Chapter 1- Alone
I dreamt that I was there again. At Hogwarts. Just like so many times before. It wasn’t every night. No, that would have been too easy. If it was every night then at least I would have expected them. I could have prepared. It was their randomness that I found the hardest. Never knowing what would happen when I closed my eyes. Would I have pleasant dreams of happier times, of a happier future? Or would I be forced to relive the horrors of my past? To see all the mistakes that I had made on a constant repeated loop, waking to the knowledge that I could never go back and change them. Going back in time so I could take a few extra classes was apparently a worthy cause. Going back in time to save innocent lives apparently wasn’t. It wasn’t worth the risk I’d been told. One small mistake and we could annihilate everyone. Those fifty lives were seen as an acceptable, if unfortunate loss compared to what could have been. Yet each of those fifty lives and the hundreds more that had came before them weighed heavily on my conscious, haunting my days as well as my nights.
It’s strange what your mind does to you. The things that you remember afterwards. I would swear that I could remember every single moment of that day. But my dreams would always come in flashes, in small segments of moments pieced together in a way that I knew wasn’t reality. I remembered the feel of rubble, of stones and of glass as it hit and scratched and scraped my body. I remembered seeing Harry dead. I remembered the faces of people I didn’t even know, their eyes staring wide in surprise and their mouths open, trying to cast the spell that could have saved their lives if they had been one moment quicker. I remembered strange flashes of colour. Colourful sparks of hexes and jinxes as they flew through the air like a brilliant firework display on Bonfire Night. I remembered a purple top, a blue pair of eyes, yellow robes. But the colour that stood out most was red. It was strange really, because the killing curse doesn’t make people bleed; it doesn’t slice them open and yet that was the colour that I remembered most. From a thin trickle of blood from an open mouth, a graze on an arm, to the pools of blood seeping out from under stiff white sheets.
Unpleasant as it was, I could deal with those dreams, those memories. It was the twisted dreams that were the hardest to take. The ones where Harry didn’t survive. The ones where Bellatrix would find me and finish what she had started. The ones where Tonks, Professor Lupin and Fred would stand before me, eyes vacant, fingers pointed at me, all asking why? Why didn’t we save them?
Waking up it would always take a minute or two for the adrenaline to fade; to remember that the war was over and that I was safe. Safe and yet completely alone.
The summer had been long. Long and hot. The sweltering heat pressing in all around like the bars of a prison. Inescapable. Oppressive. Some days I would lie in bed all day and just stare at the ceiling, watching as the dim grey light changed to bright yellow before turning a dusky orange before eventually fading to black. Other days I feel the overwhelming need to be free, so I would walk. I would walk past my parents and out of the front door and just keep going. They didn’t care where I went. Not anymore. I would walk and walk and walk until my feet ached and my legs felt heavy and the tiredness quieted the thoughts that continued to torment me.
In the beginning I’d gone to the park. It was just around the corner to my home. My parents used to take me there as a child. Not for long though. They always had something more important to do. Work to be getting on with. But at the time I had cherished those moments. Those moments when we had been together. When I had felt happy.
At the beginning of the summer I had sat in that park and I had watched. I watched children running around with brothers and sisters. Laughing and joking. Mums and dads would hover protectively, watching closely for anything that might be too dangerous. Occasionally they would stand up and push their child on a swing, smiling as they laughed and shrieked and begged to go higher. I wanted to think that my parents had done that for me, but I couldn’t remember it even if they had. Teenage boys would play football, setting up makeshift goals at either end of the long stretch of browning grass. It seemed to be obligatory to have to take their tops off on warm days which would inevitably lead to groups of girls. Some would stand and shamelessly watch, wolf- whistling and cat-calling. Others would walk in circles, their arms linked, flicking their hair and shooting hopeful glances at the boys, trying to get their attention. It all seemed so normal, so mundane. Like life as they knew it hadn’t nearly just ended. Like people all over the country hadn’t been murdered and slaughtered and tortured simply because of the blood that ran through their veins. All of those happy and smiling faces would have been the first to go. A flick of a wand and flash of green if they were one of the lucky ones. Something much worse if they weren’t.
I wanted to hate them for it. For their happiness. For how oblivious they were. But they didn’t know. How could they? All that they knew was that there had been a terrible winter that had stretched long into the spring. Freak storms, buildings collapsing, random fires, unexplained disappearances. No one could ever remember such a run of bad luck. But then one day in May the sun had simply come out and life went on as normal.
It wasn’t because I envied them their uncomplicated lives that I actively avoided the park. It wasn’t even because they were living in ignorant bliss. It was because they were happy and carefree and every time I saw it, I was cruelly reminded of just how much I wasn’t. Every time I saw a couple holding hands, a mother with her children, two friends laughing and sharing a joke together, I felt like a knife to the gut. That horrible feeling of loneliness. There is nothing in the world that makes you feel quite so alone as being surrounded by happy people while you sit on the fringes looking on, completely unnoticed. So, I hid myself away in my bedroom or walked and walked and walked until I was truly as alone as I felt.
Today however was not a day for walking. Today was a day for lying on my bed, listening to my alarm clock counting down the seconds until my confinement could end. Admittedly it was a confinement of my own making, but it wasn’t like I had many other options. Ron had made that perfectly clear to me. I felt that familiar twinge of hurt, that I forced myself to push down. People had died. Families had been destroyed. I was not going to sit crying and complaining because a boy had kissed me and then promptly forgot that I even existed.
With a heavy sigh, I pushed myself off of my bed and picked up my wand from the bed side table where I had left it while I slept, always within arm’s reach. Twirling it through my fingers I felt the comfort wash through me; the familiar feeling of safety and power flow through my veins. The truth was I did envy the people who could carry on with their lives. My life had been so up and down lately that I didn’t know how to be normal. How to go from fearing for my life every minute of every day, fearing for the lives of my friends, for people that I loved and knowing that if I wasn’t good enough then hundreds of people would die, to being like those girls in the park, whose only concern was if boys noticed them.
I couldn’t help but wonder if that was what my life would have been like if I hadn’t gone to Hogwarts? Would I be surrounded by friends, would I be carefree and happy and loved? Would my parents still be talking to me? Would I be able to sleep through the night without waking up screaming?
I began pacing up and down the room as I desperately tried to think of something to do; anything that would help me to forget about things for even a couple of minutes.
Walking around my room, my eyes fell onto the large brown trunk that lay in the corner of my room. I sighed as I moved towards it, bending down to open the large heavy lid, resting it against the wall with a heavy thud. Once again I examined all of the things that I would need for the following year. I knew perfectly well by now that I had already packed everything that I needed and the reason that I knew this was because I had already packed and re-packed my trunk eight different times already.
I didn’t know why, but every time I packed my trunk, I never seemed quite satisfied with the way it was organised. It all looked wrong. It all felt wrong. I tried repositioning everything so many times, but it never felt right. For some reason needed it to be perfect. Part of me felt like was going crazy. What did it even matter what my trunk looked like? It was all going to be unpacked in a few days anyway. But of course the logical voice inside of me yelled at me from the back of my mind, the very real and very obvious reason why was never satisfied with my packing, but I forced that voice away. Forced it to stay quiet and hidden in some dark recess at the back of my brain. I couldn’t allow myself to think that way. I couldn’t let that thought enter my head so I pushed it away. I would not become afraid of Hogwarts. I couldn’t. It was Hogwarts. It had been my home for six years. Hogwarts was where could be happy. It had to be. If I could get back to Hogwarts then maybe everything could go back to normal. I could escape from the prison that I had created in my own home. Hogwarts would take me back to safety, comfort, friends.
Yet that voice, that logical voice that I was trying not to listen, was laughing, mocking my naivety. Because too much had happened in the last year. Hogwarts was the setting for my nightmares. How could I ever hope to be happy there?