Chapter 3 : Not Again
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“Oi Nan, no hug for me?” James cuts in after what felt like a millennium under her tight hug. Her hold loosens and I hear her sputter ‘of course' before she diverts her attention. I untangle myself and James catches my eye before I head into The Burrow. He winks and accepts Nan’s hug, and I duck into the place of my childhood. Our family never came over as much as some of the other family members, mum was never one for big crowds, and neither is dad for that matter, but I still associate this place as a second home because it was here I first did magic.
I try not to think how Lucy had been by my side then and she had laughed so hard when my anger at Louis caused him to be doused with water. She said there was a mischievous side to me yet. I was nine and most people thought I’d be a Squib by then.
I pull off my shoes in the entryway and take in the smell of cedar and musk. I hear voices from the kitchen and I know my parents are probably already here and for some reason I don’t want to see them. I only see them on Sunday’s and this wasn’t Sunday. This week has been weird though because I saw them on Monday too at the- the abbey.
I feel my pulse quicken at the thought but I ignore it, it’s probably my nerves, nothing else. I dither about in the entryway until I hear James and Nan come in from outside.
“Roxanne isn’t coming of course, still in Hogwarts, the dear thing. Your parents are here, James, and so are yours, Molly dear,” Nan prattles. She continues going over the guest list of the cousins who could and couldn’t make it, and how disappointed she is that they couldn’t take the time out of their schedules for this family dinner. Though, I’m not a bit surprised, Victoire never shows up for anything since it ended with Teddy, and Hugo is back chasing dragons in Asia. Lily will be off somewhere, probably couldn’t tear herself away from her new love interest of the month.
I store the info in my head as she says it and we follow her into the kitchen. There are bodies everywhere as if we were trying to break a record for how many Weasleys and their counterparts can fit into a single room. I feel their eyes on me as I stop abruptly to avoid Albus and Louis’ kids as they run around the table with biscuits in their hands.
I grasp my upper arm and dodge around Uncle George’s flailing arms. He seems to be right in the middle of a story, as always, with Dominique as his perfect sound box. She eats up his tales as if they are honey. I turn around in a circle, trying to find an empty space. I see a chair by Fred in a corner, but I don’t move toward it. Sitting beside someone means I have to speak to them and I really don’t feel like speaking.
I feel someone grab my arm and pull me into another hug. The scent of aftershave tells me that it’s Louis. He always wears too much. He lets go and I immediately take a step back, but he keeps a tight hold on my forearm so I can’t move any further.
“God Molls, bloody hell,” he said and sighs. Not even Aunt Fleur says anything about his language.
I look into his dark eyes and I beg that he doesn’t say anything more. I don’t know if I can handle hearing it. He notes the fear in my eyes because he stalls for a moment, his mouth half open, but his pause is enough for me to sneak out of his hold and hurtle myself to my parents’ side. If there is anyone who doesn’t want to talk, it’s them. Their lips purse together and hands tightly clasped, like they were a single unit instead of separate entities.They too understand what I feel.
This can’t be real.
Her face is still like an everlasting flame in my mind. It grows and it consumes everything in me. All I see is her face. It burns itself into my retinas and carves its way into my frontal lobe. If I close my eyes, I can still see her dancing with her hands pressed to the heavens while the rain splashes on her open fingertips.
It can’t be just another memory. Those get fuzzy around the corners after a while like a photo left out in the sun too long.
My dad’s arm snakes around my shoulders and pulls me into the crook of his arm. It feels like I am still that five year old girl that used to run to him with every little problem. I do not resist, it feels safe to be so near him.
The chatter around me feels so unreal. I want to imagine this is some sort of dream, or an opening act to some sort of experimental films Lucy liked – likes – so much.
“Can you believe this?” Uncle Ron says. He throws the Daily Prophet onto the long wooden table.
Knockturn Alley Raided
Earlier this morning Knockturn alley was raided by Ministry Officials in their continuing efforts to rid the public of the illegal smuggling trade. The Ministry is so far refusing to comment on this surprise raid, but Ivon Burke, a local business owner, is outraged as his shop was one of the many ransacked and is forced under foreclosure. Burke claims that all his products were legally procured and there are countless other similar stories where business owners have lost everything. With no answers forthcoming, has the Ministry overreached in their power or are their means justified? Story continued on pg 4.
“They’ve been doing this for years,” Uncle Bill responds without much concern. He disregards the newspaper headings and walks over to Dominique and Uncle George. I cannot bring myself to care about these smuggling circles, not right now when there is a face in this crowd missing. The conversation seems so far away to me though. Like it isn’t happening in this place. I feel like I cannot properly focus on the words they are saying.
So instead, I look at all their faces, half expecting them to morph into hers. But they don’t, they remain their own. But their chatter, the political conversations seems out of place. Foreign like there is no place for them in this kitchen anymore.
Nan is busy trying to put some food together and Aunt Ginny and Uncle Harry are helping her. Fred is leaning back in his chair, which balances precariously on its back two legs as he chats with Louis and James. Dominique is still listening to Uncle George, but they’ve now been joined by Aunt Fleur and Uncle Bill. Albus is leaning against an edge of the counter idly looking out the window, a frown on his face.
I don’t know what to do or what anyone expects of me and I dearly wish she’d walk through those doors right now. I want to hear her high pitched laugh she saves when she is messing with someone. I just want to hear her. To see again how her eyes, so much like our father’s, light up when she plays an especially good tune on the piano or how her ears twitch when she lies.
I’d give anything for that and I wonder why they are all so bloody normal. I hate that, and them, because this is anything but normal. She is not here. She laughs all the time and her laugh isn’t here and she is never late. It is like an itch she has to scratch. She won’t admit it, but she has to be on time for everything, always the first to show up or she won’t show up at all.
My breath catches in my throat and I look at their faces again, I hear Louis as he’s talking about Quidditch. Rose turns away from Lester Davies, her fiancé, when he tries to pull her into conversation. Although there is a light smile playing across James’ face, he isn’t looking anyone in the eye here.I can see it now, the frantic arms of Uncle George as he’s explaining something doesn’t seem quite right, and although Fred is talking, even smiling, there is something awkward about it, like he is forcing it. There is something below the surface. It is in the air, dangling around us and surrounding us. Perhaps, we are only trying to ignore it.
But she isn’t here. She isn’t here? Dad’s hold on me tightens. I think he can feel me shaking, but I don’t want to be close to them anymore because they remind me this isn’t normal and now I know I need it to be. If I close my eyes, I can still see her, hear her voice. I begin to wish this actually is normal because I know something is wrong. There is something so deeply wrong. Her laugh should be intermingling with everyone’s here. She should be curled up on a countertop with a script in her hand and ink splatters on her fingertips.
“All right, dinner is ready,” Nan says, stilling everyone’s conversations. I want to stop her, to say that she isn’t here yet and how can we eat without her. I’ve never done that before. We always come to these things together. She’s the only one who makes me feel comfortable.
When we were young and all the cousins would go and play out in the lake she would stay with me on the edge because I didn’t want to get dirty and wet. She’d be the one to say water games were for the immature and reckless and she wasn’t either. She said that even though I knew, I knew she loves the water.
There is a general mass of people as some levitate some plates onto the table while others bring the dishes. My body is tense and I squeeze into a chair on the corner. I do not want to be close to so many bodies.
Someone falls into the chair next to mine and I see that it’s James and then Dominique slides into the one next to him. A silence spreads out between us three, but I don’t fix it. I’ve never really known what to say so I let James continue tapping his fork against the table while Dominique fiddles with the ends of her red hair.
The parents gravitate to the sitting room because there is no way we could all fit around this table. There is only the sound of scraping plates and chairs as the rest of the cousins sit down.
This makes no sense. This. These silences and the way we almost fear to look into each other’s eyes. There is this thunder and lightning in my heart because I just want her to come and make it all go away. I’m barely breathing and my heart bleeds to see her again. I need it.
“Do you remember-”Rose says, pulling on the edge of her black cardigan and briefly looks in my direction. Everyone else is quiet, waiting, as if testing the waters, expecting a collision. “That time when Lucy tried to stage that Shakespeare play? Except, none of us really knew what she was going on about and we all ended up burning down the shed?”
“Oh God,” Albus replies, putting his head in his hands, “that was a disaster. Why didn’t she just find a wizard playwright?”
“It would have been too easy,” Rose says and chuckles a little into her hands, trying to cover it up. “Mum loved it though, happy that at least someone in the family liked Muggle culture.” Rose rolls her eyes.
“Yeah,” Dominique says, her voice wavering slightly. “She was always up to something.” I see her bite down on her lower lip.
My chest tightens, wondering why it’s all in past tense. Likes. Likes muggle culture. She doesn’t just stop, it’s her thing. I feel someone’s eyes on me, or maybe they all are looking, so I keep my eyes glued to my hands. They are tightly woven around each other, grasping one another till my knuckles are pale against my blotchy skin.
James squeezes my forearm with his calloused hand, I meet his hazel eyes with my own and I see sympathy there and I want to push him away. To push them all away, what do they know? What can they know? They don’t know her like me.
She is my sister. (Was?)
I hear them talking still, but all I can think of is how she cannot actually be gone. She can’t. She just can’t because this has to be a scene and we’re just puppets. I still need her more than I need breath.
She is Lucy. Sister. Friend.
Their voices feel so far away. Like a distant memory, a fading dream or forgotten hope. She is my sister and she promised she’d always be there.
And then there is silence and it jolts me back to them. They are actually now looking at me, faces sad, expectant and James puts his arm around my shoulders.
Instead of looking at them I glance out the window so I can escape their intense gazes. The earlier rain had now turned into a hazy fog that hangs in the air like a thick coat of paint. My eyes find the giant oak that we used to all swing on when we were kids. It is drooping now and half of the tree hasn’t bloomed this year, leaving the branches dead and old. Uncle Ron says we should cut it down, but I think nostalgia has makes everyone leave it alone. No one wants to let go.
“Molly-” Rose says, she has a look of concern on her face and it hits me that they probably asked me something. I look down at the food I didn’t touch and James’ hold on me tightens. It feels like a prison, holding me down.
I close my eyes and let her face burn brightly against my eyelids. How her face lights up when she got her letter at Hogwarts or the way she cried when The Wizarding Drama Network turned down her application. I told her they were missing out on something great and she just smiled and said it was too mainstream anyway. She opened a used bookshop six months later.
I’m not sure why these memories are haunting me. I wish she was here.
She cannot actually be gone.
She can’t. I know I’m shaking again and I hear James talking but I just can’t focus because she should be here. She has to be. His arm is so tight around my shoulders and it is a rope, tying me down, controlling me like the strings of a puppet. I realize I cannot stand it. I roughly pull away from him and push my chair out from the table.
It screeches against the wood floor and I scamper up, ignoring how they are all looking at me as if this is peculiar behaviour, but what is weird is all of this. The chair falls to the ground before I can steady it and it sounds like a war drum banging in my ears. Their stares follow me, the quiet murmurs burn into my ears as I leave the overcrowded kitchen.
Just breathe. One. Two. Three.
I am wound up like the gears of a clock but I think someone has shoved in a wrench or thrown out a screw. Things don’t turn like they usually do. I cannot take their voices because I know another belongs with them.
It is missing.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Molly,” I jump back as I almost bump into Uncle Harry. He runs a hand through his salt and pepper hair. “How are you holding up?” He pauses, his arm reaches out and he touches my shoulder briefly. I feel the pressure and I want to squirm away. To get away from the touches of sympathy. The ones that make the thunder roar inside my mind where her reflection gleams brighter still.
He reaches his other hand and holds me by my shoulders; the pressure is bearing down on me. One. Two. Three. My breath gets caught in my throat, and for a moment I wonder if life has stopped or why I can’t take in more air. There is something, a thing, slithering in my brain like a snake, telling me it’s obvious.
I try to block the voice out and I hear myself telling Uncle Harry I’m fine and I just need to use the loo. He lets me go and I head down the corridor to the stairs. I know the rooms are empty upstairs and all I want is some peace. Heat builds behind my eyes, a pressure that I can barely keep at bay, but I have to keep the tears from falling. If she is gone wouldn’t I know it? Wouldn’t I stop expecting to see her everywhere? Her memory should fade away like the fog on a hazy afternoon.
The walls are old and cracking around me but I let my fingers brush against them as I walk along the hall. The crooked stairs are in sight, they twist up and out of sight. I focus on them, they are tangible. Real. They are real. I could still remember playing hide and seek with Lucy when I was six and she was five. We’d run up those stairs together, and hide in the attic with the ghoul. We’d be panting and sweaty by the time we reached the top but it was always the best hiding spot.
“Lucy,” I manage to say. I can see her sitting on the staircase, her long brown hair fanning out behinds her as if there is an imaginary breeze blowing passed her. I reach out, but before I can touch her face to and see if she is actually here, a loud knocking rings through The Burrow. It seems to unsettle the dust that lays dormant.
I hear the door being opened and when I turn to see who has come visiting, the black robes of the Ministry greet me. My body stiffens up, the same black robed visions who came and told me Lucy was - is - I close my eyes and feel myself become dizzy, not again.
Note: Right, so I'm trying to resurrect this story. I've completely changed things around and am going in quite a different direction with this. Mostly notably, some of the middle bits and the ending of this chapter which will push the story (hopefully) on. I feel like before it was a flailing fish without a plotline. However, i've found the line so... I'm pretty excited about it as i've planned out quite a few chapters (about 20, which is a pretty big deal for me!) Thank you so much for reading!
Also, this was formerely known as Whispers in the Night. I've changed the title to try and reflect the new direction of this story! Also, big thanks to academica who has helped me with the summary to this new story! Also, to marauderfan who has agreed to be my beta and she's fabulous. Thank you so much!
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