Disclaimer: We own nothing that you recognize as belonging to JK Rowling, though we do have fun playing with her characters.
Author’s Note: So, this chapter is a bit of a doozy. Fair warning to those that feel sensitively towards excessive drinking, mentions of death, and emotional dealings; this chapter has a lot of sensitive issues in it. We totally understand if you’d like to wait until the next chapter, but if you’re happy to read on then we’d like to say enjoy, and we hope that you like it! Onward…to the chapter!!
Lovely chapter image by artemesia
over at TDA!!
Rule 21: Liquid Problem Solving is an understandable, and even acceptable, act after feelings of rage, sadness, ragedness (rage/sadness combined), excessive family drama, etc.
Addendum: Liquid Problem Solving is only acceptable and understandable for a short while, before other measures must be taken.
Lyla’s Point of View
As Alexa and Blair pulled our trunks out of the car, I stood at the beginning of the walkway up to the house and just stared at the structure that housed so many memories. Those happy memories seemed so distant as I looked at the familiar place, and it really didn’t seem like home anymore; but nowhere really felt like that for me right now.
Seeing as I couldn’t bear to go back to mine and Remus’s flat and Alexa wouldn’t let me stay at school for the holiday, this was kind of my only option. The thought of being around my family right now made my skin crawl. The last thing I needed was to see their faces with that constant look of pity and sadness. I had been getting that enough lately from my friends and everyone at school that knew what happened and I was nearing the end of my rope.
I heard the car trunk shut and my dad walked past me with my trunk, giving my shoulder a quick squeeze. After a deep breath, I followed after him toward the house. My mother was waiting inside when I walked through the door and she immediately pulled me into a hug. She held onto me with such desperation, but I couldn’t muster the same enthusiasm.
I pulled out of her hold and headed for the stairs that led to mine and Alexa’s room without uttering a word. I could see the hurt on my mother’s face, but that was so insignificant to the pain I felt throughout my entire being. As I climbed the steps, I could hear Alexa saying something to my mother, probably apologizing for me. She seemed to be doing that a lot lately, which is another thing that was getting on my nerves. I shouldn’t have to apologize for how I was feeling.
After throwing my bag into a corner of the room, I crawled onto the bed and wrapped my arms around myself. Alexa and Blair joined me a few moments later and joined me on the bed. “Lyls, dad said he’d put some tea on and make us something to eat,” Alexa told me. “You haven’t had much to eat today, maybe we should head down to grab something.”
“You two can do what you want,” I responded. “I’m not hungry.” I could see Blair and Alexa exchange a look and I buried my head deeper into the pillow.
Moments passed by in silence, and then Blair finally was brave enough to breach the silence. “I for one am glad to have a bit of a break,” she started. “After all those exams and papers my brain needs a proper rest.”
“I know that’s right,” Alexa agreed. “I nearly didn’t make it through. I stressed and stressed over that Potions exam and I’m not even sure I studied enough. Slughorn better be generous when grading, because I need to pass that exam.”
I let out a sigh. “Who cares,” I muttered.
“What?” Alexa asked. I could hear the slight annoyance in her voice.
“Who cares,” I repeated. “Those test and papers are all pointless. You either studied enough and passed, or you failed and you need to get over it. Either way, who cares?”
I peered over at Alexa and I could see the anger on her face. I’m not sure why I spoke up. I knew part of me was just looking for any way to provoke Alexa. She had been treating me so delicately lately that I just wanted her to yell at me. Much to my dismay she closed her eyes for a moment to take a deep breath, and I could see her visibly calm down. “You seem pretty tired, Lyls,” she pointed out. “Blair and I will leave you be so you can get some rest. We’ll come get you when dinner’s ready.”
When they left, I closed my eyes again and tried to work toward sleep. Even though my dreams were not always pleasant as of late, it was the only time I could get any relief from the crushing weight of the world around me.
My eyes fluttered open as a sound woke me from my sleep. The room had darkened as the sun began to dip below the horizon. The door to the room opened and Blair greeted me with a smile. “Hey, hope you had a nice rest,” she said. “Your mom has dinner ready, she sent me up to get you.” I rolled away from Blair onto my other side and stared out the window. I could sense that Blair really didn’t know what to do. “Well, I’ll bring you a plate up just in case you get hungry.”
The door shut behind her and I shut my eyes again, yearning for that dark void. I couldn’t find it quick enough, however. My mind flashed an image of when I was at St. Mungo’s. There was a moment when I had regained consciousness, and although it was brief, I saw the healers trying to save my daughter’s life. The last thing I saw before losing consciousness again was her still body, blue and lifeless.
I squeezed my eyes tighter, willing the image from my mind. I could feel the tears soak the pillow beneath my head and the sobs that rolled through my body. I let the pain and sadness consume every cell in my body until there was once again nothing.
There was a rustling beside me that broke me out of my sleep. Alexa was lying next to me sound asleep and Blair was in the other bed across the room. I sat up in the bed and the moon out the window caught my eye. It was almost full. I suddenly felt like I was suffocating in my childhood room, trapped with nowhere to go.
I carefully climbed out of bed and tiptoed my way to the door. I grabbed my coat from the front closet and attempted to close the front door as quietly as possible. As my lungs expanded with the cool air, I finally felt like I could breathe again. I looked back at the house to weigh my options, but my feet were already moving.
I wandered the streets of the small town we had grown up in, looking for something I knew I would never find. While I know I hadn’t really dealt with what had happened, I don’t think I could. It was too painful to feel how I really felt, so the only alternative was to feel nothing. So, I wandered. I had started this habit at Hogwarts when the nightmares started. When I’d wake up in tears, I’d look over to Remus resting next to me, and all I could see was the life we lost.
After roaming about for an hour or so, I finally made it back to the house. What waited inside the walls was not what I had hoped. Instead of finding my family still asleep, I found a frenzy. Alexa and Blair who had mixed looks of relief and anger on their faces first confronted me. “Lyla, where the hell have you been?” Alexa said quietly, but harshly. “Mom and Dad are losing their minds.”
“I just went out for a walk,” I told them. “It’s really not a big deal.”
“It is a big deal, Lyla!” she insisted. “We were worried sick about you. Mom has been beside herself.”
Just before I could make it to the stairs, my mother and father came around the corner. “Are you okay?” my mother asked, her cheeks still wet from tears. “Do you have any idea what you’ve put us through? You can’t just run off in the middle of the night. You can’t just disappear. Your father and I were so scared, we almost sent out a search party. And your poor sister and Blair were so panicked when they woke up and couldn’t find you. How could you be so carless?”
“Just stop!” I yelled. “This is exactly why I had to leave tonight. I lost everything, and I feel like I’m suffocating! Everything I look at reminds me of that night, reminds me of her.” I gasped for air as the emotions welled up in my throat. “I just had to get away, even for a night. So, please just leave me alone.”
My mother began to cry again as I headed up the stairs. I could sense Blair and Alexa following behind me. Once in our room again, Alexa grabbed my arm and sat me down. “Look, I know you’re going through a lot right now, and I can’t even imagine how you feel. But, you have to start letting some of us in. Let us help you get over this.”
I shook my head as I looked at my sister. “I can’t just get over this, Alex,” I admitted. “And you’re right, you can’t imagine how I feel, no one can. I just need to deal with this on my own.”
“And what about Remus?” Alexa questioned. “What about what he’s going through? You have shut him out, and we’re doing everything we can to hold him together. He used Sirius’s mirror tonight. He wanted to talk to you, but I had to tell him that you were gone and we didn’t know where you were. Sirius and James had to literally restrain him from coming here. Please don’t shut us out anymore.”
Hearing Alexa talk about Remus gave me pause. I know I hadn’t been there for him through all this, but all my energy was going toward making sure I don’t completely lose it. He deserved better, but I couldn’t give him anymore than I was right now. “Look, I know that Remus was hurt by all this too, but he seems to have dealt with it okay. I need more time, and I need to do it in my own way,” I told Alexa and Blair. “You guys just want to fix things and make everything better. Well, you can’t fix this, no one can fix this; so please, just stop trying.”
I could see the anger on Alexa’s face and could tell she wanted to lay into me, but she knew that nothing she said would make any difference. Instead, she let out a huff and pulled Blair with her toward the hallway and slammed the door behind her.
The next day, I once again had confined myself to our room and willed my mind to remain blank. There was a soft knock on the door, which I didn’t acknowledge. After a few moments, my mother poked her head in. “Lyla, someone has come to see you,” she said softly, she seemed nervous.
“I don’t want to see anyone right now,” I said rather curtly.
Not one to be easily deterred, my mother opened the door and bit further and entered into the room a couple steps more. “I understand that, but your cousin came all the way here to see you and we both wanted to spend some time with you.”
Behind my mother, Monica came into view. She gave me a sad wave and a slight smile. “Hey, Lyls,” she spoke. Seeing no way out of this, I sat up on the bed and motioned for them to join me. They both sat on the bed with me and looked silently at me. “I know you’re going through a really tough time right now,” Monica started, “But your mom and I just wanted you to know that we are here for you. We’ve both had miscarriages and know the pain you’re feeling.”
I shook my head slowly. “That’s the thing though,” I told them, “You don’t know the pain I’m feeling. Yeah, you both had miscarriages, I gave birth to a child who was dead. I saw my daughter’s tiny, lifeless body as they tried to save her.” When I said this, my mother gasped slightly and tears welled up in her eyes. “Until you see that, I don’t think you can ever understand the pain I am feeling.”
“Darling,” my mother said as she took my hand, “You’re right, we never had to witness that, and it completely shatters my heart to know that you went through that, but we do know what it’s like to lose a child. Maybe we can’t understand how much you are hurting, but we have felt some fraction of that hurt.”
“And I know the connection that is formed over those months of carrying and nurturing that baby inside you, and to lose that in a moment is heartbreaking. It is hard to see any sort of life past this loss, but take it from us; there is a life beyond this pain. You will never forget this hurt or your daughter, you will carry her with you always; but there will come a day where you begin to hurt a little less and you can live a life that combines her memory with a new future.”
I couldn’t help the tears that came spilling out. This was the first time that I had allowed myself to really feel the pain that filled my heart. “I just don’t know what to do,” I sobbed. My mother pulled me into her arms and held me tightly as I broke down. “I can’t stand to feel this way anymore.”
My mother tried to soothe me, and I suddenly felt like a small child again. She stroked my hair and Monica took my hand in hers. “I know it’s hard to talk about it, but trust me, it really does help. You’re friends are worried about you, and all they want is to help you. They couldn’t do anything to stop what happened and they feel completely helpless. However, they can help you to work through your pain, you just have to let them in. You don’t have to say anything specific or too deep, but just let them know how you’re doing. They just want what’s best for you.” I nodded my head against my mother’s chest as the tears continued to stream.
“We love you, Lyla,” Monica added. “You are a new person now, this has changed you. You just need time to incorporate this new part of you into who you were before. I promise, it does get better.”
I gave them both a hug and promised them that I would try to embrace this new sense of self and to let others help me through this transition. I followed them downstairs and headed for the kitchen, where I was told I could find Blair and Alexa. When I pushed the door open, I saw them sitting at the counter drinking tea. Blair perked up when she saw me, but Alexa met my eyes with indifference.
I went over to where they were and stood on the other side of the counter across from them. “I’m sorry for how I’ve treated you all lately, I thought I needed to isolate myself. I realize that you all just want me to be happy, but I don’t know if or when I’ll get there. I don’t want to shut you guys out anymore. I won’t always be able to talk about it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be there for me. So, anyways, I’m sorry.”
Blair seemed to immediately forgive me. She gave me a big smile and then looked to Alexa, who had a very skeptical look on her face. The silence that I had so desperately craved earlier was now killing me. I just wanted her to say something. “Well, aren’t you going to come over here and give us a hug?” Alexa questioned with a slight smile and open arms. I nodded my head and came around the counter to embrace them. “I missed you,” she whispered in my ear as we held onto each other.
I had found that coming out of my self-imposed isolation was much harder than I thought it was going to be. I know that everyone close to me still felt saddened by what had happened to me, but the world around me continued on. To be completely honest I wasn’t putting a whole lot of effort into moving on, but I just couldn’t do it. But, I had promised my mother and Alexa that I would try to live in the world again, so I found things to help me put on a face for my family.
As far as they saw, I was on the road of recovery. I was starting to put my life back together and they could once again see a future for me. They needed that, so I gave it to them. I took a sip of my tea as I continued to stare down at the book I was pretending to read in the sitting room with Blair and Alexa.
There was a knock at the door and I could see Alexa and Blair immediately turn their attention to the door. I, however, was frozen by the sound. I knew who was on the other side of that door, and while I felt a sense of relief that Remus was okay and back safely, I was afraid of what having him back would mean. It had been easy to fool my parents, Alexa and Blair when Remus wasn’t here, but I wasn’t sure if I could keep it up with him here, and I highly doubted I would be able to fool him.
Alexa hopped up from her chair and headed for the door. Blair stood a few feet away from me and waited for me to join her. I heard the door open and a squeal of excitement from Alexa. When I came into the front hallway, Alexa and Sirius were locked in an embrace, and James was bringing in the rest of their bags. Remus was standing to the left of the door and he still had remnants from his transformation, but he honestly looked like he had fared pretty well this time around.
It seemed that as soon as Remus and I looked at each other, everyone turned their attention toward us, and there was this weird, sad tension that replaced the previous moment of excitement. Truthfully, it made my stomach turn. Remus gave me a small smile, but that only seemed to make the pain return. I closed the distance between us and wrapped my arms around him. “I’m glad you’re okay,” I whispered to him as I felt his own arms tighten around my shrunken waist.
I pulled away and turned to everyone else. “Well, I’m sure you all are famished,” I said with the cheeriest smile I could muster. “You guys take your stuff upstairs and I’ll get something together for lunch.” Before anyone could say anything, I turned to head for the kitchen, passing through the sitting room to grab my cup of tea. Once in the kitchen, I grabbed for the counter and let out a deep breath. After the room stopped spinning, I grabbed for my mug and took a long drag at the dark liquid, shuddering slightly at the burn as it flowed down my throat.
After dinner later that night, I was exhausted from feigning happiness all day. With all the additional guests it was harder and harder to find time to be alone and drop the façade. Of course, the whiskey I’d been drinking in my tea all day and the couple glasses of wine at dinner hadn’t really helped. I offered to clean the dishes, figuring no one else would offer to help and I could finally have a moment alone, but Remus naturally wasn’t going to let that happen.
He offered to help, and I now found myself in the kitchen only with Remus and a stack of dirty dishes. I knew Remus had picked up on my not so subtle efforts to avoid him since he got back, and I knew that he wasn’t going to let that slide so easily. We stood beside each other at the sink in silence. I rinsed the soap off of one of the plates and handed it to Remus so he could dry it. He took the plate from me, and with his other hand he took my wet soapy hand and held it. I stared down at the dishes in the sink but could feel Remus’s eyes on me. I pulled my hand away and immediately started on the next dish.
“Can we please just sit down and talk?” Remus requested.
I handed him another plate. “We need to get these dishes washed,” I responded.
“I think they can wait, Lyla,” he suggested, his tone growing more impatient. I continued to scrub the already clean plate before me. A moment passed and Remus grabbed the plate out of my hands. “Damn it, Lyla, will you just stop for a second and talk to me?” he pleaded. “We haven’t really talked since she died.” I braced myself on the sink and closed my eyes. “Hell, you can’t even look at me!”
“When I look at you, I see her,” I whispered, as the tears returned. “I look at you and I see the daughter we’ll never get to know. The life we’ll never have.”
Remus let out a sigh and wiped at his eyes. “You know, I’m sorry you see that Lyla, because when I look at you, I still see the woman I love, the woman that I see a future with,” he told me. I let out a sob as I succumbed to the emotions I had been keeping at bay as of late. “I’ve been struggling too, Lyla. I am still sad, every day, but I’ve had to be strong for you. I want to be here for you, Lyls, but I need you to be there for me too. I feel like I’m losing you too.”
I knew I should have gone over to him right then and there and held him, and told him that we would make it through this together, but my body wouldn’t move. “I’m trying to get there, Remus,” I told him. “If it’ll help, you don’t have to worry about me, I’m handling it.”
“By drinking?” he questioned, a knowing look on his face. “I smelled it on you when you hugged me when I first got here.”
I looked away from him and shrugged my shoulders. “I just need it to get me through while I’m here,” I informed him; somehow I thought that would put him at ease. “It’s just too hard to be around my family right now.”
Remus just shook his head. “That’s not a solution, Lyla.”
“I know,” I admitted. “It’s a temporary thing, I promise. My family needs to see me getting better, and I need to feel like I’m getting better. The drinks help me act more normal. I promise I’ll stop once we get back to school.”
It was an empty promise and we both knew it. Remus put his drying towel on the counter and headed for the door. “I lost her too, Lyla. Please don’t let me lose you too. Don’t shut me out.” He left the kitchen and I turned back to the sink. I took a moment, and then picked up another plate and began to wash it.
Christmas Day came, and the holiday spirit was in full swing in the Parker household. One after one the Parkers arrived for the day, and there was this weird mixture of holiday cheer and walking on eggshells; and I was the eggshell.
Alexa joined me on the couch and handed me a glass of wine. She took a sip of her own and let out a small laugh as Claire pulled a face at Uncle Scott before he grabbed her and threw her over his shoulder. “Well, the Parkers are in rare form this year,” she commented. “They seem particularly odd, don’t they?”
“I have a feeling it has something to do with me,” I told her. Remus was talking with Monica’s husband on the other side of the room, but he was watching me. “Did you know mom basically told everyone not to even say the word baby or any word related to babies?”
“Where’d you hear that?” she questioned. The look on Alexa’s face told me that she did know what I was talking about, and that I clearly wasn’t supposed to know.
“Claire told me,” I answered. I saw Alexa look over at where Claire was playing. “You can’t blame her, Alex, she’s too little to understand all this.”
Alexa gave me a small smile and nodded her head. “You know, mom is just trying to protect you,” she told me. “She doesn’t want you to hurt anymore.”
I patted Alexa’s leg and nodded my head. “Yeah. Well, I’m going to go top off my drink. You want another?” Alexa looked at her still full glass and then at my empty glass and shook her head. After filling up my glass I wandered into the kitchen and found my mom and my aunts gathered around the kitchen table. When they caught site of me they suddenly got quiet.
“Hey, sweetheart, how are you doing?” my mother asked.
“I’m fine, just wanted to see if you all needed any help getting dinner ready,” I responded.
My mother got up from her chair and came over to give me a hug. “That’s sweet of you to offer, but you don’t have to worry about it,” she told me. I fought the urge to roll my eyes. “Why don’t you head back into the den, I think we’ll start opening presents in a few minutes.” I looked at her and then my aunties, who just gave me a collective smile.
I nodded my head and made my way back out into the chaos. Sirius was sitting off to the side on a stool, Matthew and Xavier were talking his ear off and he looked incredibly bored. Taking pity on my dear friend, I went over to where they were and put my hand on Xavier’s shoulder. “Hey, you boys mind giving us a minute?” I requested.
They both looked at me with wide eyes. “Oh, yeah, sorry Lyla,” Matthew said quickly, pushing Xavier to move.
Sirius laughed as I took a seat on the stool next to him. “You are my savior,” he told me graciously. “I thought it would never end.” I raised my glass to him and then took another sip. “I see that wine is treating you pretty well.”
I gave Sirius a look. “You’re not going to lecture me like Remus did are you?” I asked.
Sirius shook his head. “It wouldn’t do any good,” he said simply. “Moony told us that you just needed it to get you through the break until we got back to school, and that’s totally your prerogative. I’ll just say this one thing, and that’s all I’ll say on this matter. I’ve found myself at the bottom of many bottles, especially when dealing with family stuff.
“The booze will numb you and help you carry on for a while, but it’s not going to help you deal with the real stuff. That’s always going to be there, no matter how much alcohol you poor into that glass. You’ve been like a sister to me, and I’d hate to see this destroy you and Remus. And I know you don’t want to talk about it, and I know I won’t ever be able to understand what you two went through, but I’m always here if you need to yell at someone, cry about something, or just sit in silence.”
I fought back the tears that began to stink my eyes. I grabbed Sirius’s hand and gave it a squeeze. I couldn’t put anything into words, but I knew Sirius could tell what that meant to me. A moment later my father moved in front of the tree and clapped his hands together. “It is that time again, Parker clan,” he announced. “We will now commence present opening, which will swiftly be followed by a lovely meal that has been prepared for us. “Claire has been selected to be the official present distributer this year, so direct all inquiries and complaints toward her. And without further ado, Happy Christmas everyone!”
The family broke into a thunderous applause and Claire quickly began to distribute all of the gifts diligently. Once all the presents had been given to their appropriate recipients, the den turned into a crime scene covered in wrapping paper. When everyone had pretty much opened all of their parcels, Clair went over to her mom with one last present hidden behind her back.
“Mommy, I made this for you at school,” Claire told Zoe. “I wanted you to open it last.” Zoe took the gift from Claire and placed a sweet kiss on Claire’s nose, which elicited a giggle from my sweet little cousin.
“Well, aren’t you just a doll,” Zoe told Claire. “Let’s see what we’ve got here.” She unwrapped the gift, and everyone watched and waited to see what little Claire had made for her mother. After the paper was torn away, Zoe let out an ‘aww’ as she looked at what was under the green and red wrapping paper.
Getting tired of waiting to see what the gift was, Scott shouted out, “What’d you get? I can almost guarantee that it won’t top the macaroni necklace that Claire gave me.”
Laughter rolled through the room and then Zoe held up Claire’s gift. “It’s our first picture together,” she told everyone. The picture she held up was of her cradling a newly born Claire. Their faces were nearly touching and the look on Zoe’s face was one of unconditional love. It was a beautiful picture.
When I looked away from the picture, I was immediately met by the stares of my family members. Every single person was watching me, and they looked nervous, like they were just waiting for me to melt into a puddle of tears. Before I could tell everyone I was fine, my mom came over and extended her hand to me. “Lyla, why don’t you come with me into the kitchen,” she told me.
I didn’t move from my seat as my mother’s hand stayed extended. “I’m really okay, mother,” I assured her. “We don’t have to make a big deal about this, everyone can just carry on.”
“I hear you, sweetheart, but just come with me anyways, I could use some help in the kitchen,” she insisted.
“I don’t think you are hearing me, mom,” I told her, and I could feel myself losing it. “I know you mean well, but I cannot stand it anymore. Something terrible happened to me, and you all treating me like something terrible happened is not helping me. I am not a child anymore, I don’t need you to protect me from my own feelings!”
My mother was on the verge of tears as Remus moved from his spot. “Lyla,” Sirius whispered to me, “I think you should stop before you say something that you’ll regret.”
“To hell with that!” I told him. “I’m the only one being honest here, besides Claire over there.”
Remus took the glass of wine from me and handed it to Sirius. “Lyla, you need to step out and cool down,” he told me. I went to protest, but he cut me off. “You are drunk and you need to take a break from all this.” The look in his eyes told me that I didn’t have a choice. He stepped to the side and motioned for me to go. I headed for the stairs and took them all the way up to mine and Alexa’s former room in the attic.
Once the door was closed behind us, Remus took that opportunity to get his frustrations out. “What the hell are you doing, Lyla?” he questioned. “Your family, and least of all your mom, doesn’t deserve to be treated like that.”
“I just couldn’t take it anymore,” I tried to explain. “They are treating me like a child. I’m already in hell, Remus, nothing they’d say could possibly make me feel worse than I do right now.” Remus turned away from me and rubbed his face. I could tell he was getting pretty frustrated with me. “It’s just hard for me to be around everyone. This was going to be our first Christmas as a family, this was going to be the first the whole family would get to meet the baby.”
He turned back to look at me, his expression softer than it was before. “I think we need to just head back to school,” he told me. “You need to get away from your family, and we can take the time before classes start to try and sort through some things.” I shook my head in protest, but Remus shut it down real quick. “I’ll help you pack up your trunk.
As we silently packed my clothes and things away into my trunk, Alexa burst into the room, followed by Sirius, James, and Blair. “What the fuck’s going on here?” Alexa asked when she saw us packing.
“We are going to head back to Hogwarts early,” Remus informed them. “We both just need to get out of here to work through some things.”
Alexa had a shocked look on her face and she shook her head. “No, you can’t just leave,” she tried to reason. “Do you understand the shit storm that will start? They are already riled up down there, if you all leave that will send them over the edge. Mom is downstairs in tears, right now.”
I turned to Alexa and gave her an apologetic look. “I don’t want to leave you here to deal with all this, but Remus is right, I can’t be here right now. All I’ve done is ruined everyone’s Christmas,” I told her. “I’ll apologize to Mom, but we’re going to leave tonight.”
She let out a disgruntled sigh and shook her head once again. “If you two are leaving, then I’m leaving as well,” she insisted.
“Alexa, don’t,” I disagreed. “You should stay here and enjoy the rest of the break. I don’t want to ruin your whole break.”
“Fuck that,” Alexa responded bluntly. I saw Sirius smile slightly behind her. “What would ruin my break is being here without you. I love our family, but Lyla, the holidays aren’t the same without you. We stick together, through anything.” She gave me a wink and a nudge. I pulled her into a hug, so appreciative of my sister in that moment.
“Well, I guess we should all get to packing,” James said as he threw his arms around Sirius and Blair.
When we got back to Hogwarts, we all headed to our respective dormitories to drop off our stuff. I thought I’d feel better being back, but this was the first time that the castle didn’t feel like home. We put our trunks in our room, and then Remus turned to me. “How about we get some sleep, I’m sure you’re exhausted,” he suggested.
I looked at our bed and then I looked at the door that led to the adjoining room that was the nursery. “Actually, I’m famished, let’s get everyone together and we can head down to the kitchens to see if we can rustle up some food.” Remus hesitated momentarily and then nodded in agreement.
We both headed to the other dormitories and grabbed everyone else and then we headed for the kitchens. The elves in the kitchens were kind enough to let us in to search for something to tide us over until the morning. We each gathered as many snacks as we could possibly hold, and we congregated around one of the counters.
“Now, this is what I call a Christmas feast,” James said as he bit into one of the cakes.
“Speaking of celebrating, I realized on the trip back, that we didn’t really get to celebrate Alexa’s birthday before the break,” I said. “So, I think we should round up whoever is around on New Years Eve, and we should throw a proper party.”
Alexa had a perplexed look on her face. “You really want to throw a party?” she asked me. I shrugged my shoulders and nodded my head. I looked over to Remus, and he had a worried look on his face.
“I just figured we could all do with a little bit of fun,” I explained. “And what better occasion to celebrate than the birth of our precious Alexa?”
Alexa gave me a smile and took another bite of the cookie she’d been working on. “Well, if you’re up for it, I think that would be a lot of fun,” Alexa said. “I don’t really care what we do, as long as we can all hang together.”
“It’s settled then,” I decided.
After we had sufficiently stuffed our faces with any possible sweet you could think of, we were all pretty knackered and ready for bed. Remus and I headed up to our room for the night, as we had done night after night. We changed and got ready for bed in silence. Remus turned off the light in the bathroom and came over to where I was putting my jewelry on the dresser. He placed a kiss on my cheek and gave my arm a squeeze. “Goodnight, Lyla,” he said.
He climbed into bed and I followed shortly, after turning off the lights. Remus seemed to fall asleep in no time, but no matter how hard I tried I could find that same peace. I tossed and turned, and it was a miracle that I didn’t wake Remus up. As I turned on my side and saw the door to the nursery, I realized why I couldn’t sleep.
I carefully climbed out of bed and headed over to the door. The door seemed to double in size with every step I took closer to it. My hand met the cold metal of the doorknob and I had to take a deep breath. I finally found the strength to push open the door and walked slowly into the room.
The room was dark, but the light from the moon streamed through the window on the far wall. Most of the stuff was still in the room, in the exact place it had been. The only thing that was different was the crib was now broken into pieces, stacked in a pile on the floor, and a stuffed dog that Sirius had given us was lying next to it.
I remembered the first time we had seen the nursery. I honestly couldn’t believe that McGonagall and Dumbledore and arranged all of this for us. Everything in the nursery was so beautiful, and McGonagall had made sure there were distinct touches of Gryffindor throughout the room.
I eased myself onto the floor and reached for the dog. I stroked the soft fabric and held it against my chest. I was trying to start to live my life again, and I would honestly try to engage with the world around me again. But, when I was alone, I wasn’t going to ignore the way I still felt deep inside. I laid down in the middle of that room, holding onto that stuffed dog for dear life and I cried myself to sleep.
The sound of my name broke through my sleep to my consciousness, but I wasn’t fully awake. It wasn’t until I felt a hand on my arm that I opened my eyes. I looked down at the stuffed dog that I was still holding onto and then up at Remus who was sitting beside me. “Hey,” he said with a smile. “Were you in here all night?”
I placed the dog back among the rubble of the crib and sat myself up to face him. “I had trouble falling asleep,” I told him. He brushed a piece of my hair out of my face and tucked it behind my ear. The look on his face was kind, but there was also some concern. “I’m fine,” I assured him. “You don’t have to worry. I’m going to go take a shower.”
I stood up from my spot and started to head back through the door to our room. “Lyla,” Remus said, stopping me right at the door, “I’ll always worry.”
“I know,” I responded. He didn’t look back at me; he just stared at the dismantled crib. I took one last look and then continued on to the bathroom.
New Years Eve had finally come and we were in full party mode. We had invited most of the Gryffindors who had returned back to school from the holiday and a select few other people. James had even asked Blair if she wanted to invite Matt. Even though Blair said she didn’t want to invite him, it seemed that James and Blair had exchanged olive branches and they were working on having each other in their lives in a new way.
I guess if anything good came out of mine and Remus’s loss, it was that it really had brought our whole group back together. When Alexa asked Blair why she didn’t want to invite Matt, we couldn’t quite get a clear answer, but we figured that was a conversation for another day.
Blair, Alexa and I had congregated in their dormitory to get ready for the festivities, and I had brought some fire whiskey with me to get things rolling. Alexa joined me on her bed while Blair was in the bathroom, and I poured us both shots. I handed Alexa her glass and we knocked back the burning liquid. Alexa’s face scrunched up as she recovered from the liquor and then she gave me a smile.
“Thanks for doing all this for me, Lyls,” she said. “I feel like we all really need a night where we can just let a lot of things go and just relax.” I nodded in agreement and poured more fire whiskey into our shot glasses. Alexa hesitantly drank her shot as I took mine. She handed me her shot glass and cleared her throat. “I don’t want to be a bummer, but I thought you were going to stop with the self-medicating once we were back at school.”
I looked down at the bottle in my lap and shrugged my shoulders. “We’re having a party, Alex,” I told her.
“I know,” she said, “but Remus said he’s been able to tell you’ve been drinking since we got back, almost every day.”
My hands tightened around the bottle as I felt the anger rise in me. “Well, you shouldn’t believe everything Remus says. He’s convinced that I’m spiraling out of control, but he just worries too much. Have I not been acting better lately? You all wanted me to be happy; am I not acting happy enough for you all?”
“Lyla, I was just asking, I didn’t mean anything by it,” she defended herself, trying to keep her voice calm. “And don’t say anything to Remus, okay. I don’t want you guys to get in an argument over this; I don’t want things to get out of control.
Alexa waited for me to respond, but even with the alcohol swimming in my veins, I knew I should say anything in that moment, because it would just make things worse. “Well, I’ll just see you guys over there,” I said, getting up from the bed and heading for the door.
Before she could protest, I slammed the door behind me and headed down the stairs to the common room. It was pretty empty considering that most of the people who were back were probably in the Room of Requirements. James, Sirius, Remus and Peter had already headed to the Room of Requirements, but I wasn’t quite ready to head that way.
I wandered around the castle for a little while; slowly depleting the bottle of fire whiskey I carried with me like a security blanket. By the time I turned up at the celebration the party was in full swing.
Within taking a few steps into the room, I was met by my friends, who seemed less than thrilled at my tardiness. “Where have you been? This whole thing was your idea. I just wanted to spend time with you for my birthday,” Alexa said, slight admonishment in her voice.
“I was afraid I would cause things to get out of control if I came to soon,” I responded, a little more sarcastically than intended.
“You know I didn’t mean it like that,” Alexa corrected me. “It’s my birthday, and I just want to have a good time with my sister.”
“Well, Alexa, I’m here now,” I told her. “And if that’s not enough for you, I’ll do something special for you, how about that?” I grabbed a chair that was near by and climbed up on it. I clapped my hands really loud and yelled for everyone’s attention. After a few moments, most people quieted down and someone had turned down the music. Alexa had a look of panic and confusion on her face, but I didn’t pay her much attention.
“Thanks for coming tonight, everyone,” I started. “As you know, we are all here not only to ring in another great year, but to also celebrate the birth of my dear little sister, Alexa. My sister so unselfishly asked people to not make a big deal of her actual birthday or celebrate because a little before that I had given birth and my baby died. I can’t blame her, there’s nothing that ruins a celebration like the death of a baby, am I right?” Blair gasped and clutched her chest.
Everyone’s faces were perplexed and they all seemed very uncomfortable. I found Remus’s face and he looked fit for murder. “She’s absolutely amazing isn’t she?” I continued. “So, now we celebrate without that shadow of death hanging over us, and I couldn’t be happier for my sister. I could not be happier. Cheers to Alexa!” I stepped down from the chair and everyone in the room began to chatter. I was drawing a lot of weird look, but I didn’t really care.
“Was that really necessary?” Blair asked. Alexa had her arms wrapped around her own body and she sniffed as she tried to hide her tears.
“I felt like I needed to do something special for Alexa,” I to her. “She wanted to spend time with me today and have a special night all together, so I gave a speech to toast her birth and profess how truly great my sister is.”
Sirius took Alexa into his arms and Remus was the next one to come to her defense. “Can’t you see how you’ve upset her?” he asked. “You shouldn’t have said all that. Everyone was having a good time, and now look at her.”
I looked to Alexa who looked extremely upset. “Smile, Alex,” I told her. “It’s a party, you should try to be happy.” I gave her one last look and then moved to leave. No one came after me when I left, and I couldn’t decide if I was relieved or if that angered me even more.
As I rounded the corner near the entrance to Gryffindor Tower, I ran into someone. When I looked up after stumbling back, clearly uneasy on my feet, I saw Lily before me. “Oh, hey, Lyla,” she said. “I was just on my way to the party.” I nodded my head, but didn’t really know what to say. I think Lily could tell I didn’t want to talk about the party so she changed the subject. “I’ve actually been meaning to ask you something,” she started. “What do you know about the Order of the Phoenix?”
If I had had full control of my faculties, I would have been more careful about what I said, but seeing as I was three sheets to the wind, I practically let it all spill. “Oh, I know loads about the Order,” I gushed. “Dumbledore pretty much started it all, and they are starting to invite students into the folds to grow the Order. With Voldemort and his followers growing, I suspect the Order wanted to get as many of us right out of school as they can. I don’t remember Dumbledore telling me that you were in it, how did you find out?”
Lily took everything I was saying in and it took her a moment to process it all. “Um, Alexa left her letter inviting her into the Order on the bathroom sink in the dormitory,” she explained. “So, students aren’t supposed to know about this unless they are asked to be in the Order?”
I couldn’t help the laugh that escaped me. “Right you are, Lils,” I said through laughter. “And yet, here you are. You know our secret.” I was struck by another fit of giggles, and Lily just watched me like I was a madman. “I’m not sure of how important it is to keep this a secret, but you probably shouldn’t say anything to anyone. Or tell everyone you know, makes no difference to me. I should probably get going.” I gave her a nod goodnight and went to move past her.
“Lyla, do you want to some help getting back up to your dormitory?” Lily asked as I walked away from her.
I waved her off. “No, I’ll be fine. You go, have fun, and celebrate my sister,” I shouted to her. When I finally got to the portrait hole. It took me a few tries to get the password right and I stumbled towards the common room. I looked at the stairs leading up to our dormitory and I could not for the life of me remember the password into the room. So instead, I forced myself into the Gryffindor common room and sat on one of the couches and racked my brain for all of ten minutes and then abandoned my efforts.
The couch felt incredibly comfortable, and there was really no need to seek refuge in a bed that felt foreign to me. I laid my body down on the couch and got into a comfortable position. Nearly every nerve ending in my body was numb, and I couldn’t even feel the material of the couch underneath my skin. I relished this feeling of nothingness, and I feared waking up to that feeling being gone.