Chapter 39 : Dreams, Shock and Mourning
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I see a few people milling about; upper years with free periods. They’re chatting, smiling, laughing. But I don’t feel a part of it. I feel like I’m not there- I’m a being, a spirit, floating above everyone.
I’m just a watcher. Not quite there, not quite real.
Each step is physical pain; each step is a step he’s not taking. That thought jolts through me like a punch, forcing me to double over in pain. I’m quite surprised: I haven’t cried, not once. I haven’t broken down like I usually do. I carry on. I’m numb. I can’t feel anything put pain. No other emotion. No tears will come.
I’ve got to find him. I’ve got to find him before I break. I can’t let them tell him, I can’t let them break him. I’ve got to do it. I owe it him. Professor Longbottom said I could. He said if I wanted to, I could, but he looked worried and sad. His face was all pity and he looked truly sorry when he apologised.
God, what stupid words. He didn’t do it, why would he apologize? The words - they don’t make a fucking difference, do they? “I’m sorry that you feel like shit,” should be what he said. He can’t change it. Because not even a wizard can bring back the dead.
Straightening up, I begin to walk up the stairs, focusing straight ahead. It’s crazy; the chatter is dimmed, almost silent. I know it’s quietening down anyway as people walk away but it’s a different kind of silent. I can’t hear anyone’s talking, any snippets of conversation. All I can hear is this quiet, continuous humming sound.
My chest contracts when I reach the Gryffindor Common Room. My friends are in there. They’ll ask questions. No. I can’t stop. I can’t afford to stop, to talk; that’ll make me break down. I must find Angus, quickly. But I’ve got to pack. Get my stuff, throw it into a trunk. Professor Longbottom said Professor Chang would pick the trunk up for me soon and sort it out. I just need to pack. Quickly.
Then I relax: they have lessons. Al and Rose and Milla in Potions and James and the rest in Charms- it’ll be empty. Maybe one or two seventh years with free periods, nothing I can’t handle. It took almost no time to reach the common room- it felt like it anyway. Everyone seemed to move so quickly, time slipping so quickly out of my grasp.
The Fat Lady gazes down at me, and her face contorts into one of concern. “Are you quite alright, my dear?”
I open my mouth but no words come out. Only a gravelly, croaking sound squeaks out of my throat. My mouth is completely dry, and it aches.
The Fat Lady looks at me once more, face full of pity and concern. Guessing something has happened, she remains silent and swings open.
I walk in quickly and head straight upstairs. Angus isn’t there, of course. He’ll be in lessons too and he’s been spending most of his time avoiding me since the fight- he’d be in the Slytherin Common Room if he was anywhere. I dive for my trunk and heft in onto my bed. Working furiously, I throw everything in there; clothes, books, presents… Everything. I don’t care if it’s untidy, or if I’ve left anything. Anything left behind can be sent on by Milla. I slam it shut with a satisfying thud.
And then my chest constricts and I can’t breathe. I sit down suddenly on my bed, next to my trunk. I watch it bounce precariously as it topples nearer to the edge of the bed. It doesn’t fall, not yet. I stare at the door and focus on my breathing but it’s physically painful and it feels like the toughest thing in the world. I don’t know how long I sit for, but I know it’s for a while. Then I manage to get up; I have no idea how I do but I manage it and the world spins violently for a moment. Breathe. I turn and leave the dormitory and keep walking, focusing on my breathing. The portrait swings open to let me out and I ignore the Fat Lady’s calls to me and fix my attention on my breathing.
It’s rapid and uneven, but it’s still occurring, I’m still breathing, I’m still here.
The hour is almost up. I fiddle with my watch uneasily and I speed up; they’ll be coming out of lessons soon and Gus’ll be there. Please let me find him quickly.
I hurry down the staircases, taking odd pleasure in the speeding up of my breathing. Then the sound of students bustling out of their classrooms, free from whatever teacher they just had and groaning as they realise what they have next. I have to find him.
That’s when I run straight into James.
He grins and catches me around my waist. “Hey, Kat! I’ve got a free now, have you?”
I push his hand away from me, not having the energy or patience for politeness. I attempt to keep moving but he grabs my hand, pulling me back. James looks worried and he frowns at me. “Hey? You okay? Have I done something?”
I shake his hand away. “Please, I just need to go…” I mumble, pushing him away. He looks hurt and mildly irritated but I don’t have time to think about that and I don’t care. I can feel the panic bubbling inside of me and my throat constricting.
“Katrina!” it’s Rose. She rushes towards me and smiles. “I’ve been meaning to find you to – to say, well, thanks. It just - wait, are you okay?” She leans closer to me and looks concerned.
“Have you seen my brother?” I say frantically, not looking at her and instead peering around the corridor.
“He would have been with Teddy in Defence. Why do you ask?” Rose replies quickly.
I don’t answer and shake her off, speeding down the corridor back into the Entrance Hall to get to the staircase leading towards that classroom.
Rose is chasing after me, jogging hastily. “Katrina! Wait! What’s happening?”
I ignore her and push through the crowds, the panic rising in me and threatening to spill. That’s when I begin to call out his name.
“Have you seen Angus?” I ask one girl who I know to be in his year. She looks freaked out and shakes her head, backing away.
I push past several more groups of people before I see him. He’s coming down the stairs with a group of his friends. He’s laughing at a joke his friend has just made. His eyes are crinkled, his head thrown back and his wide open in laughter. Everything freezes for a second and I gaze at him in that single moment- I want to remember that; his smile.
“Angus!” I yell. Angus looks up and rolls his eyes. I run to him and he continues walking away from me. avoiding my gaze and heading in the opposite direction. I ignore his mates who are all sniggering. “Gus, I need to talk to you.”
“Can this wait? I’ve got to get to next lesson,” he mutters, irritated, and attempts to push past me as I catch up to him. He’s still not talking to me, I see. I almost laugh at that thought- after everything that has just happened, he still won’t talk to me. After everything that has just happened, he doesn’t know any of it. Surely I would’ve have felt something, anything when he… I would’ve have sensed it, surely… The iris…
I grab his arm and pull him back. He waves away his friends who give me one last snigger before sauntering off, disappearing into the crowds. The crowd is dispersing now, thinning out as everyone hurries down different corridors to go to their classes.
“No, it can’t wait. It’s got to be now,” I say breathlessly, my eyes wild.
“Merlin, why does it have to be now? Can’t you just save it till later?” Angus hisses and pushes my grip away.
“No, Angus! Please!” my voice breaks on ‘please’ and he turns to face me, frowning.
“Katrina!” Rose has caught up to me. She’s stood a little way to the side, giving us some space and panting loudly- trying to run whilst eight months must be pretty hard. Her eyes are squinted into a frown and she looks concerned. For a fleeting moment I try to imagine what I look like. No wonder that girl looked scared.
“I need to talk to you, come one,” I mumble. The world is spinning, colours blurring past my eyes as I struggle to keep hold of Angus, who’s attempting to pull away. I have to get him away from here, to anywhere. I’m just focused on his face; it’s the only thing I can look out without losing it. There’s only a few people left, I realise. Only a few last stragglers.
“Can we not just do it here? I need to go and catch up with my mates? Make it quick,” Angus whines, still trying to pull his arm out of my vice-like grip.
“Gus,” I manage and my voice snaps, and emotion spills into his name.
That’s when it clicks.
He shakes his head slowly and looks at me directly in the eye. “Please don’t say what I think you’re going to say.”
I tug on his hand again. “Please Angus, let’s not do this here.”
“No,” he shakes his head more ferociously, finally pulling out free of me and backing away, putting distance between us. His eyes are wild and his mouth slightly open in an expression of terror.
“What’s going on?” a voice cuts in- James. He’s caught up too. Why did he have to follow me? I don’t turn; I’m staring at Angus, trying to pull him back. I hear Rose shush him and stop him from coming any closer. They seem far away, their voices distant and the gratitude I feel for Rose in that moment is distant too; far off, tiny compared to the other emotions fighting inside of me. Anger. Fear. Pain. Mostly pain.
“Professor Longbottom just told me – I wanted to tell you, I couldn’t let them tell you,” I whisper, reaching for him. “Mum is waiting for us. We’re going home. We have to – to get our stuff. They’re going to send his – his body –“ I break off, my voice cracking. Still no tears. Fury rises up in me. Why can’t I cry? The thought of his body, lifeless, dead flashes in front of my eyes and I can’t breathe – I can’t –
“No, stop it. Don’t, don’t,” Gus breathes, tears filling his eyes and spilling over his lids. I watch as one trails down his face, leaving a wet track down his right cheek. “He can’t be – stop it – DON’T LIE!” He yells, his voice echoes around the now empty Entrance Hall.
“He’s gone,” I whisper, my voice barely audible. The words seem to hit him like a real punch and he visibly winces. His gasp scrapes through the air between us and he breaks.
Finally, finally, he falls forward and I stumble towards him too, catching him as we both land on our knees. I reach up blindly, cupping his face in my hands and pressing my forehead against his. I can feel his tears running in the spaces between my fingers. Angus’ body is shaking violently with each sob and the sound ricochets around the Hall. I wince with each one. All I can do is hold him and whisper, “It’s going to be okay.” in his ear, over and over even though I know it won’t be. But lying is sometimes alright; it has to be. If lying to your little brother about life being okay after your older brother has died, then I don’t know what is.
“Come on, Kat. Let’s go. Kat,” James is whispering in my ear, tugging on my shoulder and trying to get me to stand up. I don’t move and shrug his hand away, keeping my head in my hands. I’m sat, curled up, on the steps in the Entrance Hall. It’s empty- everyone is still at lessons- apart from me and my little audience.
Angus was persuaded away by a gentle Lily, who held his hand as she helped him up and walked with him. She was taking him to Professor Longbottom’s office and had said to worry about your stuff, Angus, Hugo has been told the password and is going to get everything together. Come on, Gus, you get to see your mum. Everything is going to be okay.
I haven’t moved yet. I don’t know why. I feel frozen, as if I can’t move. I know I don’t want to stay here- I certainly don’t want to be here when everyone gets out of lessons. But I just can’t. I like blinking back the burning feeling in my eyes and digging my fingernails into my scalp so hard it draws blood because it’s painful. It’s physical pain.
“Kat, please, we have to go. Before everyone gets here,” James mutters again, pulling on my arm again. I pull it away more ferociously this time, making my point clear. He sighs and I hear his footsteps as he walks away.
Hushed voices. They’re talking about me. About how I won’t move. Not even by Rose, or Milla, or James, or Dom. They’re thinking of getting Scorpius from the Hospital Wing now- he’s only got a few fractured ribs so he’ll be able to move. He’ll convince me. Right?
Another set of footsteps arrive, crisp and clear and the person approaches.
“It’s no use. She won’t move,” Dom says quietly to the newcomer. She sounds worried and her voice is wobbly.
Through the cracks between my fingers fingers, I see a dark shadow hover over me. Then pair of large hands reaches down and pluck me off the stair easily. It’s not painful; it’s extremely gentle, but with a sort of firmness that says he’s not going to let me go. He walks up the stairs silently, leaving our friends behind. Carefully, softly, he brushes a few strands of hair off my face and I blink up at him.
He looks down at me and he has this odd expression on his face and in his eyes. It’s not pity. I can’t quite place it, but it makes my breathing hitch. The change in expression is pleasant- the pitying glances that I could feel burning into me from the others were awful. I hate that.
“Here,” he murmurs as he sets me down gingerly as we reach a platform before the next set of stairs. “You can walk now, right? You don’t want anyone seeing me carrying you – not that anyone would blame you… But you’re you, so you wouldn’t. Besides, I’m not sure I could carry you for much longer- I haven’t played Quidditch in a while, you know.” He smiles weakly and for a moment I feel the urge to smile back. Then grief comes crashing down and all I can manage is a grimace.
My legs wobble a little and I feel unsteady on my feet. “Just a moment,” I mumble, clinging onto the banister as I lower myself onto the step. He sits down lightly next to me, sat quite close but still at a respectful distance so I don’t feel claustrophobic.
I bury my head in my hands for a moment and drag my fingers through my hair as I move my hand upwards. “My stuff. I need to get my things.” I whisper, my voice sounding distant.
“Rose went up and got your trunk and made sure everything was in order. She’s taken it to Neville. That’s when she met me,” Albus says back calmly.
“So I’m guessing you know, then?” I ask, turning to look at him.
He nods and looks back at me, not breaking the gaze. “Yes, I know,” he says simply. He doesn’t say any of the stupid lines; he just says “I know,” and then looks at me.
“I hope it was quick. The letter, Longbottom showed it me, it said – it said,” I stumble over my words as I rush on. “That it was bullet wounds that killed him. I hope it was painless. He didn’t deserve pain.”
“No, he didn’t. Nobody does,” he agrees, his voice soft. “He was brave. You have to remember that, Kat. He was fighting for a good cause-”
I cut him off, still in my daydream. “He showed me a picture, you know. Of his troops from the beginning, I mean. Most of them are dead now. It was only him and couple left. Now he’s joined them…” I trail off and the silence hangs between us. Al doesn’t break it. “They’re sending his body back. For the funeral. I don’t know how they work when it’s a soldier. Ty tried to explain it to me once but I cut him off – wouldn’t let him finish, you know – because I thought it was tempting fate.”
Albus just nods and looks at me. It’s that funny look he gives me and it’s like he’s reading me, x-raying me. He doesn’t say anything which infuriates me and gratifies me at the same time. I want him to say something- anything- to comfort me. But at the same time, I know that nothing he could say could do that, in fact, I think it would annoy me more.
“He hated me when he died, Albus,” I say suddenly. It’s been playing on my mind from the moment I found out, but I’ve been pushing the thought down, hiding it. I don’t look at him; I stare straight ahead.
“What do you mean?” he asks slowly. He doesn’t automatically deny it or go to comfort me, and for that I am thankful.
“We had a fight,” I breathe deeply and rush on, hardly thinking about the words I’m saying. “Before he left. I’ve been looking for my father –“ I feel him sit up in surprise at that, “-and I mentioned it to him. He asked mum about our father and she said we had different fathers. I think everyone guessed that apart from us. Ty’s was a Muggle, a dentist, and just didn’t want Ty so he left. Ty lost it, Al, and walked out. He told us he hated us, he called me a freak because I’m magic. I haven’t seen him since, he ignored all my letters and now - oh my God, Al – and now he’s dead.”
And suddenly my eyes are burning and tears are spilling over and pouring down my cheeks, dripping into my clenched hands on my knees. Albus’ arms wrap around me almost immediately and pull me in; he strokes my hair and whispers in my ear. I can’t make out the words, but the sounds are soothing. I close my eyes, tears still escaping through the lids, and lean into him. I can feel his lips on my cheek, kissing away the tears, and then by my ear whispering again.
A/N Oops! I know I said I would be updating quickly, but then I really wasn’t happy with it so re-did it and then, yeah, I lost track of time… Very sorry! Quite a sad chapter, I suppose. Kudos to Ashley Lovegood and free elf 25 for guessing it was Ty. I’m still not particularly happy with it, but it’s the best I can do- I weirdly enjoyed writing it… Incidentally, there are 3,333 words in this chapter excluding this here author’s note!
I hope you all enjoyed it, let me know what you all thought by dropping a line in a review. Thanks for reading- if it wasn’t for you guys, I really would’ve given up a long time ago. See you all next update!
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