August 3rd, 2006 (08:53 pm)
current location: My childhood home.
current mood: reflective
I sit on the bed upstairs in my childhood bedroom and watch as another pair of my socks goes sailing through the air and lands in the corner. There are now three pairs of socks in my sock pile here and one that I threw into the corner at Ernie’s house. But Ernie doesn’t live there anymore.
Susan has been sitting up late with my mum every night since we got here. By the time she comes to bed I’m usually asleep. I know they’ve put sleeping potion in my tea but I don’t care. I can still feel Susan slip into bed beside me despite the fact that my eyelids are so heavy I can’t open them to look at her. She is better than any sleeping potion because as soon as I feel her soft skin against me as her night dress pulls up slightly as she slips under the covers with me I feel my body relax. It’s a single bed and when my parents had offered to let us sleep in the guest room which has a double bed in it, I had declined. I need her so badly.
I want to wake up fully and make love to her but I relish in the way she puts her head on the pillow beside me and runs her fingers through my hair. She thinks I’m sleeping but I can hear her. I’m not telling anyone, but at this point in the game after all that’s happened in the last year, Sleeping Potions are more of a relaxant to me than anything else.
"Thanks for showing me how to play basketball today, show off," Susan whispers. "I don’t know why I’m talking to you right now because I know you can’t hear me but these few days at your parent’s house have been just what I needed. It’s easy to feel like you’re losing everything until you spend some time here. It’s so complete. I don’t know," she pauses. "Maybe I wanted to adopt Kaylee to have an instant family. I haven’t had that in a long time and being here makes me know what I’ve missed for so long."
I lay there listening to her pour her heart out and wonder if I should confess that I’m awake. I feel like I’m eavesdropping on a confession or something. I know it’s wrong but now I don’t know if I can face telling her that I’m awake and still stand firm on my decision to not adopt Kaylee. Her heart is broken over Hannah and Ernie and so is mine. But I feel like I’m responsible for breaking her heart over Kaylee.
I lay there in silence trying to keep my breathing steady so that Susan doesn’t sense that I’m awake. I can do this.
"Susan..." I begin but before I even get her name out she gets startled, screams and falls right out of the bed onto the hardwood floor.
"Lumos!" I yell, grabbing my wand to look down into Susan’s shocked face as she lays wound up in my Star Wars bed sheets. I really should give those to Tav...
"Justin, I swear, if you ever do that to me again I’ll kill you," Susan says, immediately clamping her hand over her mouth in horror. "I didn’t mean kill... I just meant..."
With so many deaths I think even popular joking phrases are hard to say without being reminded of death. I’m going to kill you... How many of us have said that in jest? And it’s still okay, we can’t let the bad guys suppress even our speech in our own homes.
"Try it and I’ll give you a noogie," I threaten her, looking into her eyes which are filled with tears but her mouth is now turned slightly up in a contrasting smile.
"What’s a noogie?" she asks tremulously.
"Glad you asked," I say, leaping off the bed and pinning her lightly under my body, feeling the rush of dizziness of getting up suddenly and using the cacoon of blankets around her small frame to my advantage. I proceed to rub my knuckles into the top of her head as she screams playfully and when we finally sit up breathless, her hair looking like my aunt’s in a picture in the fifties when bee hives were in.
"That is a noogie," I say with satisfaction, handing her a mirror.
Susan’s cheeks are pink from our tussle and I feel guilty that we’re both smiling but it’s the first time in four days that I’ve even felt close to normal. Ernie’s service is tomorrow and I don’t know if I can stomach another speech on the futility of war and how so and so fought bravely and how they’d want us to go on blah blah blah. I’ve heard it too many times before.
Go home, Justin. We did it. Susan is waiting for you with Oliver and Lavender. Everything is going to be okay. Ernie had told me that in the Ayacucho. But Ernie was dead by the time we were rescued from there... I guess I’m mental after all.
I admit to myself that magic is something none of us knows everything about. It doesn’t take being magic to become a ghost, even Muggles can do it. Did I see Ernie? If I did, why is he not here right now? Where could he have gone? Wouldn’t his ghost haunt his own home or come see us again?
Susan and I pick ourselves up from the floor and she rubs her hip gently.
"I’ll do that for you," I offer, waggling my eyebrows. We end up lying back down together just holding each other close and talking about everything we can think of for the rest of the night. Laughter comes painfully to us as we recall some of the antics from our Hufflepuff Common Room. We end up recalling a duel that Ernie and I had where if I lost, I had to finish my Transfiguration essay that I’d missed while I had been Petrified and if I had won he would do it for me. He had kicked my sorry arse. But I remember how he sat down next to me for hours into the night to help me with it because I had missed the classes on it and was already having to deal with third year homework.
The sun comes up and I recall how it had come up the morning after Ernie had died, stabbing my eyes as I laid in the bed I had occupied at Hampstead Heath for weeks during my detoxification from drugs. Susan is asleep beside me as recall watching Dean have his arm mended by Healer Davenport as Padma sat in a bed opposite, a tea cup rattling in her cold hands.
The hardest memory of all was watching as Ernie’s mum had counted us several times as we Portkeyed back into her home. She had looked behind us, counted again and I will never forget how her face fell when she saw that Ernie’s wasn’t with us. I think that was when Susan had finally let herself break down again as well.
Susan had gone into Healer mode at first when we’d gotten back and I almost wished that Healer Davenport had kept her helping him but he knew she was tired and told her that he could handle everything. She looked lost without something to do and that’s when everything just got so overwhelming.
I wanted to hold her then but whatever was in that liquid that we’d floated in for so long had zapped any strength I had left both physically and magically so that I could do nothing more than lay under the blankets on a couch and shiver. I recall being grateful to Oliver and Lavender. Oliver had put his arms around Susan and Lavender had cried with her. Sometimes those things are all you can do for a person because words just don’t help.
Mistletoe, the Macmillan’s House-elf had continued to perform his duties despite the fact that Mr Macmillan had told him to take the night off. The poor little guy ran around pushing tea for hours, blowing his nose in absolute misery, tears dripping off it onto the expensive carpets. Mrs Macmillan had finally taken him to his room by the hand, speaking kindly to him and reminding him that she would need a lot of help with Max and Gwen when morning came. Mrs Macmillan is dignity and grace personified and her kindness even in her sorrow amazed me.
When Dean’s arm was healed and put up in a sling, Dr Davenport approached me and though I told him I was fine, Padma told him I’d been knocked in the head by a rock and had trouble breathing during our trip and especially in the water. I was just about to rat her out but noticed she’d already been healed. The cuts on her face were closed and had small bandages to promote the further healing and to prevent scarring. I’m glad because it would have been a shame to have her lovely face marred. Ernie always admired Padma’s exotic beautry and he would be pleased that she has suffered no lasting damage. I smile as I recall how he always called her the lovely Miss Patil.
A magical x- ray of my chest, hovering in the air for all to see revealed that although I’d taken in a lot of water, I was fine. Davenport had used a pin to prick each of my fingers and they had responded relatively well on my still healing hand. A healing charm to my head later I was given a Calming Draught and watched carefully to see that I had drank it all.
Padma had then told Healer Davenport that Oliver should be looked at too because he’d hit the wall of the cave while trying to rescue her. Padma sounded guilty but Oliver had reassured her that he was fine.
Mr Macmillan tried that night to get his wife to go to bed but she sat up until all of us children as she called us had been tended to. Dean had told her how sorry he was about a million times, every time she had walked by and I felt terrible for him. Padma had told him several times that it wasn’t his fault, what had happened with Mulciber and though he stopped apologizing when Mrs Macmillan had knelt down in front of him to say the same thing, I know the look of guilt well and his face wore it still the next day when Susan and I were leaving so she could check in at Phoenix House and then we could go on to my parent’s house.
All of us had tried to eat a bit of toast but I think the most anyone managed was a half cup of tea. I’m glad that we had left before Max and Gwen had gotten up. I know it was cowardly but I don’t think I could stand to hear them cry upon learning that their brother Ernie had died.
I remember Dean giving Oliver a one armed hug that morning and thanking him for getting me and Padma out. I honestly think Dean feels like he should be back down in that tomb with Ernie. When Dean had hugged Lavender and Susan he had said something similar to them and Lavender had reminded Dean that Ernie would have been pleased that he’d made it out as well. Dean had muttered something non committal, sounding wholly unconvinced. I feel the guilt too, but I don’t know if it’s just that I’m getting used to it or if I’m becoming hard but I’m learning that some things are out of our control. I’ll talk to Dean after Ernie’s service is over tomorrow at the Heath where it all began.
We have to leave the peace that being here has brought us to go back to the real world where Susan has to deal with that old toad Umbridge regarding poor little baby Darcy. I saw red when I learned that she had sent a note to Susan calling that beautiful child a pup. If she ever gets in Susan’s face or causes her any grief, she will have me to deal with. I know Susan can take care of herself but Umbridge hates me. Every time we ride the lift together at work I make frog noises in the back of my throat and then smile at her and pop a cough drop into my mouth. I’m not above turning her into a toad and leaving her on the lift all day...
Just as the grey dawn gives in a little to show the pink of a new day, Susan’s eyes flicker open. "You’re immune to Sleeping Draught, aren’t you?" she asks me, giving me a kiss on the forehead.