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Seeing Double by Aphoride
Chapter 12 : XI
 
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XI

A week and a half passes like a bolt of lightning in a summer storm. No sooner is it one day then it’s the next, and the next, and the next, and the next. They keep coming and coming, relentless in their march, relentless above everything else. Your world becomes a circle: a cycle of getting up, lessons, eating, homework and reading, sleeping, getting up, lessons, eating, homework and reading, sleeping, getting up… everything merges, blurring into one long repetition. Every day feels the same, every day looks the same, every day starts and ends the same.

The repetition pleases you. Others, like Lucy and Louis and so many of your cousins, would hate it - the dull plodding of the school term - but you like it. You feel settled, undisturbed, tranquil and safe, knowing exactly what will come the next day and the day after that and so on. There’s nothing to worry about, nothing to fret over, because you already know what will happen. It’s almost like being a Seer, you think with a faint smile.

And so, with you happily tagging along for the ride, Time continues her steady jog through October, heading for November and everything that will come after. Outside, the weather changes slowly: day by day more leaves fall off the trees around the school (the Whomping Willow sheds its entire covering on the morning of the twenty-first), dusk and dawn begin to move closer and the air grows colder.

It’s the air which you really notice first.

The twenty-ninth of October, it’s a Hogsmeade weekend - a Hogsmeade Saturday, to be precise - and you’re awoken rather rudely by an icy blast of wind howling through the crack in the windowpane, racing into your room, ripping straight through your blankets.

Shivering, you open your eyes. You give a huge yawn, raising a blanket-covered fist to hide your mouth. Opposite you, Eleanor is more awake than you are, huddled in her bed, her head the only thing visible in the sea of blue fabric.

“We really must get round to fixing that at some point,” she comments irritably, visibly shivering even through the cocoon wrapped around her.

“I can look up a spell in the Library for it,” you offer with another yawn, your eyes drooping down of their own accord. The temptation to curl up into a ball and go back to sleep, to just close your eyes and stop trying to stay awake, is, despite the cold seeping into your skin, strong.

“I’ll ask one of the house-elves if they can do it,” Eleanor shakes her head, blonde curls flying everywhere. “It’ll be easier, I think.”

“True,” you agree in a murmur, your eyes drooping despite your best efforts. “They can just click their fingers and do it, after all. Much easier than waving a wand and saying a bunch of Latin-based spells.”

“Not to mention all the research we’d have to do,” Eleanor says, rolling her eyes. “You’d think they’d teach us how to do something useful - like fix broken windowpanes.”

“They do teach us ‘Reparo’,” you reply defensively, feeling a need to stand up for the school. Someone’s got to play Devil’s Advocate, after all - according to Louis, that is. What a ‘Devil’s Advocate’ is, you have no idea, but it’s a nice phrase. “I expect they assume that will cover any problems we face.”

“Hm…” Eleanor doesn’t seem convinced. “I was planning on sleeping in this morning, since it’s a Saturday and me and Alasdair aren’t going to be doing anything until around lunchtime, but it looks like that plan’s scuppered now.”

You recall many of Eleanor’s previous rants about her best friend’s sleeping habits. He likes his sleep, particularly on weekends, regardless of whether or not something is happening. Privately, you always considered it a miracle he managed to get to the House Quidditch matches on time - but perhaps he was a fanatic? It was so hard to tell who was and who wasn’t. Despite sympathising with her plight (Fred and Louis are known for sleeping late, and Lily’s already starting to scream blue murder if you wake her up before half past nine), you can’t help but smile slightly at her aggravated tone.

“I’d best get up,” you admit, slowly pushing the covers off you, as though saying the words gives you the power to do it. In reality, it’s because you know if you don’t act immediately, you’ll just lie in bed and chat for hours. “Before one of my cousins decides to come and drag me out.”

“I always thought Louis did look a bit like a girl,” Eleanor comments drowsily, her eyes closed. She’s smiling though and you know she’s only teasing.

“I think it’s the hair,” you find yourself agreeing. With a minute shake of your head, you open your trunk and begin pulling out clothes. Judging by how cold the wind rattling through the room is, you decide to play safe and opt for a jumper and trousers. Not the most flattering of things, but, for you, comfort trumps style in any situation.

X

When you reach the Great Hall, you spot your cousins easily. The mass of red, blonde and black in the middle of the Gryffindor table is a kaleidoscope of colours that could only ever belong to the Weasley clan. Not all of them are there, and the few who are look up at you and smile as you approach them.

“Hey Molly,” Fred grins up at you, starting in on a sausage. “What took you so long?”

“Why are you up this early?” you ask, ignoring the jibe. “Shouldn’t you still be in bed?”

His smile evaporates as you grab the jug of pumpkin juice, pouring yourself a gobletful.

“Dad’s coming to the shop today,” he mutters, sounding far less pleased about this than you’d expect. Then again, you suppose you wouldn’t be too pleased to hear that one of your parents is coming up to school (or as close to school as possible without actually entering the grounds). “He wants to see me and Roxy - and the rest of you - at ten thirty.”

“Uncle George is coming to the shop?” James’ voice, excited and bright, butts into the conversation. “Wicked!”

Taking a seat beside your cousin, he is completely oblivious to the glower that Fred shoots him, buttering toast with a mildly disturbing amount of enthusiasm. When he stretches his arm over the table to get the orange marmalade, you decide it’s time to busy yourself with something so you don’t have to watch.

“Don’t look now, Jamie,” another voice comments dryly less than a minute later. “But I don’t think you've put quite enough marmalade on that piece of toast.”

Dominique sits down beside you, immediately taking the jug of iced orange juice.

“So,” she begins, her tone business-like. “Who else is coming?”

“Well,” Fred stops chewing on his fifth hash brown to speak. “Vic’s off meeting up with Teddy, Louis’s with Jake, Roxy can’t go ‘cause she’s too young and Lucy’s with her friends. I think, my dear Domino, that leaves just us lot.”

“James is only a second year, he can’t come either,” you respond flatly. It had slipped your sleep-fuddled mind earlier, but when Fred listed off your cousins like that, it became perfectly clear.

“What?” the boy in question exclaims, looking up from his toast. “Why can’t I come? I’ve got Dad’s cloak - no one will see me! Oh, come on, Molls - I just want to see Uncle George.” His tone is pleading, his brown eyes enlarged and doe-like, his expression one of wounded hope.

“Oh, for Merlin’s sake, just let him come,” Dominique sighs, selecting an iced bun from the platter in front of her. “He’ll never shut up about it if you don’t let him.”

You purse your lips. You don’t like the idea at all, and you like even less the idea that you’re supposed to just go along with it for the sake of not hearing your cousin whine for the next eleven months. You are a prefect - you should be handing out detentions or taking points for this sort of behaviour, hardly encouraging it.

It’s early in the morning, though, and you just don’t feel up to arguing with James over a rule. If anyone sees him, after all, he’ll be the one in trouble - not you. With a certain amount of horrible glee, you imagine the look on Aunt Ginny’s face should she get called to school because her son was caught sneaking into Hogsmeade without permission.

James seems to have taken your long period of silence as permission to proceed with his plan (his and Fred’s plan, you think, no doubt cooked up in the Gryffindor Common Room or one of the many nooks and crannies the two of them have found throughout the castle), as he’s busy smearing orange marmalade all over a second piece of toast and four of his fingers while rambling on about something to Fred.

“Are you alright?” you hear Dominique ask you quietly, and you turn to look at her. Her expression is serious, her blue eyes fixed on you, searching for something in your face. An answer, perhaps. “You look exhausted.”

“I’m not exhausted,” you refuse that comment immediately. You certainly don’t feel exhausted - evidently, you look more tired than you feel.

A small, quiet voice in the back of your mind whispers to you. Go on, it says, say something. Snap at her. She deserves it. She called you unattractive, ugly.

“I’m…” you pause for a minute, waiting for the words to form on your tongue. “I’m just a bit tired, that’s all. I’ve had a lot of work recently and it’s been a little more difficult to manage than I expected.”

“Well, no thinking about work today,” Dominique informs you.

“Yeah,” James interrupts loudly, breaking off from his conversation with Fred to talk to you. “Today is about family.” And he gives you a winning, dimpled smile.

X

Taking a deep breath in - long and slow and controlled - you feel yourself relaxing: the knots in your shoulders loosening, the twist in your stomach unravelling itself. Being outside fills you with a sense of freedom - something you haven’t felt in a long time. A smile creeps onto your face, bright and sunny, and you wonder how much of an idiot you must look. Nevertheless, you ignore that thought and carry on walking, tramping across the frosted grass with Dominique next to you, Fred on her other side. Somewhere around you, you know, is James, hidden under Uncle Harry’s Invisibility Cloak. You don’t look for him, though - that would be a give-away.

“So,” Dominique says, the word dropping into the air and hanging there. “Why does Uncle George want to see us all?”

“I don’t know,” Fred just shrugs in response, hunched over, his hands shoved deep in his pockets. “He didn’t say in the letter. Just said he wanted to see us all.”

“He’s probably got a new product he wants to show us or something,” Dominique replies after a minute’s pause, her tone thoughtful. “If something had happened, after all, I expect we’d have been pulled out of school by now and sent home.”

“You’re a right bundle of joy, you know that?” Fred tells her dryly.

With a roll of her eyes, Dominique moves slightly ahead, increasing the pace. Fred keeps up with her easily, not even deigning to smirk at her childish response. You, on the other hand, find it incredibly irritating.

“Can you slow down a little bit?” you huff. “I can’t keep up with you.”

Fred grins at you, snapping out of his sarcastic mood in a flash.

“Aw, Dommie, slow down. The little one can’t keep up,” he teases you.

You just ignore him. His remarks are neither funny nor hurtful - you’ve heard similar ones far too often for them to evoke any kind of emotional response from you. Instead, you give Dominique a grateful, small smile when she slows down, adjusting her pace to better suit yours.

The slower pace not only means that you can actually keep up with your cousins, but also allows you to look around you, your thoughts wandering over everything and anything that comes to mind.

Silver droplets of dew cover the heads of the blades of grass all around you, like a blanket of small, pale stars. They, in their pale, sparkling white, reflect the sky above: a gloomy, light grey that washes the colour out of everything around. The grass is a faint, mint green, the trees hulking and dark, almost black - even the bright, electric blue of Fred’s hooded jacket seems dulled and dampened.

It looks like a scene straight out of Wuthering Heights, or a Hercule Poirot novel, perhaps.

You love it. The softness of the colours around you, the contrast (so impossibly delicate) between the gentle blacks of the tree trunks and the watery blonde of Dominique’s hair, the feel of rain in the air - it all just makes you smile. Other people would prefer brighter weather, happier weather, rain or snow, but this kind of weather reaches out to you. It whispers to you, in a soft, sad voice, about secrets and tragedy, about romance and desperation.

Before you know it, you’ve arrived at Hogsmeade, the beautiful landscape all around you gone, replaced with a long twin line of shops and throngs of people - mostly Hogwarts students - all moving about from shop to shop, a cloud of chatter enveloping them all.

You observe this all with a faintly detached air, as though you’re watching the scene on a screen - through a Pensieve or something similar. When Fred asks where to go first and Dominique suggests Flourish and Blotts, you nod your agreement and join the other two making their way down the street.

In the bookshop, you light up. Without saying a word, you drift away from Fred (lingering somewhat awkwardly by the door, as though hoping one of you will take pity on him and drag the other out of the shop) and Dominique, almost floating over to the fiction section.

It’s only a small section, really - nothing compared to the one they have in the Flourish and Blotts in Diagon Alley or, indeed, to the bookshops the muggles have - only comprised of two bookshelves, wall-to-wall jammed with books. Despite that, you take intense delight in browsing through it, starting at ‘A’ and looking all the way down through to ‘Z’. Most of the books there you’ve seen before - or, at least, heard of - and don’t want to read. Of the others, none really catch your interest. None of them seem particularly special - retellings of the same basic story, the same basic characters and the same situations, just wrapped up in different paper.

Your fingers brush lightly over the walnut wood of the shelves before you leave, making your way over to Fred.

“Didn’t see anything you wanted?” he asks you curiously, his dark eyes scanning the shop, obviously looking for Dominique.

“No, nothing caught my attention,” you reply truthfully. “It was all teen fiction - humour and drama and that sort of thing.”

“Not enough tailcoats for you, then?” Fred quips and you roll your eyes, allowing yourself a faint smile - he deserves it, that one was quite clever.

Dominique joins you a moment later. Evidently she hasn’t found anything that interested her either, as her arms are free of packages and her mouth is turned down in a slight frown.

“Guys, it’s twenty past ten,” Fred says, gesturing to the clock. “Shall we get going?”

“Let’s,” you agree, pushing the door open and stepping outside. For a moment, you catch a glimpse of the grey, washed out landscape across from you, the bare grass still and silent. You turn to go down the street, your cousins joining you, and then you lose sight of it, the picture flitting from your mind like a moth in the air.

It’s only a short walk down to Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, but the number of people currently around makes it feel a lot longer than it actually is. As usual, when you reach the shop, your eyes are assaulted with bright, glaring colours, bursting out of their shells and leaping through the glass to you, screaming ‘look at me! Look at me!’.

The bell above the shop door roars when you walk in. A few of the nearest students look round to see who’s entered; the majority are either far too focused on absorbing everything displayed around them or far too used to the sound of the bell.

“Dad’ll be in the back,” Fred tells you, carving a path through the crowd towards the desk and the doorway next to it, blocked off from the public by a shimmering thread of red light that crackles menacingly. Approaching it, you wonder what it would do to a non-family member. Charm something across their head or back, perhaps, or make them grow a beard. You never would make a good prankster, you think idly.

“Freddie!” Uncle George’s voice booms out across the store before the three of you are even halfway across, and you see him standing just behind the red line, his arms outstretched, a grin on his face. “You’re early! A miracle!”

Fred ducks his head somewhat awkwardly as heads turn to look at him. Beside you, Dominique is smirking, and you wish she wouldn’t. You know Fred doesn’t like it when this happens - and you don’t blame him. Your own dad telling the entirety of his store in Hogsmeade (a very popular store, to boot) that you’re unreliable and have issues with punctuality. You suppose it could have been worse.

“Come on through, come on through,” he adds genially, pressing his back against the wall beside the door to let you all trail through, one after another. “And if you break it, young man, that’ll be six galleons and eight knuts,” he informs a young dark-haired boy who is poking at a mug on a nearby shelf. The boy jumps four inches in terror, spots George, gulps and nods, slipping his hands into his pockets.

With a chuckle, George follows you all into the room beyond and closes the door behind himself.

“Well, well, well, look who’s finally turned up.”

James, the Invisibility Cloak nowhere in sight, is lounging in one of the armchairs, playing with a Hangman set. He looks up when you enter, giving you all a beaming, amused smile. In front of him, the little wooden man takes another step up towards the gallows, his red jacket waving as though in a wind. The rope creaks softly, ominously.

You just give him a smile, unwilling to admit that with him accompanying you under the cloak you’d completely forgotten that he was even with you in the first place. It doesn’t seem to have had any adverse effects, though.

“When did you leave us?” Dominique asks. She doesn’t sound annoyed, though, simply curious. You suspect that Dominique wasn’t quite as distracted as you were, and had perhaps noticed your cousin’s absence.

“When you went into the bookshop,” James makes a face. “I didn’t want to be bored to tears watching you all prance around looking at stories about snogging and shopping, so I came straight here.”

“Hey!” Fred exclaimed indignantly. “I did not prance around looking at books about snogging and shopping!”

“No son of mine would ever prance around anywhere!” Uncle George chips in emphatically, ushering you all towards the chairs and stools flung haphazardly all over the room. “Sit down, sit down.

“Now,” he continues, claiming a small, wooden stool for himself. “I called you all here today because I come bearing gifts. Very important gifts.” Without saying anything more, grinning openly at the confused looks the four of you are exchanging, he pulls a wad of envelopes out of his pocket.

You look down at the one he gives you, recognising the neat, cramped scrawl on the front of it. It’s your dad’s handwriting - you’d know it anywhere - in his favoured scarlet ink. What you can’t fathom is why he’s writing to you, and why he’s writing to you at this particular time. You haven’t been in trouble, it hasn’t been anyone’s birthday, you haven’t had any tests or anything. You can’t think of a single reason.

“Well, go on, open them!” Uncle George encourages you with a friendly smile.

Swallowing nervously - wondering briefly where the nerves had come from - you slide a finger under the wax seal and pulling it away from the parchment, easing the folded letter out of the envelope.

As soon as you’ve unfolded it, your eyes run across the parchment, flitting, scanning, drinking every word in. It’s the usual kind of letter from home - your father’s written it, no doubt with your mother hovering behind his shoulder, adding in a comment here and there. The structure of it is as familiar to you as the pages of The Three Musketeers: first he asks about your health and general happiness, then he moves on to encourage you in your academic studies, then your prefect rounds and duties, then it finishes with a quick few lines about how much they miss you and look forward to seeing you at Christmas.

This time, however, it is different. After a few sentences about how you would be well placed for Head Girlship if you focused on your prefect duties, made yourself helpful to teachers and ghosts and stuck to the rules like a limpet to a rock, there’s a new paragraph. You know immediately that this was your mum’s inclusion to the letter - this was her idea to put in, her thoughts in black and white.

All at once, you feel a jumble of emotions. Warmth, that your parents are concerned about you - they don’t want you to be unhappy and they’re worried that you are and you’re just not saying anything to them. Hurt follows next as you wonder why they think you wouldn’t tell them, as you consider that they think you don’t have friends outside of your family and Chess Club. A flash of uncharacteristic anger surges through you last of all. You’re perfectly happy the way you are - with Dominique and Louis and Eleanor and Mahendra and Cassius and O’Leary and the seventh year…

Inside, you know it’s not true. You know that you can’t really count any of the last five as your friends. Perhaps Eleanor is a sort of friend, perhaps Mahendra and O’Leary are becoming your friends, but Cassius is only an acquaintance and you don’t even know the seventh year’s name. It’s a sobering realisation, that your only real friends are your cousins, and you swallow, folding the letter back up and slipping it into your pocket. Even through the thick material of your winter cloak, you can feel it burning against your skin.

You want to leave. You want to get out there, leave them all behind. The thought grabs you suddenly, taking hold of you with a ferocity which startles you and you know that it won’t let you go until you’ve done what it wants. You want to leave, you have to leave, you need to leave.

Everyone is looking at you. Watching you. Staring at you. It’s odd and new and you don’t like it. There’s no reason for them to be looking at you, after all.

“I… I have to go back to the castle,” you say hurriedly, the words tumbling from your lips before you’ve even thought of them. “I… forgot to do a piece of homework and it’s vin for Monday and it’ll take me ages and the professor will kill me if I don’t.”

Without a second thought, you jump up from your seat and race out of the shop, leaving them all there, frozen. Their faces linger in your mind, impressed on the back of your skull, still and emotive, a fresco of confusion and surprise.

Once outside, you breathe in gulps of fresh air, feeling it gushing down into your lungs, sustaining you, feeding you. Pulling your cloak around you, you begin to walk up the road back towards the castle. You don’t want to stay here, any longer; don’t want to stay to watch everyone cavorting about, blissfully happy, blissfully oblivious to what’s going on in your mind, the thrumming of your heart, the speed of your breaths. At the same time, the chance that one of the others will break the ice, break the frozen fresco, and come after you, curious and confused and worried, is too big for comfort. You don’t want them to come after you, to find you, to ask what’s wrong.

It’s none of their business, really. You can manage it perfectly fine on your own.

Quickly, pushing yourself hard, you pass the bookshop without even looking at it - you can almost feel it there, though, wondering why you’re not going in - and then Dervish and Banges. A gaggle of Gryffindors - third years, by the look of them - rush past you, Honeydukes bags clutched in their hands, chattering excitedly about something or another. Roughly, a Slytherin seventh year bumps your shoulder; he sneers, you just ignore him completely and keep going.

Breaking out onto the track up towards the castle, you feel that perhaps you should start to relax now. No one’s come after you, no one’s shouting your name, racing up the street behind you, no one seems to have noticed anything is wrong. You’re heading to the castle, to be on your own - everything is going exactly as you want it.

Yet, somehow, for some reason, you can’t seem to calm down. The knot in your stomach is still there, constricting every now and then and you can’t think properly, can’t think beyond the letter, can’t think about anything at all.

The scene around you - gorgeously grey, all colours washed away, blended into each other seamlessly - doesn’t excite you, doesn’t entertain you anymore. The trees just look dull, the sky just looks dull, the grass just looks dull. Dull, dull, dull.

As you progress, you pass Cassius, in the company of a boy you recognise from his class and one of the girls who’s normally with Dominique. They’re discussing something quietly, wrapped up snugly in scarves and cloaks and hats. He gives you a smile, and says brightly,

"Hi Molly! See you on Monday!"

You try to muster up enough courage, enough strength, to smile back at him - you try, but you think you only manage some kind of grimace, since he just frowns in response. Nevertheless, he doesn’t stop to say anything to you, doesn’t stop to ask what’s wrong - if, of course, he suspects anything is wrong - and for that, despite the fact that you know you should be grateful for it, you find yourself disappointed.

Soon, you find yourself back inside the castle grounds, the tall, dark spires looming over you like something out of a fairytale. Seeing no one around - no sign of life at all - you break into a run, sprinting as fast as you can up the grass, up the set of stone steps, past the gargoyles and through the courtyard. Through the arches, you see a few people - a couple sitting on a bench, holding hands, and a group of second year girls giggling as they sit by the fountain, crowded round a jar filled with bluebell flames - and some of them look up, but they don’t watch, don’t stare and turn back to their conversations after a few seconds.

Your flight takes you further, up the steps and into the building itself, slipping easily inside the open oak doors. There’s little difference between the temperature inside the building to outside as you stand in the Entrance Hall, but you find yourself hugging yourself tightly anyway, rubbing your hands up and down your arms in an attempt to stop shivering.

Slower now, no longer sprinting, your breath coming in gasps that echo in the lonely hall, you make your way up the staircase and begin the familiar, almost ritual, journey from the halls to Ravenclaw tower. Once there, you’ll be locked away in the privacy of your common room and your room; once there, you’ll be alone and free and safe.

You hear Peeves on the third floor and quickly skip up the spiral staircase, taking one more flight of stairs, cutting through the Transfiguration department instead. The last thing you need at this point in time is to run into the poltergeist, who no doubt would find a hundred and one things in this situation to mock you relentlessly about every time he saw you until the end of time.

As you walk, you find your hand slipping, moving down to cover the pocket in which the offending letter, the origin of all this trouble and emotion and stupidity, resides. You don’t know why - no one’s either around or likely to steal it, after all - but you just do. It just happens and you don’t bother lifting your hand off, moving it and dropping it to hang by your side.

At the end of the corridor, you can see the twin banners of blue silk, edged with bronze thread, the tassels below stirring gently in the breeze wafting through from the nearby windows, marking the door they guard out as the entrance to Ravenclaw tower. Relief floods through you, jarred a little at the start as though something’s holding it back; you’re nearly there, the finishing line is in sight. When your fingers curl around the cold metal of the handle, you close your eyes briefly, letting out a sigh.

Reaching the knocker, your legs burning from the effort of your sprint and then the journey through the castle, your lungs crying out for relief, your entire torso moving with each breath, you rap it smartly once, holding a hand over your mouth so that the sound of your breathing doesn’t drown out the knocker’s voice.

“You can keep it only after giving it away to someone else. What is it?” the voice rings out, the melody chiming above your breathing. It’s so familiar, so comforting, that for a moment you forget it asked you a question.

Racking your mind, you consider it. It’s something you can keep, and something you give to someone else... So, you would give it to someone, and then you keep it - and the question is, what is ‘it’.

The answer doesn’t pop up, there’s no light-bulb above your head, nothing flickering or flashing in your mind, nothing to even hint at what the answer might be.

Love? Hate? Or is it something tangible? A house? A spell?

You don't know. You have no idea, not even a clue, nothing at all. Despair’s long fingers begin to curl about your heart, gripping you tightly, as you lean against the wall. Your legs can barely support you any longer; you just want to collapse on your bed, just to ignore the world and vanish into a book, vanish and pretend that none of this exists - forget about everything, everyone.

Tears prick at your eyes and you find that they’re too strong, too thick and too fast for you to stop them. You can’t stop them, you don’t want to stop them - it’s the perfect way to show your feelings, the perfect way to let them out. You need to cry.

They start slowly, crawling down your cheeks with the speed of a hearse, accelerating quickly until they’re pouring out of your eyes. You can’t see for the tears, can’t do anything other than cry and sob.

Sliding down the wall, you sit down at the base of it, four feet away from the mahogany door, the knocker silent. Burying your head in your arms, you let the tears fall into the sleeves of your jumper, the thick wool absorbing them easily even as it rubs against your face. Inside, everything has stopped, as though it’s taking every effort you have, every ounce of strength, every joule of energy to sit there and cry, rocking gently backwards and forwards, the way your dad used to rock you when you were younger and upset. Every thought had fled, every idea gone, every notion of what has happened, who you saw, why you’re so upset vanished. All you can think is the same phrase, repeated over and over again, like a mantra in your mind: I hate this, I hate this, I hate this.

You’re so wrapped up in your own little world, so immersed in your own misery, that you almost don’t hear the sound of the door at the bottom of the tower swinging shut and then the slow, steady advance of footsteps, of someone progressing up the stairs towards you.

At any other time, you would have leaped up, racing to hide in a nook, in a cranny - somewhere, anywhere - from this visitor, this housemate of yours, but you lack the strength of both mind and body to lift yourself up and do it. The thought of someone finding you like this, rocking on the floor, weeping uncontrollably, like a child, terrifies and horrifies you, but there’s nothing you can do about it.

So, you just stay there, tears still gushing out of your eyes, eyelashes blinking wet against your skin, curled in a ball, as the footsteps keep going, keep advancing, coming ever closer.

And you just think to yourself, I hate this, I hate this, I hate this.




A/N: The Three Musketeers belongs to Alexandre Dumas and associated printing and publishing companies, Wuthering Heights is property of Charlotte Bronte, and Hercule Poirot was created by the marvellous Agatha Christie. None of them are mine. 


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