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Chapter 17 : The Perks of Being a Blood-Traitor
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After kicking off, I flew aimlessly for a while. I flew around the night letting what I had just done sink in.
I got high enough in the air to avoid getting hit by fireworks. I was confident no Muggles had hope of seeing me in the dark night sky in my dark jeans and black hooded sweatshirt. Not that I really cared if they did. At a time like this I couldn’t bring myself to care about much. Every once in a while I would dip low enough to see where I was and then ascend to invisibility again. The air was moist enough that it did not dry out my eyes. But my cheeks and nose became numb from the cold, my hands felt frozen to my broom. I really wished that I had thought about gloves.
I expected to feel elated, light, happy but instead I felt raw. My stomach was still in knots, my eyes felt swollen with tears that I refused to let fall, and my heartbeat felt different, mournful. I waited for the burden on my shoulders to lift but it was still there. Maybe it would take time and a warm bed to sleep in before I could truly feel free of the tether I’d had around my ankle for the last fifteen years.
I thought about where that warm bed would be. Who could I turn to?
Not Andromeda. She had a husband and they had a baby to take care of, I was not going to intrude on their young, growing family. I was positive that I’d be welcomed with open arms but still, I could not bring myself to fly to their little London townhouse. That was a last resort.
I thought about going to my second cousin Cecilia in Surrey. She had never been outwardly hateful towards Muggles or Muggleborns. She was one of those people who kept completely quiet on the topic and then subtly put distance between her and her family once she graduated without completely ostracizing herself. She’d moved into a flat with her boyfriend and her visits and owls became less and less. I hadn’t seen her since I was eight. I didn’t really know her. Even when she was around I didn’t really know her, so I thought better of it.
My mind strayed inevitably to Sirius and I ached in my heart with the wish that he had his own place. I would go there but I would not go to Potter’s, even if I were welcome (which I was sure that I wasn’t). That was completely out of the question.
Even as I thought about Sirius and wished he had gotten a flat somewhere in London I knew that I was glad I didn’t have that option. Though I had left my parents at last and our latest squabble had ended in a passionate, if incredibly confusing, kiss- inside I was still mad. For what? I was not even sure anymore, but the anger was still there. I could not ignore it, even if I wanted to.
I could go back.
Even as the thought crossed my mind I hated myself for it. It was true though. They probably hadn’t found the note. They probably hadn’t even gotten home yet. I could go back and pretend that this whole thing had never happened. Pretend that I had never left, that I’d been sleeping in the bed I’d had since I was four in the room that had always been mine. I could pretend that I was still the perfect pureblood daughter. I could find another reason to break up with Rabastan or make him break up with me. I could pretend I hadn’t seen what he’d done. I could pretend… but for how long? How long would I end up pretending? For a month? A year? Forever?
No. Back was not an option. Not anymore. There was a small sliver of a chance that they had already found my empty room and farewell letter. And if they had, going back would be risking my life. Besides, I was done pretending.
My options were few and dwindling with each thought until there was but one left. The Prewetts’ house.
Nora and I had been invited to Kathlena’s house every summer since we started Hogwarts.
Obviously, with her family’s blood-traitor status, I hadn’t been allowed. I hadn’t even asked my parents because I knew their answer already and asking would have just caused problems for me. Nora, however, went every summer to avoid attending a family reunion with her parents. She hated acting like a Muggle around her distant relations and not being able to hex people who tried to pinch her apple cheeks.
Up until now, I had never considered going to her house in my escape scenarios. Not even when Sirius had run away to his best mate’s. I couldn’t believe it had never occurred to me. Now that it had entered my mind as an option, it was the only option. I was astounded at my stupidity, how had I never thought of this?
I did not head in the direction of the Prewett house immediately, though I knew where it was from all of the letters and invitations I had received over the years. Instead, I flew around numbly for a while longer, trying to turn off my brain. It was a futile effort but after a while I managed to compartmentalize all of my thoughts and achieve some semblance of a trance state.
It wasn’t until I dipped low enough to see the sun had begun to peak above the horizon that I decided to actually head in the direction of Kathlena’s house. I soared over the suburbs outside of London until those suburbs became fields. I looked for the landmarks near the house and found what I was looking for when I spotted the yellow three story cottage about half a mile from a deserted hill with a tree that was a dead ringer for the Whomping Willow at Hogwarts and began to descend.
Though I had never been to Lena’s house, I knew that her room was on the third floor, facing the backyard. I knew that it had a balcony, with glass doors that had purple curtains. Kathlena’s mother complained that the curtains kept out so much light she could never get her to wake up in the morning. In reality, it was a combination of the curtains and the fact that Lena had a habit of staying up into the wee hours of the morning.
When I reached the balcony the sun had not even raised half way, most likely Lena and Nora had only gone to sleep an hour or two before. Especially considering they had probably gotten home from the party late. I wondered if it would even be possible to wake them up by knocking. I climbed carefully down from the white wrought-iron railing where I had landed and pried my frozen hands from my broom. I tried to knock but no one came. I considered sleeping outside in one of the little chairs she had but it was so cold.
I sighed in frustration at my dilemma. Basic social etiquette told me it was incredibly rude and common sense told me it probably wouldn’t work but my only option was to take out my wand. I didn’t fancy freezing but I didn’t fancy waking up the entire household or even just Nora and Lena. I didn’t want to have to explain what had happened yet. All I wanted was to sleep somewhere warm. My eyelids had begun to droop closed as I reached under one sweatshirt and into the pocket of the other, where my trunk and my wand were stowed. I pulled out my wand, forcing my eyes to flutter open and muttered hopefully.
“Alohamora,” my voice was resigned to the likely outcome (or lack thereof) and my eyes were trying to close again as I swished my wand in front of the right doorknob.
The muted click made my eyes fly back open in shock. I gaped at the open door for a moment and then shook my head. I was going to have to chat with Kathlena about her security measures once I was coherent again. Times were too dangerous to leave doors unlocked.
Surely her parents did not know about her lack of safety measures. She had three Aurors in her family who would have a collective aneurism if they found out about this. If she was not going to put at least one protection charm on her balcony, then I would. In the morning.
For now, I quietly entered my friend’s room for the first time. I closed the door with a click and made sure it was locked (not that it would help much against magic) before turning and taking in the room. My eyes were first drawn to the sleeping figures of my friends.
All I could see was their heads above the covers. They were both breathing steadily, unaware of the turmoil that had engulfed me tonight. Lena was snoring slightly and, as my eyes moved around the room, Nora began to mumble something about bubotuber puss in her sleep. An affectionate warmth rushed into my chest for my friends but I couldn’t really feel it. I couldn’t really feel much other than my own crippling exhaustion. It was like I was flying above a storm cloud watching the lightning flash and the rain pour. I knew there were emotions down there somewhere but I wasn’t ready or alert enough yet to fly below and feel them.
The room was the visual translation of Kathlena. The walls were buttercup yellow and the curtains were deep purple. They were the kind of curtains that were sure to keep as much light out of the room in the morning as possible, just as her mom had said. Kathlena was not a morning person so I was sure it was by design. The comforter on the bed was also buttercup yellow with lime green and the same shade of purple flowers all over it. There was a day bed set out with a set of blue sheets- Nora’s, I assumed- on them but both of them were in Lena’s bed.
There were clothes dotting the floor, leaving two trails around the room. The path indicated that they’d gone straight to bed after coming home from the party. I nearly tripped over one of Nora’s heels on my way in. And Nora’s bag was on top of the day bed, half opened and vomiting an array of colorful clothes. The wrappers and packages in the little blue rubbish bin showed me that they had been having quite the junk food extravaganza this week. Probably while watching all of the movies Nora brought with her. I had always wished that I could be apart of these movie nights.
The thought occurred to me that now I could be. For some reason, though, it bothered me.
I sighed as I crossed the room. There was a large vanity with body lotions and perfumes that I had never seen Lena bring to Hogwarts on top of it. There was a scarcely populated jewelry box and a make-up bag that I had also never seen before. In addition to the glass doors, there was another window by the walk-in closet with a bookshelf underneath it. It was packed with all sorts of books; I could see that Nora had taken her to some Muggle bookstores to shop as well. I wondered when they had done this. This holiday? Or was it a running tradition they had that I just hadn’t heard about?
I was too exhausted to go look at the spines of all of them, too tired to ponder what my new holiday routine would be, too scared to feel the joy I should be feeling at my liberation. Too exhausted to wonder if I would even be a welcome edition to the household in the morning. So instead of doing or feeling anything, I simply walked over to the day bed. I took Nora’s bag off and set it on the floor next to me, then took off my hooded sweatshirts with my trunk still tucked in the pocket and hung it gingerly on the hook on the back of Kathlena’s closet door. I removed my shoes and took off my jeans. I continued to methodically remove clothing until I was down to my thin long sleeve pink shirt and a pair of Wimbourne Wasps boxers that I had once stolen from Sirius’s laundry when the house-elves had brought it to his room. Then, I peeled back the sheet on top of the day bed and crawled underneath.
I sighed again, this time contentedly as my tense limbs relaxed and the chill on my skin was chased away by the covers. I was too exhausted to stay awake but, the second my head hit the pillow I realized, too much had happened for me fall asleep. My brain just simply refused to shut off. So, I lay there for a long time, listening to my friends’ breathing steadily as the sun rose in the pink sky.
I mentally reviewed the night’s events and could not quite believe so much had happened. It seemed an awful lot of drama for one evening. It was a lot of drama for one evening.
It seemed like a week ago that I had gone to see Andromeda, looking over my shoulder in paranoia. Walking down the streets of London in terror that someone would find out what I was doing. Terror that I now knew had been entirely unnecessary. In less than twenty-four hours I had visited Andromeda, thought my family was disowning me, been dragged to a New Year’s party, been dragged to another New Year’s party, kissed a boy who was not my boyfriend but who I have been in love with forever, yelled at a self-righteous redhead, watched my boyfriend become a murderer, faked sick, been weirded out my unusually affectionate mother multiple times, and ran away from home. So much to process in such a little window of time left my mind warped. I was in shock, almost numb. My emotions were jumbled and my thoughts were tangled.
Sleep. I needed sleep.
I needed that temporary oblivion. I needed that blissful unawareness.
There would be plenty of time to let the equal portions of grief and elation wash through me. Plenty of time to try sorting out all of my feelings and plenty of time to sob uncontrollably when I was unsuccessful. I had chosen my path and I had my entire life to deal with the surprisingly confusing aftermath. I just wanted sleep.
Eventually my spinning thoughts blurred into unconsciousness. Thankfully, I didn’t dream. The blackness lovingly embraced me. My weary mind was allowed to rest for a while.
I had the feeling of coming out of a long hibernation when I woke. I didn’t open my eyes right away. Instead, I lay there and listened.
I definitely was not alone. I could feel eyes staring at me. I could also hear the rustling of a crisps bag coming from the same direction. The smell of salt and vinegar reached my nose when I inhaled and I heard an irreverent crunch.
My eyelids fluttered open and I found myself staring at Nora lounging on Lena’s bed, fully dressed in a jumper and leggings, reading a book. I looked to the foot of the daybed I’d snuggled into and found Kathlena watching me like a movie while she ate her crisps.
“Told you food would wake her up,” Lena said to Nora, who rolled her eyes. “Morning, Sleeping Beauty. Fancy seeing you here.”
“You really should lock your door,” I croaked in my sleep-roughed voice.
“And miss the aneurysm Nora had when she found some random sleeping in
her bed? Now, what fun would that be?” She grinned at me wickedly.
“Sorry, Nor,” I said closing my eyes and resting my head on the pillow again. “Didn’t figure you’d appreciate me waking you up to ask.”
“Yeah, no. Not so much.” Nora responded wryly.
“So, do you want breakfast or should we just skip straight ahead to lunch?” Lena asked, crunching on another crisp.
I peaked an eye open in surprise. The question threw my brain even more off balance. It was not the one I had expected. I had expected her to ask why I was here, what had happened last night, how I had managed to get here. I definitely didn’t expect he to ask about food. But, then again, this was Lena. And if neither of them were going to bring up the subject, I wasn’t going to either. I wasn’t ready to talk about it yet.
“What time is it?” I asked, still sounding like a chain- smoker.
“Half past noon,” Nora answered in the same dry voice as before. A smirk tipped up one side of her lips.
“Wonderful,” Lena clapped her hands like an excited child. She got to her feet and Nora closed her books and did the same. Apparently they’d been waiting for me to get up. “Mum is making sandwiches.”
I paused. Reluctance and uneasiness stopped the air in my lungs.
“Will your mum be okay with me staying here?”
Lena looked at me like I’d sprouted another head. “Well, obviously. You were invited, weren’t you?”
And without another word she bounded from the room. Nora laughed and shrugged at me then followed.
Mrs. Prewett was quite possibly the best cook ever. All of the fancy, magically prepared, house elf meals at my house could not compare to hers. In the three days I’d been here I had gained at least as many pounds.
I moaned my approval of her mashed potatoes. No one could ever accuse these of being bland. The rest of Britain was being served tasteless lumps while a flavor fiesta was exploding in my mouth.
“So, lovelies, Sunday is fast approaching. We need to discuss our game plan,” Mrs. Prewett began, after our food comas had set in.
Lena and Nora shared an eye roll.
“What are you going to do on Saturday night?” She asked in the tone of a primary school teacher.
“Pack,” Lena and Nora droned in unison.
“So we aren’t late,” Lena replied.
“What else are you going to do?”
“Wake up early.” Nora snickered, looking pointedly at Lena.
Lena stuck her tongue out in response.
“Very ladylike, Kathlena.” Mrs. Prewett was the one to roll her eyes this time.
Her answer was to show her tongue again this time coated with mashed potatoes. I grimaced. Nora laughed. Mrs. Prewett glared. Even as she glared though, her mouth twitched with a smile.
This familial environment was something I wasn’t used to. Even at their most gooey, my family did not share this kind of camaraderie. The Prewetts had the kind of family closeness that I’d always longed for, even before I’d disgraced the family by becoming the token Ravenclaw.
My mother would have had a stroke if I showed her my food. She would probably have hexed my tongue to stick to the top of my mouth or something as punishment.
A wave of grief hit me as I thought of her. Grief that I had not been expecting to feel. The smile that had danced across my lips at the light-hearted moment faltered. My friends pretended not to notice, but judging by the sudden weakness of their own smiles, they did.
When we’d gotten enough energy to drag ourselves up the stairs, we collapsed onto Lena’s bed. Or, at least, I did.
Tonight was to be our second consecutive movie night. Lena and Nora had introduced me to the delight that was Muggle cinema and I was fascinated.
I sighed at my engorged stomach and realized that the other two had fallen silent. That was never a good sign. I looked to my right and they were both sitting up facing me, looking expectant.
My stomach sank with dread I knew what was coming before Lena said it.
“I think its time you tell us what happened on New Years.”
I sat up and sighed shakily. I was honestly surprised that they hadn’t mentioned it before now. But they’d been tip-toeing around it for three days. It had to come up eventually but I still wasn’t ready. I swallowed hard and tried to keep from tearing up. What was wrong with me?
I took a deep breath and began at that morning. Before I knew it, everything was pouring out. I was talking so fast that I wasn’t even quite sure they could understand me but I kept talking anyway. I told them everything from Andromeda’s house to kissing Sirius to deciding to finally leave. When I was done, the silence was a heavy, tangible thing. Tears perched on my eyelids threatening to splash my cheeks in big, fat drops.
After what felt like a few hours, or maybe years, Nora broke the silence.
Lena followed up. “Damn.”
“That was quite a night you had.”
A laugh spurted out through my quivering lips. “Yeah.”
A second later, they engulfed me in a group hug. The tears poured over and a sob ripped through me. It was as if the floodgates had been forced open, smashed by the pressure. In the arms of my friends, I mourned. I mourned for the family I had lost, the only one I would ever have. I cried for the fact that I’d never watch my niece grow into the beautiful woman I knew she’d be. I cried because I would not be there to temper the extreme environment she would grow up in. I wept for the familiar places I would never be welcome in again. I wept for the girl I watched them murder; it felt like a part of me had died with her.
I lost control entirely, keening in pain. I cried for so long that my voice grew hoarse. Finally, when my tear ducts were dry and my eyes were swollen, my best friends tucked me into the bed and held me until I fell asleep from exhaustion.
I should have known. I should have known who they’d call if I had a mental breakdown. I should have remembered that Mrs. Prewett and Mrs. Potter were friends.
When I woke up, it took me a moment to realize where I was. It was dark and quiet. All that I could hear was another person breathing beside me, the same person who was holding me. It took me another moment to realize that that person was not Nora or Lena. The arm was too thick, with too many muscles. The hair on it tickled my arm and the big hand held mine gently, but firm.
My whole body tensed but not because I didn’t know whom that arm belonged to, but because I did. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that Kathlena had told her mother and her mother had called Mrs. Potter and Mrs. Potter had sent-
It wasn’t a question.
I turned to face him but couldn’t see his eyes. He leaned in and kissed my forehead. And, as if I hadn’t already done enough of it tonight, I began to cry.
I cried into Sirius’s shirt and he held me. We didn’t say anything else. He just held me. And I felt safe and loved. I was still mad at him. I was still confused about my own feelings. I was definitely still confused about that kiss we’d had. I didn't quite know where we stood in this moment. But he was here, letting me cry and snivel and ruin his shirt. He was here and that was all I cared about at the moment.
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