"It was not death, for I stood up,
and all the dead, lie down-
It was not night, for all the bells
put out their tongues, for noon.
It was not frost, for on my flesh
I felt siroccos- crawl-
Nor fire- for just my marble feet
could keep a chancel, cool-
And yet, it tasted, like them all,
The figures I have seen
set orderly, for burial,
Reminded me, of mine-
As if my life were shaven,
and fitted to a frame,
And could not breathe without a key,
And 'twas like midnight, some-
when everything that ticked- has stopped-
And spaces stares- all around-
Or grisly frosts- first autumn morns,
Repeal the beating ground-
But, most, like chaos- stopless- cool-
Without a chance, or spar-
Or even a report of land-
To justify- despair."
It Was Not Death, For I Stood Up by Emily Dickinson
PROLOGUE. "STRIKE THREE"
august 11, 1991
Ray hissed, dodging a dinner plate thrown at his head. It slammed against the wall, it's broken glass shards clattering noisily to the scuffed hardwood floors. He ducked again, as his aunt tossed another projectile, and ran out of the kitchen to his upstairs bedroom. The woman shrieked in anger, chasing after the boy only to have a door slam loudly in her face. She banged a balled fist against it, giving up after a heated struggle to get inside- and locked the door from the outside.
Another typical Saturday.
"Fuck." He whispered, sliding down to the floor and tilting his head back. Two more weeks. Two more weeks until Brad gets home from his trip to the States to come get him. Laughing to himself incredulously, he crawled off the dingy carpet floor to drop himself in bed, not bothering to take his clothes off or get under the covers. No point in staying awake, he wouldn't be getting any dinner tonight.
Joshua Ray Person. The boy who cheated death. The boy who lived. A title with a lot to live up to. Too much. So come third year, he decided to stop trying. Life, in Ray's humble opinion, had nothing to offer but high expectations and a world built for the prestigious upperclassmen and capitalist commonwealth who've nothing better to do than jeer at their subordinates and prance around with stolen achievements on their righteous shoulders.
No, life can wait. If it waited eleven years to meet the "chosen one", it can wait a few more to get something from him.
Ray sighed, dragging his arm across his eyes to block out the light. A hand-shaped bruise where his aunt had grabbed him earlier was starting to turn purple, matching in a nice hue with the mark on his jaw gifted by his cousin. That last one he had coming, seeing as he was the one who'd initiated the fight. Turns out being scrappy and 115 pounds soaking-wet doesn't count much against a 6'4 rugby player twice your size.
The nearing hoot of an owl awoke him from his light slumber, and he scrambled hurriedly across the room to slide the window open. He shoved his good arm through the metal grate for the bird to perch on, and took the wax-sealed letter clutched in it's beak. His Hogwarts letter.
Ray grinned, tearing it open vivaciously after the owl flew off. His train ticket, annual acceptance letter, and a list of new school supplies. Mostly textbooks for the upcoming OWL exams at the end of the year, nothing particularly exciting for the ordinary wizard eye. But for Ray, this was a relief.
The whole summer, he hadn't received a single word from any of his friends. He'd gotten an out-of-the-blue call from Evan Stafford at the beginning of break asking "who the fuck stole-" his "fuckin' walkman right outta-" his "fuckin' trunk", but other than that, there had been nothing. No letters, no postcards. Brad promised he'd send a postcard from California, and Brad never breaks a promise. Ray's conclusion, Colbert either hates him now- which wouldn't be a surprise- or his aunt and uncle have somehow been holding his mail.
Maybe they've been sniping the owls out of the sky. Or maybe Ray doesn't have friends anymore.
"Get down here, boy!"
Ray groaned under his breath, tossing the envelope and it's contents onto his desk. He walked to the door, surprised to find it unlocked, and gingerly stepped down the stairs, avoiding the spots where they creaked.
"I've got an important meeting tonight, boy." His uncle spoke, wagging an accusatory finger in the boy's direction. "And you best not screw it up. You're going to stay in your room and not make a single, solitary sound, understand?"
Ray nodded, biting back the urge to fire a sarcatic retort as the man waved him off. He turned, glaring spitefully at the framed photos of his cousin, that hung on the mantelpiece as he went by. They hated Ray. And they didn't bother to hide it.
He crept up the stairs, quietly closing his door behind him, and once again threw himself against the hard mattress pushed up against the wall. He stared blankly up at the posters taped to his walls, and at the pictures of his friends. Brad grinned back at him in one of the moving photographs, holding up a frothing mug of warm butterbeer in cheerful delight. Ray had taken it the night before they left school, right after Brad announced his elaborate plan to make the soon-to-be seventh year Nate Fick fall in love with him.
A bold move, but with the help of Ray's romance mastery, it just might work.
Staring at his friends' smiling faces, Ray felt a thick lump crawl in his throat, and before hot tears could spill over, he buried his head under his pillow and drifted into a dreamless sleep.
Or so he thought.
"Joshua Person must not go back to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry this year!" The house-elf declared, climbing up Ray's dresser to stand at eye-level.
"I have to go back! Hogwarts is my home! My friends will-"
"Friends who don't even write to Mr. Person?"
Ray narrowed his eyes, stepping back aghast. "You. It was you!" The elf bowed his head apologetically, holding a stack of letters forward.
"Dobby had to do it, sir. Dobby had to make sure Mr. Person wouldn't go back. There are plans, plans to make bad things happen."
"Plans? What plans? Who's plans?"
Dobby shook his head, and before Ray could drill any more answers out, he snapped his wiry fingers and disappeared.
When Ray woke up the following morning, the sun was just starting to creep above the horizon. His clock read 6:30. And the first thing he saw when he became coherent, was the pile of envelopes sitting on his bedside table.
" It wasn't a dream!"