Chapter 1 : trundling
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When I was younger with lungs miniature
But now weíre killing our brain cells
Is this called living or something else?
Boredom is a fungus, and it festers in the soul, sucking all color, all light, all life. Every day feels like a small stone, dropping down between skin, bones, and muscle, landing in the toes and building up as a wall around the heart. Thereís an aching in my shoulders and between my lungs, and my spine is on the verge of splintering. Half-forgotten wounds leave a dull ache in the cavity that formed when he left (died, others say, but in those days I was never able to imagine his body cold and forlorn), and melancholy threads itself into the monotone of routine.
Each day follows the same rhythm: wake up to the crash of the cymbal, dragging cold feet onto colder floors, tea and breakfast, Apparate to work, come back, watch the Muggle television, dinner, sleep, exist. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The uneven teeth of city skylines threaten to eat up the dull grey skies, and winter passes sluggishly. Spring comes, and every day, sunlight seems to slip through a crack in my skin, breaking the stones that have built up for so long. I try to close the cracks up with mortar, but somehow, it never seems to work. Happiness has its own special kind of resilience, and itís amazing to see how in the spring, people expand and grow with just a little warmth. I had never paid much attention to the comings and goings of seasons before, always too immersed in my own world.
After Cedric, all I could remember was crying and boys, and sometimes both at the same time. My mouth still recollects how the tears used to taste, leaving tracks of salt on my cheeks as they dribbled through my lips Ė acrid, sour, burning. Iíd try to wash my mouth, but somehow that taste was always there. I thought the other boys could help me, that I could invest myself emotionally with them the same way I had done with Cedric. I made a spectrum out of their eyes: grey, brightening to blue and then morphing into green, hazel, brown, dark brown. I remember their lips, the way they brushed against mine like moth wings, then disintegrating and leaving a thin film of dust.
It tasted like teenage angst and regret. It still does.
Iím twenty now.
Let it go, they say, and I want to, I want to so much it physically hurts.
I want to smile so much my face aches; I want to feel so much that my heart just bursts from the fullness of it all; I want to grab the world with both hands so tightly, knuckles white, and I want to swallow it whole, feel it fluttering my mouth, and breathe out vermilion fire like a dragon.
And then. And then Ė
Ė it all comes crashing down.
How can I allow myself to feel happiness when heís dead Ė just another rotting corpse in a decaying coffin?
Hereís a secret: Iíve only visited Cedricís grave once.
Most people think Iíve been there loads of times, at least once every year, what with all the crying I used to do (and still do sometimes), but no. Iíve been there only once, and it was the summer after 5th year, the summer after he died.
Hereís another secret: Iím afraid of graveyards. I hate the thought of all those bodies piled in the ground, flesh that once ran with blood now withering into oblivion. I canít imagine people that were once teeming with hopes and dreams and passions now lifeless and decaying.
It scares me. It scares me that thereís a startling fragility in life and that all of this can be broken.
Sometimes I feel like two halves of the world, pried apart, spinning forever on some sort of twisted axis. Thereís death in my lungs and life in my heart, and my whole being throbs with uncertainty. I want to be summer, but thereís winter holding me back; thereís a casket in my mouth under my tongue, and exit wounds leave bloody punctures in my skin, flowers bursting through my ribcage.
Today Ė whatís the date? Iíve lost track of days; everything just seems to all merge together now, indistinguishable. I run around the house looking for a calendar, and the only one I find is from 1995, back when I was in school. I end up phoning Padma who tells me itís June 23.
Tomorrow is Saturday, June 24. The day Cedric died.
Tomorrow, Iím going on an adventure.
Iíd always loved trains, even as a child. I loved the way the wheels trundled past the tracks like thunder and how the plumes of smoke billowed up into the air, disappearing with the scenery. The shrill shriek of the whistle would pierce like lighting, shattering the silence, and everything around it would wake up.
This train is quite old. The wooden seats are worn from years of use, and the paint is peeling in more than a few places. I donít mind this; in fact, itís rather comforting knowing that itís seen so many different types of people and been to so many places. The spirit of traveling turns inside its gears, and adventure isnít just a far off dream shrouded in smoke and glaring through a television screen Ė itís real, itís here.
I take a seat near the back of the train, away from all the people clustered in the front and middle. I have nothing to distract me like a book or one of those strange Muggle gadgets, and Iíve made up my mind that all Iím going to do the whole ride is look out the window and soak up the beauty through my eyes. The sun moves slowly across the sky; below it, the train slithers through the land like a snake, and between them, there is life.
We wind our way through a few small, quaint towns and vibrant green fields. Cows raise their heads at us as we pass, caught in mid-chew, and moo loudly, the bells around their necks clanging. The train stops at a few stations, picking up some more people, though the back is still empty for the most part, which Iím glad for.
We stop at another station. This time, only one passenger gets on. You're a Muggle about my age, with brown hair and eyes that canít decide whether they want to be green or blue.
ďMay I sit here?Ē you ask, gesturing to the seat next to mine.
Itís enough to start a scintillation of atoms, a fizzle, a spark. Itís a strange sort of feeling, this hesitant trembling, this tentative crackle, like a match just before you strike it. I donít know why itís you of all people in the world and why itís here, now, of all places.
Then I realize Iíve been just sort of sitting there, staring at you like an idiot.
ďYes, of course,Ē I say quickly.
You introduce yourself Ė†I was right; you are a Muggle, or else Iíd probably recognize your name.
ďIím Cho Chang,Ē I reply.
ďWhere are you heading?Ē you ask, and I tell you Iím going to Ottery St. Catchpole to visit the graveyard.
ďReally?Ē you exclaim, eyes widening in surprise. ďIím going there as well!Ē
You go on to tell me about the Muggle university youíre attending in London. Your summer holidays had begun only a few days ago, and you had decided to pay a visit to your motherís grave. I try to collect the words as they fall from your mouth, one by one, storing them away in my pocket. They burn there, and I find that thereís something that connects them with the sparkling from before. Everything is so strange and so familiar at the same time, and somehow, I canít remember if Iíve ever felt this way before, even with Cedric.
I donít speak much to you; I never have spoken much after Cedric and the war, and anyway, thereís a certain kind of solace in just listening to someone speak and enjoying the quality of their voice, the way stories spill out of their mouths like jems. I want to gather them and string them together like a necklace.
Finally, the train stops at Ottery St. Catchpole, and we get off together at the Muggle station.
Ottery St. Catchpole is a quiet little town; there are some houses and few shops dotting the narrow streets. Itís probably the more Muggle part of the town; the Burrow, the Lovegoodsí house, and the Diggorysí house are more tucked away (perhaps invisible to Muggles, I wouldnít know), and a part of me wonders if weíll pass them on the way to the graveyard.
The cemetery is behind an old church with dull stained glass and vines clawing their way up the walls. Itís surrounded by a garden, and as we step foot into it, we forget why we even came here in the first place.
A soft wind blows by, rustling the large orange tree next to me and setting its ripe fruit quivering. I put one hand on the trunk and feel the ridges and grooves of time carved into it. This is a place where all things must pause, where the hustle and bustle of city life flit away on the wings of butterflies, where I can feel the stress and sadness ebb away and soak into the dirt. A city is always pulsating, throbbing, staggering under the weight of its own self, its own people, its own buildings. Out here, the energy is more silent, more comforting. A garden hides its secrets underneath leaves, passing them on from ladybug to ant to spider. The city is breathing; this garden is a breath.
I pluck an orange from the gnarled tree, peel the skin, and offer it to you, raw and vulnerable. In front of us, a thousand deteriorating organs sink into the ground and old memories are just that: old memories. I feel like Iíve finally grasped the world with both hands so tightly, knuckles orange-stained, and swallowed it, the sweet juice mingling with saliva.
Behind me, a trainís whistle echoes distantly.
A/N: Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling and the song 'Amsterdam' belongs to Daughter. This was written for the House Cup 2013 (go Ravenclaw!) and was supposed to include the theme of travel. The Muggle here is Cho's future husband, as JKR once stated in an interview, though she never gave a name for him, which might explain the second person. Anyway, thank you for reading this story; I'd love to know your thoughts on it!
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