Chapter 3 : Moon and Back
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Reinforcing the warning. This story very lightly touches on the subject of PTSD and the effects of war. If you're uncomfortable with that, I suggest forgoing the story or thread carefully.
Sometimes when the city lights are dark enough and the night sky, bright, she would sing a song to the Sandman.
She was only five years old when she first watched her father struggle under the heat of the summer night. There was something eerily interesting watching her father toss and turn in his sleep, groaning, and crying. The man with larger hands than hers, the man she thought of as the bravest of them all, was but a crybaby like herself.
When she was eight, she happened upon her father napping in the sun room. His brows were furrowed, and eyes shut so tightly it scrunched his face funnily. He groaned and twitched too.
Around the age of nine during the end of summer, she found her father curled in a ball in a corner of his room. Every year this occurred and each year, she pushed it to the back of her head until now. After all, next year, she'll be a student of Hogwarts. She fancied herself mature. That and a baby sibling was coming soon.
She took a seat in front of him, comfortably sat on the floor with her legs crossed.
"Dad," she says with a raspy voice. "Are you okay?"
In the years growing up, she'd never thought to ask him. She thought about why she hadn't. The image of him crying was always unusual to her, but not once did she wonder about it.
Her father wiped his lips and straightened himself. He faked a smile, but his weary eyes showed everything.
"I was simply," his eyes diverted away, "resting."
She raised a brow. "In the corner of the room? Your bed is just right there, dad."
He chuckled and patted her on the head as he got up.
And that was that.
For a while during the remainder of summer, she avoided her parent's room. She didn't want to see him in pain because that was what it was. It was emotional pain, so strong it was hurting him physically.
Fall arrived and he left for work. He'd be at Hogwarts, looking someone else's kid instead of her because that was his job as the Herbology Professor.
Her father would be where everyone gathered every end of the year to celebrate Christmas. Everyone from parents to their children would be there. Her cousins, not by blood, but by the war, would be there. And like always, there will be rooms only for the adults and rooms only for the children.
She wanted to be with the adults, to ask them why her father cries at night, but what would be the point of knowing?
When she arrived behind her father and pregnant mother in a home she's known all her life, she saw things she didn't see before.
Uncle Ron cleans the closet without magic each year because Aunt Jeanne hates magic. Aunt Jeanne hates magic because it was an awful reminder of the things she lost in the war. There was a sick cycle of 'this because of that', but ultimately, it always went back to the war.
She watched the back of her father, his scruffy hair, lanky figure, and his warm cardigan.
She wondered what it would have been like walking the halls of Hogwarts with this skinny man. This skinny man that her mother fell in love with years after Hogwarts, she was curious about those days.
"Alice, why don't you let the others know you're here."
That was how Aunt Ginny always got rid of the kids in the room.
Alice smiled. "It's AJ, Aunt Gin."
"I don't know why you all forget!" She laughed. "Aunt June was like the best, right?"
She had not meant to mention her name. It simply slipped her lips, like a tune she'd been aching to sing. Immediately, she noticed everyone's expression flicker. Some from happy to sad, and a few others, anger filled their faces. That's when she caught it. Her dad's eyes; they were glossed over. She knew that look, the image of him crying.
She supposed he caught her reaction too.
A smile tried to cover the paleness of his face.
The silence was audible until Uncle Fred cleared his throat. "Why don't you go find Regulus, AJ. I'm sure he'd be happy to have someone trudge behind him."
"I do not 'trudge'!" She huffed.
Hesitant, she jokingly trudged off to the second floor where she believed her cousin would be.
As she walked the long hallways of the enchanted house, she couldn't set aside the thought of everyone's reactions. They all showed such similar pain, of guilt.
"Alice," a familiar hoarse voice called out.
She took a deep breath and turned around. "Yes, dad?"
He approached her slowly. He took her by the hand and together they sat down, their backs against a wall.
"There's never going to be good timing. We try to pretend and shield you from our past, but it is just as you said. It's in your name. It's within these rooms and later, within the halls of the school you'll call a second home." He swallowed painfully. "I was an awkward boy, with equally awkward hobbies."
She laughed. "Yeah."
"But your Aunt June, she didn't see that. She always saw the best in me."
"I know," she interrupted. "Everyone has said before, how close the two of you were. Joined at the hip, almost."
A smile crept up his face.
"Yes, we were the best of friends, your Aunt June and I." He paused again. "You may wonder sometimes, why does he cry?" Her eyes grew wide; he'd known. "Or maybe, why we often discuss things in whispers."
He brushed a loose strand of hair from her face. She was just like him, unaware of herself.
"I suppose, it's almost coming to its second decade, we should be okay by now. Sometimes," He had a difficult time figuring out what to say.
"Sometimes we love someone so much, it stays with us forever."
He couldn't control his surprise at the profound words coming out a nine-year old's mouth. He quickly wiped off the shock and gave her a loving smile. It was a smile she hadn't seen so clearly until now.
"To the moon and back."
They were not his words. They belonged to her Aunt June, a friend, a sister, and now a memory.
Sometimes when the city lights are dark enough and the night sky, bright, she would sing a song to the Sandman to bring peaceful sleep for her dear father.
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