Chapter 5 : Epilogue: Free
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Standing over your own body is a scary experience, but standing over your best friend as he sobs is even worse. I hated that I was unable to comfort Jared, or help him, or even tell him that I was still with him. It made me more angry than any of our fights.
I still don't know how it happened or why, I stopped questioning it a long time ago. Only a select few could see me; others like me - spirits, they call us, to separate us from the ghosts people can see - and others who have crossed into the world of the dead. Vampires, for example. When I found Nathaniel again he told me that I must have unfinished business on earth, or a reason I felt I had to stay around.
My first thought had been not to leave Jared, to stay with him like I had promised, so what Nathaniel said made some sense.
I sat with Jared the night I died, told him things would be okay even though he could not hear me. He eventually stopped crying, staring into space while he kept my body safe. When the sun rose and he could see parts of New York, he regretfully left my body behind to Apparate across. He hated every second, but knew that he could not carry a corpse around a busy city. He soon found the port Titanic would have docked at and from there he found the section for wizards who were new to the city to go. After that, it was easy to get directions, to find the hospital and America's base for their Ministry.
Healers came and collected my body while he made arrangements. That was all he and I - in this new form - saw of America; he wanted me to be buried at home, he wanted his parents and his brother. Jared just couldn't bring himself to stay here alone, not when it should have been our dream, our adventure.
He briefly remembered what he had promised Marian; he wrote her a letter to explain what had happened to me and why he was going home, gave it to a Ministry official and hoped she would get it. He never found out; he never received a letter in return and, while he never forgot her, he quickly forgot about waiting for a reply when more Ministry officials came and told him that ours knew what to expect and were waiting for us.
They put me in a casket before handing him the port key.
It had taken a hours to get word across the Atlantic, to get authorization for the port key and to finally leave, so by the time Jared was back in England three days had passed since Titanic sank. His parents were waiting for him, tears still fresh in his mother's eyes - they had read the news of the sinking in the paper and had had no idea what had happened to us until they received word that Jared was coming home.
My funeral was barely a week later; only the Notts and a few school friends attended. They buried me on their plot, not quite next to their family because that was for them, but close. They laid me to rest next to my mother.
Jared refused to leave the house for days, only speaking to his parents and brother, when Anthony was not hiding. I found him once; he was sat in my room with tears in his eyes, but he refused to cry.
It was only when Mr. Nott threatened to make Jared talk to someone that he came out. He started off small, going into Diagon Alley; people stopped and stared sometimes, they knew the Nott family well and it came as a shock to see him alone after eighteen years of seeing the two of us, but he held his head high and tried to act normal. I knew he did it for me, sometimes he would whisper that to himself, and more than once I wondered if he genuinely could hear me.
I never left him, I kept my promise. I watched him mature and age. He was a wonderful uncle to Anthony's daughters. He eventually fell in love and allowed himself to be happy with her; they had two boys, Michael and David. They grieved when Michael died; he grew sick when he was seventeen. Jared had horrible nightmares, memories of me blended with Michael's passing. At one point, I thought it would be too much for him. He managed to overcome it, but he never forgot.
David came much later, knew of an older brother and often asked about him. They were not alike; Michael was stubborn and hotheaded sometimes, but was good, whereas David grew bad. He was cruel to others and once he started Hogwarts he fell in with a bad crowed. Death Eaters, they called themselves. I spied on him once, to know what was going on - they followed a man who called himself Voldemort, became obsessed with ridding the world of Muggles and Muggleborns.
I was appalled; that was when I really started to hate being unable to talk to Jared.
Jared seemed to know, though. He couldn't stop it, especially not now that he was alone - his wife had died a couple of years before things settled again. It was a shame; she never got to meet her grandson. Jared adored Theodore and his mother and did his best to keep them safe from the harsh goings on in the world.
Everyone was glad when Voldemort gone, everyone except his followers. Most acted as though they had been forced and it was relatively easy, especially if you were Pureblood with money, to escape prison. That was how Lucius Malfoy and David had done it.
When Theodore was three, two years after things had become normal again, his mother died. It was said she fell down the stairs, but Jared knew the truth and it ate him up inside, that he could not protect his own family - every time one died, he would say that he never could protect us.
He blamed himself especially for his daughter-in-law's death; he told her to leave, to take Theodore and go, because David had gotten out of control. To witness that and not be able to help him had me screaming to whoever would listen that I hated being useless.
That was when things around the house started breaking and Theodore started talking about ghosts.
With it just the three of them in the house and with Theodore spending most of his time with his grandfather, life got a little easier again. At least, for a year.
Jared became sick and he knew he did not have long left. His only fear was leaving Theodore behind; he was only four.
He was not an old man when the time came, not by Wizarding standards, but he felt and looked so. I stood over his bed, waiting for him to join me, and as he closed his eyes I realized that this was what I was waiting for, why I was a spirit stuck on earth for so long - I would always be with my best friend. I had watched him go through so much heartache and anger, it was time for us to let go.
He died peacefully.
I stayed and watched, still waiting for him even after he was gone. It was only when the healers came for him that I heard his voice call to me.
"I always knew you were with me."
I turned to see his smiling face, his long, thin frame leaning against the doorframe; he was eighteen again, dressed in the clothes he had worn on our first night on Titanic. After watching the world change for so long, it was like looking into a pensieve. Yet, at the same time, it was like nothing had changed; we were together again and it was just as it had always been.
I wanted to run to him, to hug him tightly, but spirits cannot touch. He understood.
"We can go now," I told him gently.
His smile faded and he turned to rest his gaze on the small boy sitting by the wall. His father was nowhere to be seen, for that Jared was glad. He loved David, but to see him become the man he was made it easier to put Theodore's needs first. He could not do that anymore.
From the corner of my eye, I saw an unusual light shining, calling to me, and I knew it was to take us somewhere else. Jared could see it, too. "I can't leave him," he whispered.
I was tired, of being a spirit and of being stuck on this world with only a handful of others and Nathaniel to talk to. I should have been able to walk into that light the night Titanic had sunk, but the thought of going without Jared never crossed my mind, not for a moment. He said that he could not not leave his family and I could not leave him. As soon as the decision was made, the light disappeared.
Despite a rough upbringing, Theodore turned out okay. He loved comic books, something which fascinated Jared; he would read them over the boy's shoulder. His nanny, Hannah, loved him like a son, making sure he was in good hands. He was sorted into Slytherin at school, like every other Nott, made a friend or two he was close to, but mostly kept to himself; things were stirring again, things that reminded us of Voldemort's days, and Theodore wanted nothing to do with it. It caused resentment between him and a few housemates. Particularly Draco Malfoy, who Theodore had grown up with thanks to their fathers.
When Voldemort returned and the war started, Theodore said no to taking the Dark Mark and ran away. Jared stayed with him, while I spied and gave him news. In 1998, during the battle at Hogwarts, I started to feel the light come back. Theodore came back to help; he did not fight, but he did help the younger kids get out, as well as keep wards up that kept his father and the others out for a time.
I knew it was time to go when Jared told me that Theodore was smiling. Between a bad childhood, horrible nightmares and a war, the boy did not smile often. But when he did he reminded me of Jared, before Titanic, before he lost so much.
Everyone had put their faith in the wrong dreams, at some point in their lives - David did with the Death Eaters and now he was in prison; Voldemort did with his insane war and now he was dead; Jared and I did with so many things, starting with a ship that people called unsinkable.
Now we were here, watching a boy win a war. Watching family smile again. And I wondered if getting on that ship was worth it; would Jared have followed all the paths that led to this moment, to a grandson he was proud of, if he hadn't lost me and grieved for so long?
But I didn't care, because the light was back and this time we were free to go.
A/N: I finished it. I finally finished it. I don't know what else to say, I was beginning to think I would never mark this complete. So, yay! :D
I hope you enjoyed this little story. Please let me know what you think. :)
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