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stars in my marrow

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Strangely, one of her first memories is of a broken clock.

Tik, tok, tik.

Between 11:59 and 12:00, the iron hand moves back and forth.

Tik, tok, tik.

An infinite span of time, between 11:59 and 12:00.

Tik, tok, tik.

Maybe they’re all stories, leaving a legacy of a millisecond in the endless seconds between 11:59 and 12:00. Their lives are evanescent, looking from a galaxy away. The best of them were meteors, streaking across the sky, burning.
Burning bright.

Tik, tok, tik.

Between 11:59 and 12:00, everything happened all at once.

 

-

 

Amelia Bones walks past the grand old grandfather clock. She knows it does not work the same way as other timekeeping objects. Not like the intricate wristwatch on her father’s arm. Not like the porcelain gold clock on top of the fireplace. Its bejeweled hands move between 11:59 and 12:00 only.  

Stately and solemn, the grandfather clock stands vigil at the foot of the stairs, facing the door with its black marble face. Amelia walks past it with her polished shoes clicking on the floor lightly.

To the living room.

“Mia!” Oscar’s grubby baby fingers reach for her. He is three years old, two years younger, with chubby cheeks and their mother’s copper curly hair, and has not learnt to say her full name yet.

“Ozzy,” she grins and pinches his cheek lightly.

Oscar wriggles away with a pout. She follows him and sits on the rug next to Edgar, her older brother, nudging him with her shoulder.

Edgar shoots her a smile, navy blue eyes flashing and dark hair wreathed in sunlight. A perfect, golden boy of seven. He pokes her side in return.

(Maybe not so perfect?)

“Ed!” She squirms to the side, giggling.

“Edgar, please,” their mother admonishes. Her warm smile seems almost out of placed with her air of sophistication: her body arranged on the reading chair like a classical statue, her tawny hair cascading over her shoulder like a 40’s Hollywood movie star, and her lips painted meticulously red.

“Sorry, Mum.” Edgar bows his head briefly but sticks his tongue out when Amelia catches his eye.

Amelia reciprocates the gesture.

Tik, tok, tik.

“Children!” Their father swoops in with a smile like an overflowing spring. His face looks young and old at the same time, dark brown hair with a hint of silver at the edges already. He is not a large man, but he has a large personality and an even larger heart. “Sorry, I’m a little late, but I hope you’re ready for your weekly story.”

“Stowwy! Stowwy!” Oscar claps his hands.

“Stohr-ree,” Amelia corrects.

Their father simply laughs, booming with mirth. “ Starry ,” he says, reaching over to their mother and squeezing her hand with a smile. “That is what our story of the week is going to be.” He leans back on his chair and looks at the three siblings evenly. “Children, do you know how the universe was born?”

Universe is an incomprehensibly broad and infinitely large word.

Amelia and Oscar turned to Edgar. He is the only one who knows how to read. (For now, Amelia thinks.)

Edgar shakes his head, and they look at their father expectantly.  

Tik, tok, tik.

“You see, before anything ever existed, there was darkness. An endless void of darkness before everything existed. Darkness consuming, darkness unending. Black.

Then, there was a BANG!

And there were particles.

Atoms.

Protons, neutrons, electrons.

The very same particles make up stars and planets and plants and us.

Long, long ago. That is how the universe started.

A singularity that grew and grew and still is growing.

Light starts pushing back the darkness. Scattered stars and shattered starlight. There is space in the endless, consuming darkness occupied by the tiny brilliance of a star.  It seems so insignificant when you look at it from the grand scale. So small and insignificant.”

Edgar frowns, Amelia listens, and Oscar looks back from the bee knocking on their window.

Tik, tok, tik.

Their father smiles, “But, children, let me tell you: it is so significant. You see, in our universe, darkness will always exist, but you must find the light within you and occupy the darkness as the stars do.

Even if you burn, burn brightly. Because stars don’t last forever. They are born,then  they live and die like we do.

Billions and billions of years, stardust have been gathering to create the world we know now. So yes, there are stars in your bones, too.”

All three of them nod, and their father chuckles to himself, wondering what they heard. Perception is an awfully tricky thing. Even working in the Ministry all his adult life has not helped him discern the thoughts of others without using magic.

The children scatter to their own devices. Edgar has a new adventure planned for them to enact. Amelia is going to make him teach her the alphabet. Oscar wants some cookies, and his elder siblings will get some for him.

Tik, tok, tik.

Their mother’s face has been inclined towards the window throughout the story, as if she hears waltzes playing from a gramophone outside. Light freckles her features. She looks like a French impressionist painting. Then she turns to her husband with a wry smile, “You really like telling them stories they won’t understand, don’t you?”

He shrugs, “We’re all made of childhood memories, whether we show it or not.” A pause. “Though perhaps, some…” A glance. “...more than others.” A grin.

Mrs. Bones rolls her eyes but takes his outstretched hands anyways.

(It’s been like this ever since her debutante ball. It is every pureblood witch's most important life event. Her mother told her to snag a Malfoy or even a Black for the first dance. But when the bright-eyed, kind-hearted Bones boy asked her, she said yes.)

Tik, tok, tik.

The grandfather clock is broken, but everything else in the Bones household is whole.

And that is all that matters.

 

-

 

Amelia does not stop thinking about their story of the week.

Neither do her siblings, she knows. Edgar talks about “burning bright,” and little Oscar points to a candle and asks if it’s enough to fill darkness.

She thinks about stars in her bones. Words she vaguely understands. Galaxies growing within her. She looks at the night sky past her bedtime and wonders if the night sky sees in her a reflection.

Stars in her bones. Every tissue, every cell. From her skin to her marrow.

 

Five days after their story of the week, Amelia stops in front of the broken grandfather clock and lays her hand on it. She waits, patiently, like the stars in her bones threatening to burst into supernovae.

Tik, tok, tik.

Between 11:59 and-

For the first time in decades, the broken clock chimes.