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Prologue
Crutch





The black umbrella hung loosely from her fingertips, the curved handle cradled in the soft indents of her knuckles. The meteorologists had predicted rain, even thunderstorms, yet the sky remained clear save for the occasional cluster of puffy white clouds that drifted lazily past the brightly blazing sun.

In the beginning, she would have been thankful, maybe even grateful, for the bright blue blanket stretched overhead, but that was before her condolences had been muttered so frequently, the words had lost all meaning. It was strange to think that once upon a time, she thought a clear sky was the making of a beautiful day. But now she knew the truth, or at least some semblance of it. The colour of the sky didn’t mean a damn thing - a funeral was a funeral just as a loss was a loss, and the weather conditions had nothing to do with it.

After attending so many funerals in such a short amount of time, she had lost the ability to cry at these black affairs. It wasn’t until she was on her own, away from the eyes of the grieving families, that she allowed herself a moment of bereavement. However, as she was still learning, time and experience did not lessen the sharp, hollow feeling that punched itself through her chest each time she watched someone perish before her. It was unfair, to be youthful and healthy when those around her were constantly dropping dead.

As the wizened wizard delivered his solemn sermon, she kept her head hung low, her eyes to the ground. In short, she was the picture of a mourning guest, downcast and downtrodden. His words resonated through the crowd, enveloping the attendees in an embrace, though the effect was less than warming. The speech do not comfort her, it did nothing more than alienate her from the inconsolable members of the recently deceased’s family.

She did not know this woman like her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren did. She did not know the intimate details of her life - how she met her husband, how she looked on her wedding day, on her daughter’s wedding day, how she felt when she became a grandmother, then a great-grandmother. She knew nothing of Edna Mulner’s life before she became a terminal case. The only thing she did know, however, was that, in the face of death, Edna kept her composure and faced her fate head on, unafraid and accepting.

Just as the stinging sensation began to build in her chest, the wizard wrapped up his speech by asking for a moment of silence. As most sombre moments, the seconds ticked by slowly, leaving her to her own thoughts. She remembered Edna’s smile and her laugh, rough though it may have been. She recalled the memories which Edna had related to her while they sat in her bedroom, a book closed and abandoned on her lap, and, though she was not an official part of the family nor had she been with the family for very long, perhaps she was wrong.

Before she could contemplate it any further, the moment was gone and the bagpipes began to play. Tightening her grip on the umbrella, she waited and watched quietly as various members of the family neared the grave and tossed their handfuls of dirt onto the coffin below. The grandson, a handsome young man of about twenty, helped his sobbing mother, Edna’s youngest child and only daughter, letting her lean all her weight on his elbow. It was a simple gesture, that much was true, but it spoke volumes about the young man that she herself had only met a handful of times.

When it came time to toss her own handful onto the growing pile, she made a quick affair of it, depositing the dirt and whirling around. She did not march away from the grave nor did she stomp, but her movements were quick, her breathing laboured as she stumbled towards an adequate Apparation point. The tears stung in her eyes, blurring her vision and making it impossible to see the gnarled roots and rabbit holes in the ground. Several times, the heel of her black peep-toed shoes caught in a hole or snagged on a root, but she managed to right herself.

She didn’t get very far before a voice called out her name. “Miss Weasley!” Thankfully, she was free to ignore the voice, which was decidedly masculine, as one of those Muggle airplanes soared overhead, its loud engines droning out any sound.

“Wait! Miss Weasley - Lucy!”

Blinking hard, she stopped in her tracks, her fingers clenching around the handle of her umbrella. Counting the seconds until he approached, she sucked in a short breath and turned.

It was Edna’s grandson, Mark. His dark brown hair was a bit rumpled and his bright blue eyes were bloodshot, the lids tainted red. Other than that, he appeared very composed for a person who had just lost his grandmother. Only the drawn line of his lips and the faint bags under his eyes hinted at his weariness. When he spoke, he sounded a bit breathless, as though he had been chasing her since she fled the scene. Which, upon reflection, she realised he probably had.

“Lucy,” he panted, raising a hand to wipe the light sheen of sweat away from his brow. Her name sounded odd as it fell from his mouth, and she wondered if it was because in all her time at the Mulner residence, she had only ever called him Mr. Mulner. “A-are you leaving?”

Trying not to make her surprise known, she lowered her head and gave an almost imperceptible nod; a few curls slipped out of the tight bun at the nape of her neck. “Yes,” she affirmed quietly, her voice thick with emotion.

A furrow appeared between Mark’s brows, as though he was unsatisfied with her answer. “Are you going back to the house with the others?”

She shook her head; another lock escaped.

“What? Why not?” he asked, both sounding and looking confused.

Lucy wrung her hands around the umbrella, her sudden crutch on reality. “I thought you and your family would like a time to grieve…privately.”

Perhaps it was the pull of his brow or the twitch of his lips, but somehow he managed to look conflicted and assured at the same time. It was in his very peculiar expression that she knew what his next words would be - she had seen the look before just as she had heard the words before.

“But my grandmother would have wanted it.”

Lucy tried not to wince as the full force of the quietly muttered words hit her. Wetting her lips with the tip of her tongue, she did not offer an explanation as most would have done in her situation, instead she said the only words she knew how say in times of bereavement.

“I’m very sorry for your loss, Mark.”

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