Chapter 1 : he wasn't gone.
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It was hopeless, she knew it was hopeless. But there was a small part of her that wouldn't give up. She finally reached her front door as the wind picked up and whirled the snow all around her. Cold, icy fingers reached into her purse and fumbled for her key.
She brushed the snow from the lock and then just stood there. Her shoulders sagged as her forehead gently fell forward to rest on the door. The tears came almost immediately, followed by small sobs. It was several seconds before she realised there was a hand on her shoulder. She jumped and turned around, trying her best to wipe away her tears quickly.
(Shocked. Shocked, and almost hopeful, like the person behind her could actually be him.)
“I – I’m sorry,” she managed, before she stopped. She didn’t think that her voice could say anything more without breaking. Looking up to see a face, any face, would be too much, so she kept her eyes down. She could only see his face. In her head. On the faces of the strangers all around her. Staring up at her happily from the small photo in her hands.
“No, no,” a man’s voice said. “I was just – wondering. You look very…downhearted, and I was wondering-”
It was enough, and she shook her head quickly, effectively cutting the voice off before it could continue. His voice was tinged with the same accent his was. It was deeper though, and more serious. She couldn’t help but draw comparisons from this voice to his voice. It was something she did now unconsciously now.
“It’s fine. I’m fine.” She paused slightly. “Do you know this man?” she asked, holding the picture out to him.
(Desperate. Desperate, and silly, and nothing without him.)
Something rustled, the man in front of her either shaking his head or nodding. Unable to resist the temptation, she looked up jerkily, her neck protesting at the sudden movement. Her heart fell a thousand miles when she saw he was shaking his head.
So it was a he, then. A he who had seen her and tried to help her on Christmas. A he who would surely have someone to celebrate Christmas with, but a he who had ultimately decided to help her.
When her heart finally landed at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and shattered into a thousand pieces she could feel it in her chest as keenly as she felt the biting wind on her cheeks. Tears welled up in her eyes, and she didn’t think she could stop them.
Her mouth opened, trying to form a sentence, but she turned away instead. Away from him. Away from his shaking head. Away from his kind eyes.
(Sad. Sad, but not surprised, because after asking so many others, how could this man know?)
Instead of answering she turned away. A vague thought about apologising to the man flitted through her mind but she just stumbled inside her small flat and shut the door. For all she knew, the man was still standing behind her, unsure of what to do.
The inside of her house was decorated with brightly-coloured Christmas ornaments and decorations, the whole room giving off an atmosphere of irresistible cheer. She had been cheerful when she decorated this room. She had been with him when she decorated this room, and all the others.
There was a tree in the corner of the room, near the electric heater. She remembered how she had laughed as she tried to perch the angel on top of the tree, even though she knew the tree was too tall. He had laughed easily with her, and picked her up with a small grunt, lifting her up so that she could reach the top of the tree.
(Memories. Memories which threatened to overwhelm her.)
His hands had been strong, and gentle. Are, she reminded herself harshly. It was too much. Was she thinking about him in the past tense now? He wasn’t gone. He wasn’t. She put her head down on her knees, trying to block everything out. The Christmas cheer, the room so full of memories, the possibility that she wouldn’t see him again.
No. Stop it. Stop thinking that way. He wasn’t gone, he couldn’t be gone, he wasn’t. She raised her head, hating herself for the tears which coursed down her face like a river. She had thought she was empty. Apparently her tear ducts disagreed with her.
Weakness. Weakness and despair and uselessness, and above everything the voice in her head that was telling her it was no use, to give up, that nothing could be done.
And then the scream in her head that told her that HE WASN’T GONE, please God no, he wasn’t gone he couldn’t be.
(Denial. Denial, and then more denial because don’t they always say denial is the first stage?)
It was unseasonably chilly outside, even for Christmastime, and as she stayed inside the warm flat her jacket and hat started to become uncomfortable. She didn’t move.
Eventually the discomfort became too much to bear, and she stumbled to her feet, grabbing onto the door for support. She walked blindly out of the living room and into their bedroom. She shouldn’t have the comfort of sleeping on a bed, not when he might be out on the hard concrete. She shouldn’t be in the warm, not when she could still be outside searching for him.
But she’d done everything she could. Police. Filed the missing person report. Searched for hours, asking passers-by. Nothing had borne any fruit. The police had been strained and short-tempered with the weight of all the attacks and mysterious disappearances. The missing person report was one in a hundred, immediately just one more in the pile. The people on the streets had been scared and unresponsive.
(Scared. Scared, and fighting herself on the inside.)
With mechanic movements, she took her jacket off and dumped it on the floor. Her hat soon followed. Then her scarf. He could be using those, wherever he was.
She tried her best to ignore the engagement ring on her left hand.
The cool part of her brain which seemed to be detached from her body instructed her to change into pyjamas, and she obeyed numbly. Switch the lights off. The room was plunged into darkness similar to the one outside.
Get into bed. She felt her way forward, not helped by the early darkness that had fallen outside. In the end her outstretched hands didn’t help her and she stubbed her toe on the edge of the bed.
Pull the covers over her. She groped around on the bed searching for the warm duvet she had shared with him so many times.
Close her eyes. As soon as her heavy eyelids fell shut she was pulled into another world.
(Sleep. Sleep, which was comfort and not knowing what had happened to him.)
Several miles away, a young woman with black hair looked down at the body of a young man in the light of the street lamp he was under. “Alastor?” she called softly to her patrol partner.
The grizzled old man she was calling to appeared out of the gloom a few feet away. “What? Another?” he asked. His voice no longer held any incredulity to it. The woman nodded and pointed, and Alastor gave a small chuckle. “Christmas Eve. Bit of a sad time to be attacked,”he said as he limped over to her slowly and looked down at the empty young man beneath him, huddled into a pile.
“Can anything…” Alastor shook his head.
“Dementor’s Kiss, by the looks of it. You know that as well as I do, Hestia,” he told the woman, who sighed sadly. Her once-rosy cheeks were sallow.
“Mungo’s?” she asked. Alastor barked out a laugh.
“They’d just do what you’re trying to avoid, Hestia. The man’s a muggle and Kissed, there’s no point keeping him alive.” Without another word he pointed his wand at the cold body and the green light shot of his wand. Hestia set her mouth firmly, trying to hide the pain. She succeeded for a couple of seconds, and then she broke.
“Alastor, look,” she whispered, the tears threatening to come. She pointed at the man’s left hand with a shaking finger. “He was engaged.”
Her patrol partner shook his head. “Don’t notice stuff like that. It’s no use to either of us, and it makes the mission harder.” Hestia nodded, but as Alastor offered his arm to Apparate them both back to Grimmauld place she couldn’t help stealing another glance at the ring on the dead man’s finger.
She hoped his fiancée was all right.
A/N - This is the first time I've ever tried to do something like this stylistically, with the bracketed sections and stuff, so I'm a bit unsure of those.
Also, fun fact - if you don't count the bracketed bits, each section of the unnamed woman's story is 160 words, and the whole document is 1500 words, as counted by our BFF Microsoft Word. Of course I had to do a bit of editing to get that result, but it was worth it. :P
So, thoughts? Opinions? Anything? The little grey box is hungry and reviews are always appreciated! :)
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