Chapter 4 : Unanswerable
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January 23, 1981
Being back in the flat with Paul had not been good for my anxiety. I didn't go out at all apart for food, instead shutting myself in my room and getting lost in my thoughts. My wand lay on her bedside table, unused. After apparating back from Marlene's around a week ago I hadn't used it, instead I just sat on my bed and watched it, both sides of my brain at war. Without Sirius and Marlene and the rest of the guys around me, it was easier to forget about the reasons why I'd broken my promise. It was easier to convince myself that it was just a one-off, that I could go back to the way things were before.
And then today came. I woke up early, maybe around six a.m., suddenly remembering a key moment in that evening a week ago that I seemed to have forgotten. I'd signed the rota. I had promised, with my own name, that I would go out and watch the giants for a few days in the wilderness of southern Ireland with Marlene and Sirius.
I was beginning to regret all these promises I was making.
The proposed day we met up was today, and as I dragged myself from my bed, peeling open the curtains and blinking in the early morning city light, I knew that I had to go. I couldn't just abandon Sirius and Marlene, nor could I go back on my word (though going, of course, would be going back on my other word to him). Still, as I got dressed my mind swam as more and more issues of the next few days came to light. I didn't have a broomstick. That was sort of essential for our journey because we couldn't apparate everywhere. Moreover, after not using magic for years it was going to be difficult for me to perform basic spells. Even after apparating last week I discovered that I'd lost half an eyebrow (I was having to draw it on for the time being as I waited for it to grow back).
Perhaps the issue that was worrying me the most was having to spend more than a few days completely alone with Marlene and Sirius. I had a feeling that Marlene was a little mad at me - she'd pressed me for details of the last few years over breakfast on the night I'd slept over, but I hadn't budged. There was no way I was telling her about why I'd retreated into the muggle world, especially when she was bugging me about it rather rudely like that.
And then there was Sirius. I sighed, tying up my long dark hair into a ponytail as I thought of him. Despite how much I wanted to, I couldn't get that moment with him in the kitchen out of my mind. I puzzled over what it meant, what he was thinking, and most of all what would have happened if Remus hadn't walked in. Whatever the answers were, there was one thing for certain: his eyes were by far the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen.
The Potter's house was meeting grounds once again, and as I apparated there with a resounding crack I steeled myself for the next few days. I'd packed a bag of bare essentials, but no matter how much I tried I hadn't been able to perform the charm to make it bigger on the inside so had to skip out on a few things like my woolly pyjama socks and my extra-big hairbrush (both had been substituted by smaller, much less efficient replacements). I was also wearing my father's old waterproof jacket because I'd never happened upon a coat that could withstand more extreme weathers and temperatures than his one.
As per usual I seemed to be the last to arrive - Sirius and Marlene were already there, as was Peter, though I don't really know why the latter had any business there. "What's our plan on getting there, then?" I asked after being welcomed in by James and shrugging off my extra layers (I had quite a few - I knew Ireland could be pretty cold, especially in January) and sitting myself down at the kitchen table opposite Sirius and Peter, and next to Marlene. The kitchen looked rather different in the daylight - without a dozen or so people in here, it now appeared pretty spacious and there was also noticeably a lot less clutter. Lily had obviously done some cleaning after last week's meeting.
"It's against the ministry rules to apparate between countries," Sirius informed me, swirling around his tea absent-mindedly with a spoon. "So we'll be flooing across and then flying the rest of the way." I breathed an audible sigh of relief at the realisation that we weren't going to have to apparate, blushing slightly when he gave me a funny look. I just didn't want to lose any more eyebrows, thanks.
And then I remembered the broomstick situation. "I... I, uh, don't have a broom," I announced.
"You had one in school," Marlene said, furrowing her eyebrows. "You were like a superstar Quidditch player, I remember! Weren't you the keeper? What'd you do with your broom?"
My face coloured, and I began to trace a funny-shaped dent in the table as I thought about what to say. Everyone would be shocked if they knew what I'd actually done with it - I'd burnt it, along with all of my school books and other magical things. My wand was the only thing from my magical life that had remained intact, and that was only because I'd hidden it from him. "I was the seeker, actually," I managed finally, shooting Marlene an unconvincing smile. I could feel everyone's eyes on me, obviously waiting for some sort of an explanation.
"James can lend you his broom, right love?" Lily suddenly announced, prodding her husband and giving him a look. I was saved, once again. A sense of relief washed over me. I was going to have to start hiring her to interrupt every awkward silence.
James cleared his throat, nodding. "Sure I can. Yeah." He flashed me an uneasy look before striding from the room. Perhaps my unwillingness to answer questions wasn't popular with the group - it was something I hadn't actually considered before. No one liked secrets and lies.
"I've packed you loads of tinned stuff," Lily said, breaking the silence again by dropping a small bag on the table with a heavy clunk. It surprised me for a moment that she could fit even one tin in the thing, until I remembered that of course it'd been charmed. I stared bitterly down at my own bag on the floor, which was going to be a bitch to carry. Getting back into magic was going to be tough. Of course, this was only a one time thing - I didn't have any need to get back into magic. In fact, I might as well have just snapped my wand in half then and there. "Baked beans, frankfurters, sardines, soup - the lot."
I smiled in gratitude along with Sirius and Marlene, taking a sip of my coffee as I thought about the fact that if I wasn't so attracted to stormy and fathomless grey eyes then Lily would probably be my favourite person in this room. I didn't have anything against Marlene - she'd been fun in school and we'd had the time of our lives. But now her occasional immaturity just wasn't appropriate, nor was the way she'd grilled me persistently when I'd spent the night at hers last week.
I guess one of us changed. And I knew that it was me.
Ireland was cold. I'd prepared myself for this, of course, but I hadn't guessed that it was going to be snowing. I'd had to practically pry my frozen hands off of the broom handle once we'd landed whilst cursing myself for forgetting one crucial clothing item: gloves. We set up camp in a cave that Dumbledore had located for us in the side of a large, craggy hill, Sirius creating Bluebell Flames* in several glass jars and placing them all around the rock-ribbed floor. After putting down my broom and bag I went and stood by one of the jars and warmed my hands, leaving it to Marlene to do all of the protective spells around us on her own. I didn't have the power to do that sort of magic.
"We'll go see the giants tomorrow morning," Sirius said, gazing out at the mountains around us. I found myself entranced by the way the falling snowflakes hung in his dark, tousled hair, only blinking myself out of it when I felt Marlene's eyes on me. "For now, who wants to crack open the baked beans?"
"I do!" Marlene said, retrieving one of the bags from the back of the cave and rummaging around in it before producing a couple of tins. "Baked beans and... sardines?" she asked, holding out the cans.
Sirius nodded, his eyes flashing across to me. I was still standing by the jar warming my hands, feeling sort of paralysed. "Yeah, that's fine." I'd never been very good at joining in, not even in school. Perhaps that was why Marlene had been Sirius' girlfriend, not me. Perhaps that was why she'd spend her lunchtimes with friends while I'd sit at the sidelines and watch or slink off to the library to read. And even here, now, with Sirius, I still felt like I was the left out one.
Maybe it was just who I was meant to be.
It turned out sleeping on a stone floor wasn't very comfortable. After slipping in and out of restless, dreamless sleep for a good few hours I got up, stumbling out of the cave and into the steadily falling snow of the night. Tilting my face to the sky, I let my eyelids flutter closed and sighed at the cold pinpricks of a million falling snowflakes upon my already numbing skin. Standing on the edge of a mountain in the middle of an infinite, cold night made me realise just how small I was, how insignificant I was in the grand scheme of things. A grain of sand on an endless beach.
The crunching of snow made my head snap back down, and I spun around to face whoever it was, hand already reaching instinctively for my wand, only to find that it was just Sirius.
"By all means, continue whatever it was you were doing," he murmured. The shadows and the darkness that surrounded us meant that I couldn't see his face all too well but I thought I could hear the hint of a smirk. Knowing Sirius, I was probably correct in my suspicions.
"I was just getting some fresh air," I said, turning my back to him and staring out across the mountains. The sound of his footsteps alerted me to his coming closer, and so I wasn't too shocked when he came to stand beside me.
"Because you always have to tilt your head back and close your eyes when you're getting some fresh air," he countered, tone sarcastic. Now that he was beside me there was no mistaking the smirk at his lips. In some ways it made me want to slap him but if anything it just made me want to kiss him. Neither of them were things I really wanted to consider right now.
"I'm just... enjoying life's little pleasures, y'know?" I said, folding my arms across my chest and avoiding his gaze. It seemed like whatever I did these days people just had to question it.
"I have a question," he said suddenly. Rolling my eyes at the irony, I remained silent, deciding it was better to hear him out rather than cut him off straight away. Maybe his question was a good question. Maybe, for once, I'd want to answer it. "In the coffee shop, why did you tell me that you didn't go by the name Emmeline anymore?"
I sighed, unfolding my arms and beginning to wring my hands. Of course it wasn't going to be a good question. But for once we didn't have an audience and I sort of felt compelled to answer it. Besides, answering this question didn't have to reveal everything. "I was living in a muggle world, Sirius. Do you think people would've taken me seriously if I'd shown up asking for a job under the name Emmeline? I already didn't have records of a secondary school on my CV." Risking a glance across at him, I was pulled in by the searching look in his eyes. Even in the darkness I could sense the inquisitiveness in them, the deep thirst to know more. Well, tough luck, Sirius. That was about as much as he was going to get from me. I didn't want to delve into my past. I wasn't going to talk about something that I could hardly even bear to think about.
"Did you want to be a muggle again?"
His new question startled me slightly and I felt my breathing hitch, my heartbeat accelerating slightly. "Well, I..." Pausing, I tried to find the words to say. I knew the ones that he would want to hear if he were here. But I also knew that saying those words would be a complete and utter lie to not only Sirius, but myself too. "I..."
"I don't get it," he said suddenly. The anger in his tone made me reel backwards a little in shock, but he just advanced on me anyway, his face coming to be just inches away from mine. "If you didn't want to be a muggle, why did you become one? Why did you give up magic, Emmeline?"
A lump rose in my throat and I drew in a shaky breath, stepping backwards away from him. "That's a question that I do not want to answer." I turned away, stumbling through the darkness back into the cave and finding my sleeping bag. I heard him come back in a little while later, but he didn't say a word.
A/N: *Bluebell Flames are 'a magical fire that is produced by a charm of unknown Incantation, flowing from the caster's wand in a stream or jet, which then condenses into a body of fire on a nearby object, similar to Incendio. The flames produced are described as being bright blue, waterproof, and radiating heat only to objects held directly above it. The fire can also be touched, penetrated and held without it burning the holder, though it is known to burn materials such as clothing and plants. As such, it may be safely carried in small objects, e.g. a jar, without the object being damaged. These unique flames can also be directed to a desired location by its caster, and return back to its original position.' - Harry Potter Wiki
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