get into such a mood afterwards. Today is supposed to be a good one. By the way, where is Londy?” Amelia said. The tea was done but I didn’t move for mine but instead sat back down at the table with the Prophet in front of me.
“Seriously I don’t want to deal with grumpy Eleanor today.”
“You’re too kind and I was just wondering that,” I responded and I pushed the paper away from me. The already wobbly table shook as the paper fluttered to the ground. I thought of Edward and my parents. If one day it’ll be them in there. The thought terrified me, and I knew suddenly where I wanted to be just then.
“I may go home today,” I started, glancing at Amelia, the article still fresh in my mind. You never knew how much time you really had left. How much time your family had. “You can come if you like. Mum I’m sure would over the moon. She always asks for you because she knows she can talk about girly things with you. I think she likes you better than me.”
“Your mum never talks about that stuff to me,” Amelia pointed out. I shrugged my shoulders.
“First we need to find Londy.”
We looked in all the regular places- behind the couch where he sometimes crammed himself, behind the grayish curtains, and underneath our beds. There weren’t a lot of places for him to hide as our place was small. I even checked in the bath tub though I doubted he’d be there because it would suggest he’d actually have to jump and I wasn’t sure if that was possible for him.
“Gods, where is this cat?” Amelia said coming from her bedroom with a sour look on her face. “We’ve looked everywhere!” She pulled back the curtains again and sighed when he didn’t magically appear from behind them.
“Oh no,” I said and whacked my hand against my head. “The door!” I pointed and groaned.
“What about it?”
“It must have swallowed him!” I said rolling my eyes long and hard at her. She grimaced. “It was left open for a bit earlier, you know how he likes to try and escape!”
“Oh,” Amelia shrugged and blew her fringe out of her eyes. “Fabulous. Let’s get searching then, shall we?”
We threw on some shoes and raced out of the flat, our robes flying out behind us. Thankfully the alley wasn’t full. It never was these days, and we looked down both ways for a moment deciding what to do.
“We should stick together,” Amelia said firmly. I nodded and just as we were about to go down the alley towards Gringotts we heard a subtle meowing from behind a bin next to the Apothecary. I looked at Amelia with a raised eyebrow and we snuck up on the bin. We were careful to be quiet, both of us knowing that when Londy had a taste of freedom he could turn into a completely different cat. Still a rolly polly one but a rolly polly one that could run.
As we snuck closer the meowing ceased and suddenly the cat hopped out from behind it and shot down the alley in a blur.
“Ah!” I yelled and we took after him. My hands were raised up in front of me and my knees bent ready to capture the squirming cat before he got any more bright ideas. Amelia looked very similar as we ran down the cobbled stone street, ignoring the few odd looks of the shop owners who peeked out of their windows at the ruckus.
There was something freeing about feeling the wind against your cheeks and suddenly not worrying if the man you’re passing is someone you should fear. I ran around a light post and Amelia skidded past a park bench, continuously calling Londy’s name who seemed determined to keep running. He’d tire out soon enough; his legs could only handle his abnormally large body for so long.
As the chase continued the sun peaked out from behind the clouds causing pockets of light so glide across the sky. My nose caught the smell of Diane D’s Baking for All Occasions. She was probably getting ready for lunch hour and I couldn’t stop myself from thinking that maybe Bertram was also smelling the tantalizing smells of a bakery in some other part of the world right now. It made me feel calm for a moment, like maybe all this wasn’t it but that there could be some hope. If only for those who got away. If their life could be saved, maybe that would be okay.
Note: Thanks to everyone still reading and reviewing this! Massive thanks to JChrissy for just being an awesome beta!
Would love to hear what you think of this little chapter. =)
All recognizable work belongs to JKR and no copywright infringement is intended.
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