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Keep Calm and Carry On by my_voice_rising
Chapter 33 : Morning
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 7


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Beautiful graphic by a.leksy at TDA


CHAPTER 33


The tart smell of dirt is what wakes me. I have no idea what time it is. Tiny pale insects are drifting lazily over the pitch, and above that the birds dart, stark black against powder blue. I blink sleep from my eyes, the surprisingly dry grass ground rustling as I stretch my stiff legs. Oliver shifts behind me and I’m brought back to my senses.

That’s right. We tried and failed. And now it’s time to go.

Something warm moves against my back, and I don’t realize it’s Oliver until a cautious hand touches my arm. In my daydream state I watch it slowly encircle me, feel his face burrow into my hair, feel myself being pulled back into the crescent of his torso. It’s so quiet out here.

We stay this way until Oliver says, “The train.”

In the castle, the scents of maple, sizzling bacon and coffee waft into the corridors. I should be ravenous after skipping dinner but couldn’t bring myself to eat. If it were a lighter mood I would explain to Oliver that yes, I’m truly miserable: I’m past the phase of stuffing pancakes into my mouth whilst loudly sobbing.

We pass the Great Hall on the way to retrieve my suitcase, and I peer inside. Hogwarts has apparently allowed inter-house seating on the final days of the term. The remaining students are raucous today, cheerful noise spilling into the corridor while Oliver and I remain unsmiling. And, by sheer coincidence, I spot Ada Wood’s Gryffindor red and gold popping amidst several Ravenclaw-clad girls.

Quickly I look away. I hadn’t asked if she was here because it was none of my business, and Oliver never mentioned it. But already she is rising from her seat to the confused looks of her friends, abandoning her plate.

Excellent. Just what this disaster of a trip needs. A confrontation with a screaming thirteen year-old.

Her voice echoes down the corridor behind us. “Hey!”

Oliver is surprised as she marches over, scowling, hands clenched into fists. She’s grown inches over the past six months, another Amazonian Quididitch championess in the making. Her arms move and I flinch—

And then she’s hugging me. Violently.

Wait—she wants to see me? I try to return the embrace but it’s quickly over, as she’s moved on to punching Oliver in the arm. “You idiot! You didn’t tell me she was coming!”

“Uh, I didn’t…think to?” For what it’s worth, Oliver is as shocked as me.

She hasn’t stopped scowling, but I think it’s an affectionate one as she turns it on me. “You’re not leaving now, are you? Hold on.” Before I can answer, she sprints back into the Great Hall, retrieving her bag and shoving a final piece of toast in her mouth. Her friends are blabbering in confusion and she says irritably, “I’ll be back shortly! Merlin.”

Oliver and I are staring at each other. He shrugs.

Ada returns in a flurry, twisting her hair up with her wand. “I’m walking with you to Hogsmeade. It’s only fair, so don’t say no.”

Oliver raises his hands in defeat before placing one around her much-shorter shoulders. “Alright, then.”

*


Apparently Ada has not only grown in height over the past half-year: she’s past the pre-teen disenchantment act. We decide to walk to Hogsmeade Station. The sun dapples through the trees, my skin intermittently cool and warmed. In a small gesture of kindness Oliver has taken my suitcase to carry, which is agonizingly sweet, and I wish he hadn’t. He and Ada discuss her exams over chirps of birds and humming insects.

Ada and Oliver have been kicking a pebble as they walked, lazily volleying it like Muggle football. “History of Magic was… eh. But I know I aced Potions and DADA.”

“Ada’s quite gifted with hexes. Learned that the hard way.”

I try to return his smile. Has he somehow forgotten that we are walking to the train station, where I will board the Hogwarts Express and head back to London and probably never see either of them again?

“I owe you another hex for not telling me Edie was here,” she lightly shoves him. “I’ve been so bored. All my real mates are gone for holiday.”

Oliver doesn’t respond, mussing her hair absentmindedly, and she swats him away. “Herbology was dreadful.”

I finally enter to conversation. “If it makes you feel better, I’m the only Hufflepuff in house history to get a T on that exam.”

“It’s not a real subject anyway,” Oliver mutters, winner of the Most Lenient Guardian Ever award.

Ada suddenly gasps, “Have you brought Ginger too? Is she in Hogsmeade?”

Clearly Ada thinks that I stayed at the Three Broomsticks last night, and I’m not going to correct her. Actually, I tried to have an “Adult Sleepover” with your older brother! And failed!

“Nah. My friend Seamus is watching her, which may have been the worst mistake of my life. I did find out she’s part dragon, though.”

“Makes sense,” says Ada as we reach the end of the forest. Hogsmeade is crowded today, with students returning home for the summer and locals heading to London filling the air with cheerful goodbyes. The Hogwarts Express has already arrived and is billowing steam. It sinks my heart. Seeing it means I really am leaving. Both of the Wood siblings are staring at me and I realize that I’ve stopped walking just on the threshold of where the path becomes cobblestones.

“Sorry.” I catch up, chin lifted despite everything. We weave through the crowd until we’re in the thick of it, and now there’s nothing left to do but say goodbye. With Ada’s gaze boring into us, we’ll have to censor our words. Oliver passes my suitcase back to me.

“Well, thank you for having me,” I say.

It sounds so stupid. I can’t believe that this is it. His body is tense as if ready to pull me into an embrace, but he doesn’t. After a quick glance to Ada, he says, “I’m sorry.”

Sorry that it ends like this.

She’s watching acutely, surely aware that something’s amiss. I press my mouth into a smile that will disappear as soon as I turn around. Sucking the air through my teeth, I open my arms. “Have a great summer, you,” I hug her quickly.

“You should bring Ginger over when I get back from Imogene’s!”

I don’t ask her who Imogene is, or where she lives, and what their holiday plans are. Even though I want to stay and chat with her for ages; learn everything that I’ve missed. I can’t believe she still likes me.

“We’ll see,” I only smile tightly and she furrows her brow. “Well. It was really good to see you. You too, Oliver.”

He nods, looking positively miserable. “‘Bye, Edie.”

I weave through the other passengers, rudely cutting in the queue. If I could run, I would. Pushing past children half my size, I board the train and the inexplicable bergamot scent of the Hogwarts Express greets me. I pause in the corridor, trying to slow my breath.

“Oi, move it!” comes a squeaky voice. A queue of children half my size has stacked up behind me.

I murmur an apology before racing down the corridor, to the very last car, the one closest to where the Woods were standing. I’m an idiot but I have to see them one last time. Wrenching open the window, I lean through the billowing steam of the engine. Only a dozen or so people remain milling about the station. It only takes a moment of searching to realize that Oliver isn’t one of them.

They’re gone.

My heart sinks. Did I really think we’d have some black and white Muggle film romance? That he’d chase after the train while I waved my hanky, crying out, “Wait for me?” He has work to do: parchments to mark and next year’s coursework to plan. Bigger things than chasing after a girl, for the thousandth time, who did nothing but betray him in the end.

And, more than anything, he has Ada.

I can’t cry. My eyes are burning but my cheeks are dry as I sink into the seat, hands resting limply at my sides. The shriek of the whistle cuts through the commotion of students. Kids pause in my doorway, see my expression, and find another place to sit. I stare hard into the empty seat across from me as the Hogwarts Express lurches forward. We’ve already departed. It really is too late. Hogsmeade Station slowly drifts past, moving faster, the buildings growing fewer and fewer until they become wild forest.

My eyes have long since bored through the fabric of the empty bench into nothingness, when a shadow materializes outside the compartment. My heart leaps into my throat.

“Anything from the trolley, dear?”

If she weren’t the sweetest old witch in the world, I would have screamed. But I only try to smile back into her wrinkled face, managing a gravelly, “No, thank you.”

“Pleasant visit?”

“Very.”

She nods politely and rolls away. The joyful shouts of students travel down the corridor, carrying plans for their summer holidays, to swim in lakes and write letters and visit family at the seaside. It’s a beautiful day. I can’t feel my hands. There’s a sound in my eardrums like a teakettle screaming, louder and louder like shell shock. I rise to my feet, grab the compartment door, and slam it shut with every bit of force left in me—

FUCK, LENNOX!”

And there he is, towering in the doorframe, clutching his throbbing fingers for inspection. “Oh, Christ, I think they’re broken.”

“Oh my God! Oliver, I’m so sorry, are you okay? W-what are you doing here?”

With an irritated grunt he nods his head down the corridor, to where Ada is standing like a centurion, wand drawn. Several curious heads have poked out at the shouting, but she snaps, “Alright, people, as you were!”

“She is terrifying,” I whisper, and Oliver crosses into the compartment.

In the tiny space between benches he starts pacing, back and forth, forgetting his injury in the way that only a Quidditch player could. “I’m a proper idiot, aren’t I? Some kind of masochist or something?”

“What do you—?”

“I knew I was stupid for chasing after a journalist in the first place! I mean, I hate journalists. Especially the kind at Witch Weekly. No offense.”

“None taken.”

“And you were such a terror, really. I mean, don’t normal people just go for drinks and awkwardly get to know one another? Meet each other’s friends and a few years down the road, argue about paint samples? Isn’t that what normal is? What is wrong with me that I went for you? Everyone told me I was stupid for not cutting you out, but NOOOO!” he waves his hands theatrically over his head. The the train car has gone silent but he hasn’t noticed.

“I couldn’t just take the easy road. Captain Wood of Gryffindor had to find a challenge. I just had to pick the last person I had any business falling in love with. And now, after everything you did with Ada! I understand now that you’re sorry, and that it was unintentional, but—” He stops. “Why are you smiling?”

“I’m not.”

“Yes you are. You’re beaming like a bloody idiot.”

I clear my throat, trying my best to press my mouth into a straight line. “Well…you, um, you mentioned… You said that you loved me.”

He blinks, rewinding, and his face turns more beetroot than I thought possible. “That’s not the point.”

“Right.”

“Even if it is the point… What am I supposed to do, huh?”

I open my mouth but Ada shouts, “Stop being so dramatic, you idiots! If you like each other then just be together. God. Is it really that hard to figure out? Seriously, nobody acts like this in real life.”

“Yeah!” comes a second voice. “We saw you on the pitch last night—”

“Shut it, Weatherly!” shout Ada and Oliver in unison, the latter finally closing the compartment door. He sits heavily, rubbing his eyes and muttering, “These kids… Like a fucking circus…”

“You could… trust me?” I quietly answer his earlier question. “I know that’s the last thing that you want to do, and rightfully so. I was terrible to you. I can’t beg your forgiveness enough. But I think that you and I, erm…” It’s my turn to go red. “You said it yourself. It’s weird, right? We should hate each other. But despite it all, we just… can’t. That means something.”

Doesn’t it?

He rubs his scruff in thought. “The Wizardazzi would love it.” I can’t tell if he’s saying it bitterly or if he likes the thought of driving them insane.

“We’d be old news by next Tuesday.”

He’s apparently ticking off a list of concerns he’s thought over. “Maybe, but—we’d hardly see each other. I can’t just Apparate from Hogwarts every day.”

“Then we won’t get sick of each other! And there’s visiting on weekends, and holidays.” I’m talking faster and faster, but now there’s a crack in the door and I want nothing more than to push it open.

“It just seems like a stupid idea.” But now he’s smiling too.

“Our favourite kind.” I gently take his hand and examine his fingers, grimacing. “These are definitely broken.”

“Luckily my last job was basically sustaining injuries for money.” I swear he’s looking at my lips as he wets his own. “Are you good with medical spells?”

“Terrible.”

“Me too.”

“Well, I can’t exactly Apparate back to the Hospital Wing…” He’s leaning on his elbows, our faces very close now. “Think Lisa could fit me in?”

“In London?” My heart leaps into my throat and I quip, before he can change his mind, “Yes! I’m sure she could.”

“Good.”

“Good!”

“‘Course, you’ll definitely owe me a drink afterwards, for the trauma and such.” He sighs laboriously, dropping his voice, “And I’ll probably need help getting home, with all the pain, and Ada staying at Imogene’s.”

I nod sagely. “It is the least I can do.”

He looks at me in a way that makes me bite my lip to keep from smiling too widely. His poor injured hand tightens around mine. “So is this happening now? Are we going to normal-people date?”

“I dunno, I mean I haven't officially checked ‘yes’ or ‘no’, so…”

“You are such a little shit.” His good hand takes me by the nape of my neck, but I’ve already sprung from my seat and am leaning across the gap, stretching, taking his face in my own hands. Our lips crash together, clumsily at first and then softer, better, sweeter.

“I knew it!” Not only has Ada abandoned her post to peer in, but the kid from the Quidditch pitch is jabbing a finger at us. “And you were trying to rat on me! Oi, everyone, Wood is snogging a hot girl!”

A chorus of “Ooooh” echoes through the corridors, followed by dozens of stampeding feet.

“I SWEAR TO GOD, WEATHERLY,” Oliver bellows just as I gasp, touching my hair, “Did he just call me hot?”

*


Edie turns and looks at me, and it’s like a drink of Firewhiskey. Burning chest, difficulty finding words, Hogsmeade Station spinning around me: check. And, above all, the impairment of judgment. I should’ve known better. The months I’ve spent telling myself that I made the right decision are suddenly fuzzy and dark, like trying to watch a Muggle television in a sunny room.

Three different drafts of my letter, each one more colourful than the last, are burned in my fireplace. They’re the ones I should have owled when she first contacted me. Some key phrases include “I don’t think it wise,” which evolved into “This is really none of your business,” and the final draft was comprised mostly of curse words scrawled in capital letters.

But of course those weren’t the ones I sent.

Wasn’t it enough that I donated to the FGC at all? Couldn’t she just be happy that I was finally a real philanthropist, or whatever she accused me of not being? Earning her a job wasn’t entirely planned, but I should have double Never-Contact-Me-Again points for that.

The last time I saw her, half a year ago in a hospital bed, I thought I was very clear. I’d surely been furious enough. A particularly grim Mediwitch had just told me I would never play Quidditch again, unless I wanted to completely destroy my left arm until it was just a dangling, useless appendage. (I’d still considered playing, until Ada pointed out how stupid it was, though I can’t entirely be blamed for poor decision-making while concussed.) And then Edie had showed up uninvited, her blotchy pink cheeks the only colour in the eggwhite room, and I’d really let her have it. I’d been angry enough—at myself, at my bad luck, at my stupidity—to keep her away, then.

But here we are, reuniting on our alma mater. If I wanted this weekend to go without incident, I probably should have picked a less wistful place.

Edie spots me just as the low sun glares in my eyes and then, fuck all, I suddenly remember it. Maybe it’s her now-short hair that does it, or the nervous look on her face, or being here at Hogwarts. Something triggers the memory, like smelling a stranger’s perfume and suddenly being back inside Trewlaney’s incense-filled classroom, or the scent of sunscreen reminding you of one exact, precise moment of your last summer.

Whatever the reason, it happens, and I know I’m fucked.

The memory lasts less than a second; less than one of the footsteps bringing me towards her. Still, I see it clearly: Searching through the corridors one sunny afternoon. Seventh Year. Hands clammy because the House Cup is on the line. Need to find Angelina. Her dives need work before the next match. Glancing around a corner. A young, round-faced Hufflepuff with ginger hair, alone, looking up nervously at the sound of my footsteps. I don’t know who she is but she isn’t Angelina and that’s all that matters. I move on down the corridor.

And that’s all it takes.

The memory has absolutely no significance. Never mind that I didn’t even know her—Edie was a child at the time, and I was still enamoured with Katie. But something about it gets inside my head. Something about the fact that we’ve been on the periphery of each others’ lives for over a decade without even knowing it—that, despite all odds, something is keeping us there.

And suddenly I know how tonight will unfold: that even with all of my rehearsed lines (It has to be this way; You can’t take back what you’ve done; I know you’re sorry, but it’s not enough), it’s a losing battle. We haven’t even said hello, and already I’m tumbling backwards down the hill it took six months to climb.

Edie does this awkward little wave and suddenly I’m angry. At myself, more than anything, but she’s cute as hell and it’s infuriating. She’s wearing a stupid black hat like the little Londonite she is. She looks ridiculous. And what is she playing at, with that dress? It is way too short for Hogwarts dress code. What if she’d been here during school hours, eh, with her long legs all bare like that?

It feels like it’s taken ages to cross the cobblestones to where Edie stands, frozen like a deer, and then suddenly in a blink I’m there and we’re looking at each other. My throat is scratchy and dry. I hate that the crown of her head is at the perfect level to rest my chin on, and that her skin is covered in thousands of summer freckles.

The sun is setting her ginger hair blazing. I feel like I just swallowed my pounding heart whole. She’s waiting for me to speak, so I wet my lips.

“Hello.”

Edie smiles. “Hi.”




Author’s Note: And there you have it: your cheesiest, happiest ending, with lots of italics and screaming and Ada pointing out that literally NOBODY IS LIKE THIS IN REAL LIFE. She was probably the key character in typing the ending together. Oliver wouldn’t have felt right taking Edie back without his sister’s go-ahead. And Ada, who is largely inspired by my own perpetually-nonplussed younger sister, would have been annoyed at Oliver moping about forever if they hadn’t patched things up.

So, it’s done.

Of course I want to write a thousand epilogues with the many other scenes that I’ve had in my head. If you’re interested in these, or headcanons I never got to explore, or general picspam, take a look at my fic blog (link on my Author’s Page.) Because I can’t let go of the past I will probably continue to update long after this fic is done :)

Thank you so much to everyone who has helped with the creation of this story, whether consciously or not. HPFF staff and validators, who have been so helpful with TOS questions and reading my many, many, many edits of this story; also the artists at TDA who created the story graphics I never could have. To those of you who offered help with this fic, particularly marauderfan and ValWitch21, I am so grateful. And most of all, to you, the reader: this story would not exist without you. Whether you’ve rooted for Edie or hated her all along, I want to think that a lot of you saw yourself in her—the uncertainty of adulthood, feeling inadequate, not knowing when or how to put on your Big Girl Pants. I know I have. And I wrote this story because I wanted others to know that it’s okay to be unsure.

Thank you for reading!



Sarah


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