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Chapter 23 : My life is Grey if You are not in It
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The corridor was dimly lit and it seemed to Rolf as a bad omen, almost foretelling the events that were about to unfold. He walked along the hallway, barely being able to see a couple of feet before him and it was then that it struck him the cruel and painful knowledge that he had pushed aside from his mind all this time. His grandfather was dying. He had been ill for a couple of months now and his health condition seemed to have aggrieved in the past weeks so badly that he was not able to walk anymore and spent most of his time locked between the four walls of his room, in bed.
Rolf had seldom come to see him as he did not wish to acknowledge the obvious. He did not want to see the great Newt Scamander in his bed, without any strength and unable to even talk properly. All his childhood, Rolf had lived up to the iconic naturalist, had seen him with an aura of God and never had he believed that one day his grandfather – just like the rest of the people – would die. Yet today he was seeing that for the first time in his life.
He had been unable to admit to himself that even people like Newt Scamander – with their strength, bravery and extensive knowledge – could actually perish with such easiness and lack of honours. His grandfather deserved a better death, one that would remember people of his great deeds, of his charisma and, what was more important, of his astuteness. He should have died in an Amazonian forest fighting some particular dangerous creature or somewhere in the depths of the Indian Ocean after a discussion with the merchief would go badly wrong.
But no, Newt Scamander would not die in his full glory… he would be in his bed, in his house on the Dorset shore while he and his family would stay at his bedside. Rolf felt guilty for he now understood why his grandfather had never gone to an expedition for years in a row. It was his fault, because ever since he had stupidly decided that “being a naturalist was not to his liking” his grandfather had lost his interest in travelling and studying new creatures. Why would he have done that again if he had no one whom to initiate? There was no one eager to carry on the art of mazigology.
It was because of him that Newt Scamander would not die of a brave death, like he had deserved and that mere thought crushed him more than the knowledge that today he would lose the only man who had ever believed in him. He felt like he was losing a father and not his grandfather. He now saw just how much the old man meant to him, just how requisite he had been all this time. He had been so wrong about everything and every day he was paying the price for his ignorance. Luna had left him, his grandfather was dying and soon everyone who had ever meant something to him would desert him, because he sure deserved to be left all alone.
Rolf knew that he was the only one who should have died that night, yet he was as healthy as he had always been. His mind was not doing so well, as he was worn out by his own sense of guilt and remorse, but his physique – despite having lost some weight – was alright. Life was unfair and he was barely starting to learn this, just like his Luna had. How he missed her still, even though there had been more than a month since she had packed her things, leaving behind just a letter and a golden coin. He wondered what she was doing now, was she alright? Did she think of him? Did it hurt her just as it hurt him? Had she forgotten all about him already?
How many times he had asked himself those very questions and every time the answer had been as blurry as his own sight after having spent all night painting. He could not see hope in all the darkness that surrounded him and as he sat in front of his grandparents’ room – feeling unable to open the door – he thought that his life was no more worth than that of a bug. He felt like a cockroach and he knew he would not get rid of that sensation for a long time.
He finally knocked on the door and as soon as he heard his grandmother’s voice inside, he opened it and entered. The room preserved the same darkness that seemed to have taken over the whole house, along with its habitants. Porpentina was sitting on a chair next to the bed, while the three kneazles were silently watching her every move from their cosy baskets. They too could feel that something was wrong; Hoppy particularly, looked like he was not taking his master’s incoming death so easily. He, just like Rolf, had been a favourite of the old naturalist and the affection had always been mutual, despite the apparent easy-going nature of the cat.
Mrs. Scamander smiled as she noticed her grandson standing in the doorway, but as refreshing as the curling of lips might have once been, it no longer bestowed tranquillity to Rolf. She smiled because she had no other grimace left to express her grief and the pain of being on the verge of losing the man with whom she had been married for more years than she could count. She had cried, she had been bitter, she had felt anger and frustration, then she had gone through a long state of depression… smiling was all that she had been left with.
Rolf approached her and kissed her forehead, in the same manner that she had done it for him as a child. Mr. Scamander opened his eyes and allowed a grin to appear on the corner of his mouth, as weak as it was. Rolf conjured a chair for himself and sat on the other side of the bed. He grabbed his grandfather’s white hand from the bed and suddenly felt just how cold it was. The old man – who seemed to have grown older in the past weeks than he had in a lifetime – fixed his grandson, looking straight into the green eyes that he had once loved about a woman he had called wife for so long. He was the spitting image of her – the same eyes, the same lips and, certainly, the good looks were from her side as well… He remembered Rolf as a child – such a presence, such curiosity and he had that certain hunger for knowledge that, despite all evidence, had never left him.
Rolf smiled as he noticed the stare on his grandfather’s worn-out face. He hardly resembled the man that he had idolised as a child, but there was something about the warmth reflecting in his eyes that made the young man recognize him.
“Rolf, you came,” Mr. Scamander said, his voice betraying the weakness in his throat.
“Of course I did, grandpa…” Rolf tried to sooth him. “I’ll always be here when you need me, when you call for me…”
Porpentina started crying but Newt did not seek to comfort her, as he always did when she would collapse. Instead he smiled and continued to look at his grandson with the same pride as before.
“Do you remember when you destroyed your grandmother’s garden, trying to de-gnome it?” the old man asked to which Rolf sniggered.
“I was five, wasn’t I?” he replied. Porpentina nodded and she too allowed a grin to appear on her tormented face. “Grandma reprimanded me all day long for having ruined the gardenias and the roses. She had been so fond of some flowers and I had killed them, merciless. What I did not know at that time was that we had no gnomes in the gardens…”
“Did you punish him Poppy? I can’t remember exactly…”
“Of course she did,” Rolf answered before his grandmother would burst again into fits of crying. “She made me write I will never de-gnome grandma’s garden ever again for hundreds of times. And she cried all week long, attempting to make me feel bad about myself.”
“Needless to say that I failed miserably…” Poppy added to which Mr. Scamander smiled.
“My favourite mischief of Rolf’s though, must be that time when he painted Miller purple…”
Rolf laughed and then eyed the kneazle who still, after all this time, refused to allow him to pat him. He held a grudge even if years had gone by and the purple dye had long faded in his fur.
“Miller was my very first work of art!” Rolf defended.
“You are so talented.” said Newt. “You know…I went to see your works. They’re wonderful, really. I always knew you had a knack for painting.”
“Thanks,” Rolf murmured. “But I’m no good… I can only paint her,” he went on talking, afraid to mention her name.
“She left,” his grandfather spoke to which Rolf sighed. “Why don’t you go looking for her? She loves you…I could tell that from the very day she laid her eyes on you…”
“I’m not leaving you Grandpa… You have to get better. My life can be put on hold for a while and I’m sure that Luna will understand it if the time should come for us to meet again. But I’m staying here for now…”
“I’m dying, Rolf…” Mr. Scamander whispered.
“Nonsense,” said Rolf, but his voice did not convey any certainty. “You’re going to live long; you’ll even get to meet your great-grandsons… My children…”
“Rolf, listen to me carefully… There’s no need to lie to ourselves anymore. We all know that tonight is my final night on this earth. I just want you to know that I love you and that I’ll always be with you…” he spoke and Rolf began panicking, crystal tears rolling down on his cheeks. “You were always my favourite grandson because you were such a wonderful and smart child. Today, you’re the man I wanted you to become, regardless of the different path you chose to pursue. I’m so proud of you…”
“I’m so sorry, Grandpa!” Rolf cried out. “I’m sorry because I’ve been such a fool. I pretended to dismiss the choices that you were trying to direct me to, because I wanted to be different from my family. But I’m not… I’m just like you! I love animals and I want to spend my life doing what you did… I was blind – I did not see the things that mattered in my life. I lost Luna and now you’re dying… It’s my fault!”
“No it’s not… at least, not in my case. I have been sick for a very long time, Rolf and I had almost lost any hope until last summer when you moved in with us. You have made my life so beautiful from the very minute you were born…” he paused. “Promise me, Rolf… promise me that you’ll go and find Luna and you’ll get her back in your life. Don’t let her slide from you… Promise me you’re going to be happy…”
“You have my word," Rolf said bitterly.
Mr. Scamander closed his eyes, a big smile still etched on his face and then he moved no more. Newt Scamander had died.
Rolf was determined to keep his promise to his grandfather. He thought of his last words, as he sat on the edge of the grave, looking down at the coffin that was slowly being covered by brown dust. The funeral had passed so slowly, every of his grandmother’s sobs appearing more painful to Rolf with every minute. She had cried and so had Rolf. The grave was sealed but Rolf could not find the strength to leave, even though he was now all by himself.
All those who had attended the service had gone into the house. He watched the golden plait that bore the name of his grandfather, etched in an elegant writing that did not resemble with the doodling of the naturalist. He felt alone, more alone than ever, despite the many relatives that waited inside to speak to him. He knew that the only one in his family who had ever believed in him was the grandfather whose body now lay buried beneath the ground of their domain.
He then gazed up at the immensity of the sea stretching before him and he felt so tiny in a world that burdened his shoulders. He remembered Luna: her sparkling eyes fixing the horizon line with such avidity that it appeared to Rolf that she would engulf the world with just one look. She was fun to be around because she said things that people would not say on a regular basis. She used to wear flowery dresses and flat shoes. She did her own jewellery and fancied funny coloured nail polish.
His life was grey if she was not in it.
It was now that Rolf clearly realized that Luna was the only woman who could have ever made him truly happy. She was the only one for him and regardless of the circumstances he would go looking for her. He had no idea where to start… all he had was her home address but he doubted she would seek shelter at her father’s house. Xenophilius Lovegood was on a trip, had been on various ever since his only daughter had left for Dorset. She would not live alone… Maybe she had gone at Harry’s, Rolf reckoned as he walked over to the house, his hands tucked in the pockets of his jeans. Ginny and Harry no longer lived at the Burrow, they had got a house of their own whose precise location, Rolf did not know. All he knew was that it was somewhere in London. But London was so big…
And then, it struck him. Neville Longbottom was teacher at Hogwarts and given his friendship with Harry, he must know where the Potters currently lived. He would go to Hogwarts and find Neville – who being the nice guy he always was would tell him all he needed to know. He ran back to the house, opened the front door and went straight upstairs without even bothering to check the dining room where his family probably ate.
He reached his room in a heart beat, took a backpack from beneath his bed and started packing some things that he thought necessary for his trip. When he had placed all the items in his rucksack he went back to the ground floor and seized the many rooms, looking for a house elf. When he failed to spot any – they must have all been busy attending the family – he got a piece of paper from the office and wrote a note to his grandmother, saying that he had gone to seek happiness – like his grandfather would have wanted him to.
He placed the note on the mirror facing the entry door and then emerged outside, in his quest for happiness. He would find Luna and he would tell her all the things he had never said. And she would forgive him and then they would live happy, together, without anyone interfering in their lives.
He apparated to Hogsmeade knowing that it was impossible to do so in Hogwarts – the school where Luna had lived half of her life… Rolf walked over to the kissing gate, pushed it wide open and then entered the domain without giving it a second thought. The building appeared genuinely impressive from where he stood now. His grandfather had once taken him to Hogsmeade as a child but they had never entered the school, not Rolf at least. It seemed that the classes were over and all the students – wearing their house uniforms – were gathered on the lawn to enjoy the nice sun of June. Soon, the school would end. Some of them were clutching big old tomes that they must have borrowed from the impressive library. They were fifth years or seventh years, probably preparing for their OWLs and NEWTs.
Rolf was a bit confused about where he could find Neville and decided that the best thing to do was to ask a Prefect. Luckily one of the Prefects was Dennis Creevey, whom he had met at Ginny’s wedding in September.
“Hi Dennis!” Rolf spoke upon meeting the boy who now wore a ‘P’ badge on his chest.
“Oh, Rolf right?” he replied. “We met at Ginny’s wedding, didn’t we? You’re Luna’s boyfriend. How is she?”
“Fine…” said Rolf rather abashed by his ability to lie. “Dennis, I need your help…”
“Sure, anything… Name it!”
“I need to find Neville Longbottom. I hear he is a teacher of Herbology here…”
“Yes, of course he is. Apprentice-teacher, actually... I’m the only one in the school who can call him Neville and not Professor Longbottom,” Dennis bragged. “You know… the whole Dumbledore’s Army thing during the war…”
“Right,” Rolf mumbled. “Now can you tell me where I can find him?”
“Ah, sure… There!” he said while point at the Greenhouses. “You’ll find him there all day long. We’ve got a new sprout of Mandrakes that need to be taken care of and as you might...”
Rolf did not let Dennis finish his sentence as he shook his hand in a hurry and then left for the Greenhouses. He reached a door saying Greenhouse nr. 10 and upon hearing Neville mumbling something from behind, he barged into.
“Rolf!” Neville shouted. “You gave me quite a scare!”
“Sorry…” he apologized. “I didn’t mean to scare you. How are you?”
“Oh, fine,” said Neville while shaking hands with Rolf. “Breeding Mandrakes has never been an easy job. It requires patience.” There was a moment of silence in which neither of them knew what to say. Obviously, Neville knew what had happened with Luna and Rolf knew that he knew. “I hear that you and Luna are no longer together…”
“Yeah…” Rolf spoke bitterly.
“And that your grandfather died. I read it in the Prophet, yesterday. I’m sorry about that…”
“Me too,” he replied. “I need you to tell me something, Neville. I want you to tell me the truth…”
“Sure…but if you’ve come for Luna’s whereabouts I’m afraid I can’t help you. I don’t know where she is.”
“No…I actually need Harry’s address. He might be able to help me find Luna.”
“I doubt they will… especially Ginny. She is not that pleased with what happened. Nevertheless, I’ll give it to you. Let me take a piece of paper,” he paused while looking for a quill and a piece of parchment and after finding them, he started doodling something. “It’s number 12, Grimmauld Place, London. You should be able to see the house as you are a wizard…the street is at a twenty minute’s walk from King’s Cross so you should find it easily.”
“Thank you, Neville…” Rolf said while grabbing the piece of parchment and stuffing it into his pocket. “You have no idea how much this means to me…”
“Well, make sure that this time you’ll do whatever it takes to make Luna happy.”
“I will, I promise…” he said and upon shaking hands again with Neville, he left.
The atmosphere outside appeared much more welcoming to Rolf, now that he had a lead towards finding Luna. Neville had been more than useful and had behaved quite well, which was not to be expected from the Potters. Ginny, particularly, would not receive him with her arms opened wide and for a good reason. He had hurt her best friend and an innocent girl who had fallen in love with a man who had not deserved her. But now, he would do everything in his power to get to deserve a woman like Luna. He loved her and he would not let her go away, ever again.
He walked over to the kissing gate, where he could safely apparate to London’s King’s Cross and then walk the twenty minute’s distance to Ginny’s and Harry’s house. There was swish sound from between the bushes and Rolf suddenly felt the need to find out the source of that sound. He entered the forest, walked along the dirty path that bore signs of hooves on it and as he reached a glade he noticed a pack of big winged horses with white eyes and bodies resembling skeletons. They were quite many and some of them even had babies, which did not look cute at all with their dragonish faces and neck and creepy eyes. Rolf now knew what they were.
They were Thestrals – Luna’s favourite beasts in the whole world.
He had never seen them because he had never seen anyone dying before. He now had. Rolf had sat with his grandfather when the latter had closed his eyes and surrendered to death. He understood now, as he sat a couple of feet away from them, what Luna had said about the way the Thestrals made her feel. He remembered his grandfather, all those moments when they had had so much fun, the wisdom that he had shared with his young grandchild and the last words that had left his mouth.
He realized that Luna might have sat in the exact place for so many times during her school years. She had come here to remember her mother and all those people whom she had lost along the war and whom she dearly missed every day. Today my mother died she had written in her diary. Those very words never seem to leave his mind now.
“Yesterday, my grandfather died,” he whispered, knowing that the Thestrals could hear him. “Luna left me… I hurt her… but I’ll make it up to her again. It’s all going to be fine. I’m going to find her…” he kept repeating like a mantra, remembering what his grandfather had once told him: if one thinks arduously of something, it will happen.
I see them because I remember she had said about Thestrals and albeit not having understood what she had meant at that time, he now believed she had been right all along.
“They remind me of you,” he whispered to the memory of Luna that always haunted his dreams. “Because I love you…”
AN Hello! Well this is the 23rd chapter, only 2 left my dear readers. I'm so touched by the past reviews that I felt compelled to update this faster than the usual. I can't believe how little we've got left of Luna and Rolf... I'm going to miss them very much. Will you?:D Hugs, Roe!
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