We were lucky to get good weather that final day. Really lucky, because even a drop of rain would have wrecked it. If it had rained, we certainly wouldn’t have sat by the lake like we did.
But, in a weird show of luck, the day we left Hogwarts happened to be one of the brightest days Scotland got all year. Brilliant sun, t-shirt-and-shorts type weather, with a slight breeze to make it all manageable. If it hadn’t been like that we might have been forced to sit in the common room with the others and that would have been a bit tragic.
We were down by the lake for a full three hours. I had a bit of a headache because it was so sunny, so I had to down a few phials of Pugnas Pugh’s Patented Painkiller Potion before I really felt much up to chatter. I was sweltering, too, because we’d all agreed to keep our uniform on right till the last minute. Even without the robes, the cardigan was stifling. But I didn’t want to take the special cardigan with the Hufflepuff crest off until I was absolutely certain I was done with the place.
Likewise, Albus had kept his Gryffindor jumper on even though it was getting a bit short in the sleeves. You could see a faint sheen of sweat on his forehead underneath his messy black hair, no two strands of which went in the same direction these days. Scorpius had his Hufflepuff cardigan on too, but somehow I doubted he was suffering in the heat when his body temperature was roughly equivalent to that of an ice cube.
For the first hour we didn’t really talk much. We lay back in the grass with our faces pointed skywards, eyes shut tight against the bright light. It’d been a heavy week. There was the feast the night before, then the little ceremony with just us seventh years and our Heads of Houses in the Great Hall that morning. Though we’d all chosen careers and training programmes months ago, it had only been in the last week that we’d felt like we were actually going onto something else beyond the castle walls.
Except we’d had it a bit differently, I guess. The three of us had never finished sixth year, and when we’d come back in September for our seventh I think we all felt about a decade older than the people we were sharing lessons with. Not that anyone really made an effort to make it easier for us. Everyone had apparently been gossiping about us in our absence, but once we got back it was like they’d shut up for good.
I guess none of us really noticed how different we were. We’d got used to it over the summer. I couldn’t really remember what life had been like without the scars, and it wasn’t a surprise when I caught sight of them in the mirror anymore. But the first day back at school was horrible. People avoided me in the corridors like I had the plague, staring like their eyes were magnets and I was a lump of metal. I almost didn’t want to come back for day two. But I did. And I made it to the end without any major incident, although I couldn’t escape a few minor ones.
Anyway, that’s what I reckon made it all so weird. We were used to ourselves. I was used to the fact that, when it came to mortality, Scorpius was a bit of a grey area. And Albus’ dramatic fall from grace didn’t seem so dramatic when you’d seen him unravel bit by bit, day by day. Well, I think it’s a bit unfair of people to call it a ‘dramatic fall from grace’, anyway. I think I realised that he was always an average bloke with the same sort of neuroses and insecurities as the rest of us. He was just a bit better at putting on a bit of polish and acting the part of the golden boy.
I think it’s the defining memories of us that people have these days that make them so keen to give us that customary two-foot berth in the corridors. Before everything at the Ministry happened, I’m willing to bet all my worldly possessions that most of the school didn’t have a memory of me at all. Then once we came back for seventh-year, it was probably the sight of me with my scars and that ugly almost-smile I couldn’t drop.
And for Scorpius, if they recalled that, before, he’d been that helpless one from Hufflepuff with the asthma attacks and the ancestry of mugshots in the History of Magic textbooks – well, now he was the kid who’d almost broken my neck when he’d given me an electric shock at the top of the stairs. Or the kid that seemed to go about with a trail of rumours following him. Some people didn’t believe our story; they thought he was a weird Ministry experiment. An Inferius gone wrong. The nastiest rumour was that he’d tried to off himself and been hopeless enough to only half-succeed.
Then there’s Albus. Albus, and the time everyone likes to bring up, when he resigned as a Prefect in front of everyone in his house. When he’d clutched the badge so tight that cursed wound had opened up again and – well, I wasn’t there, but if you’re to believe the stories, by the time he threw it down on the table it was all slick with blood. Quite fitting, because Gryffindor’s main colour is the same rich, arterial red. But it’s not like I saw it happen. All I know is that his resignation got him a detention.
But maybe the thing that shocks people the most is how, when they give us that two-foot berth and the evil eye in the corridors, it’s not just the three of us. More often than not, there’s a little crowd. There’s Fauna and Lucy, and the four other Hufflepuff boys who resolutely refused to move out of their dormitory when someone suggested they keep clear of the undead boy. There’s even Tabitha and Georgina. There’s a regular little gang of people who’ve stuck with us, no matter how many rumours get bandied about. And no matter how many of us are, strictly speaking, dead or in Gryffindor. That’s the only thing I think matters.
I didn’t think I wanted to be normal anymore. I didn’t give a fig about the other people in my year. Half of them probably wanted my sort out the school anyway. My mind was already outside school, already on the Healer training Professor Bones had advised I take up. I was pretty certain Albus felt the same about his decision to go into Magical Law Enforcement, and I guess Scorpius did too, even if his vague ambition to work in a kitchen somewhere was a bit woollier than ours.
But I guess there was a little part in all of us that would miss the school. We had lived there for seven years; it’s not the sort of thing you can give up easily.
I’d miss the kitchens and Agnes and her trolley on the Hogwarts express for sure. But that’s just me.
So after soaking up the sun for an hour, we spent a bit of time reminiscing about the rubbish parties we’d been to in the last few months, the exams we’d sat, the bits of the Library we’d got to know like the back of our hands during study leave. We skipped over sixth year and went further back into the past, as per usual. We never talked about sixth year much. We kind of skimmed over it like it had never happened. As far as I was concerned, I’d never dumped Albus and he’d never dumped me, although we’d been nowhere near being a couple in the past eleven months. It was like we’d jumped from fifth year to seventh and somehow become friends along the way.
But, as per usual, we ran out of stuff to reminisce about. Albus checked his watch and said ‘It’s nearly four. The bell will go soon.’
Even if we had nothing to say, I felt like I wanted to stay on the banks of the lake forever.
‘We better get back,’ Scorpius said, and the three of us traipsed back up to school for the last time.
There was one last ceremony, though, that took us back to the lake, although it was to a completely different part. We’d been near the fringes of the forest, but when we came back in our robes it was at the little jetty nearer the castle. A fleet of little boats waited for us on the water. The Heads of Houses and the Headmistress stood by the front doors and waved us off; this was a journey we got to make by ourselves.
The atmosphere matched the weather. Everyone was laughing and talking excitedly, swapping addresses, signing rolls of parchment for one another. But a few people looked sad too, and you could tell that people were uncertain about leaving. They formed a queue for the jetty all the same, everyone pairing off and then reforming into little groups of four like they had done in first year. We clung to the back and waited as a three, until the crowd shuffled in front of us and Lucy Weasley was deposited at our side, boatless, looking for some familiar faces to make the final crossing with.
Our boat was one of the last to leave. We all clambered in, me next to Scorpius, tucking our knees and elbows in so they didn’t knock – the boat was made for first years, after all, and it’d been a long time since we’d been that small. It moved by itself, gliding smoothly through the dark water. Albus made some joke about the Giant Squid lurking beneath in wait, and our laughter sounded sharp in the warm air.
It was hard to laugh when I could sense them on the opposite bank. Those things Scorpius had talked about for years that I sometimes suspected were some symptom of madness. I couldn’t see them, as such, but I knew they were there. I could hear their hoofbeats as they spirited carriage after carriage up to Hogsmeade station and, if I looked out the corner of my eye, I could catch sight of something - the tip of a wing, a stick-thin limb. I could collect these little glimpses bit by bit into the black skeletal horses you only saw if you’d seen death too.
I’d only seen a three-minute death. I only got a strange taste of their presence, a spoiler for something I still had to learn. I’d grieved for a boy who’d never died. They evaded me, never more than a shadow, haunting somewhere in the background.
Scorpius nudged me with a cold, bony elbow. ‘Don’t worry about them,’ he said. ‘They’re harmless.’
And we drifted on further towards the edge of the lake.
We may act like we’ve forgotten about sixth year, but I haven’t. Sometimes I look back and cringe at the stupid stuff I did, and sometimes I look back and laugh, and then sometimes I marvel at how much I changed in the space of few months. Like how I went from being a nothing to having my name printed in the newspapers, even if I did pick up a few cursed wounds along the way.
And in the great scheme of things, it wasn’t a good year, and there’s no way I’d admit to wanting to go through it again or anything. But I guess it had to happen and I guess it made me a better person. Or if not better, certainly a bit more sensible.
I promised myself I won’t let it get to me. I keep telling myself it made me better, and the scars don’t mean a thing. I keep telling my family I was in a car accident and keep my chin up. I keep reminding myself that at least we all got out the Ministry alive. Well…sort of.
I keep reminding myself that if you think everything is mega, in the end it will be.
a/n: so it's been about a year since I started this. Back in January 2012, I was sitting in front of my laptop with a cute yellow banner, a title, a summary, and a vague desire to write something love-triangley after a blog I'd read by the wonderful GubrathianFire. and it was meant to be just that: a love triangle, a smidge of coming-of-age, and the subtle sending-up of half a dozen stereotypes (plus a wee dab of my own feminist ramblings). and then, er, I'm not sure what happened but I suddenly decided I wanted to make the lives of my characters hell and murder Scorpius. I think it was around the time I made a purple banner instead.
I guess the love triangle and the coming-of-age themes sort of stayed, although they got a bit diluted by the end and a lot of that satirical intent got buried under my desire to write about awkward moments and lipgloss. I liked writing something a bit more shippy for a change, (and I still find it hilarious that people were starting to pick their ships /in the introduction/), even if, well...hate to break it to you, guys, but none of them reached the harbour. I’ve been plain old Team Flora since day one~
I'm thinking of writing something else with these characters, so keep your eyes peeled for a story called 'Counting Daisy Roots' that'll be up soon. It'll be short, and probably won't be about Flora, but...it'll be there. If you've got any comments or suggestions you'd like to make for a follow-up, fire away in that review box! Any loose ends, any characters you want to hear more about - not only will I have that story to write, but I'll be doing a proper full edit of this soon and your input would really help all my polishing.
Time for some acknowledgements. First, to GubrathianFire, without whom this story would never have happened. To justonemorefic, for beta'ing the action scenes and for suggesting that Flora/Fauna be the endgame ship with the two of them driving a car off a cliff a la Thelma and Louise. To my fellow writers ToujoursPadfoot, TenthWeasleyWriter, WitnesstoitAll, Aiedail, hdawg, Marzipan, Ericajen and Harriethopkirk, for putting up with my hours of complaining about this story on skype. And to Tallesttower, for suggesting that my plot include a zombie apocalypse and Albus becoming the CEO of Staples (I promised an undead Scorpius and I delivered…as for Albus' ascent to greatness in the stationery industry, I'm working on that. Noot noot.)
And to you lot, sitting behind your computer screens reading this. Thank you for shipping and squeeing and constructive crit. Thank you for coming up with such brilliant ship names as Floral, Florp and Sauna, and for reviewing and favouriting and all that jazz. You have all been very mega and I think you're a bit zoomified too.
Fun fact: I’ve dyed my hair eight times since I started writing this fic. You can get a lot done in a year, I guess.
Until next time... ♥
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