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Losses and Gains
Losses and Gains
Disclaimer: The world of Harry Potter, and all characters,
settings and concepts belong to JK Rowling.
A/N: This is a side story to “Bones to Bones” and is happening at the
same point in time as Chapter 8 of that story. While you don’t
absolutely need to read “Bones to Bones”, the opening with Emily and
Erika won’t make much sense if you don’t. Thanks again to Zsenya
for her excellent Beta work.
Justin Finch-Fletchley sighed slightly as he walked up the long
drive to an old, but well maintained country house. The smoke
coming out of the kitchen chimney was mirrored in a small way by his
own frozen breath. With a wry smile, Justin reached up and
adjusted the scarf he was wearing to cover his mouth. His
Hufflepuff scarf was about the only sign of his being a wizard in
training that he was able to wear during the Christmas break, as any
Muggle who saw him would simply figure the black and yellow scarf to be
a fashion statement.
Justin stood before the front door to the house for several
moments, lost in thought. Did he really want to be here? Did he
really want to do this? Could he face her? Could he talk to
her? He wasn’t sure if he could or not, but at long last, he
decided he had to, and reached up for the ornate knocker on the door.
After a moment, the door opened and there stood before him a
small, slight girl, her brown hair pulled back into a ponytail.
She had a cup of hot cocoa in her hands. “Justin, I was
wondering if you would ever knock, I saw you out there. Here,
drink this, it’s bloody cold out there.”
Justin raised an eyebrow, surprised that the usually prim and
proper Emily would indulge in such language. Maybe it was a
reflection of her own tension at the moment. He was certainly
tense enough, so he figured she might be as well. “Hi
Justin stripped off the layers he had worn to walk over on this
frigid winter day, and sat down at the kitchen table across from Emily,
his scarf still in his hands. “So, Emily, um, how have you been?”
Emily seemed to be as lost for words as Justin, and was barely
able to choke out “Oh, all right I guess. Always good to be home
for Christmas. You?”
Justin was trying to figure out a better response than “the
same,” when a loud voice called from the pantry. “Mum! Can I have
a biscuit?” Justin recognized the voice, Emily’s little sister
Erika. She was five years younger than Emily, and in
Justin’s opinion, spoiled rotten. In fact, Justin was a bit
surprised when he heard Emily’s mother yell out that Erika was
absolutely not to have any snacks before dinner.
“She’s been really foul lately,” Emily said. “I’m not sure
how, but she’s even managed to get herself grounded by Mum.”
Justin was still trying to figure out a safe topic for small
talk when a great crash came echoing out of the pantry. A moment
later, the voice of Emily’s mother exploded “Erika Anderson! I told you
that you were not to have a biscuit, and you not only disobeyed me, but
shattered the jar!”
“Mum! It wasn’t me! I didn’t touch it! It just blew up!”
answered Erika in a frightened voice.
“A likely story young lady! Get up to your room and leave
Emily and Justin alone!”
Justin looked across to Emily who was frowning. “See what
I mean? She’s always been a right pain, but never like
this. Anyway, somehow I truly doubt that you came here to talk
about my brat of a sister.”
“Of course not Emily. I came here to talk to you.”
“Fine. Let’s talk. I have one question for
you. Why won’t you tell me anything about your school?”
Justin nervously fingered the fringe of his scarf as he
answered, “Emily. There is nothing I’d like better than to tell
you, but I just can’t. Not now.”
“Why not?” Emily asked, her voice rising. “Did you get in
trouble? Are you ashamed? I thought you knew me better than that!”
“It’s not that. In a few years I’ll be able to tell you
everything, but not now. I just can’t.”
“Can’t?” Emily screamed, “Can’t? Justin, you’re fifteen
years old. You’ll turn sixteen in three months. You can’t be tied
up in some great secret! I don’t care if you didn’t get into
Eton! Just talk to me!”
Justin looked down at the table, still fingering his
scarf. “I just can’t.”
“Justin, I thought you trusted me. I guess not. I
don’t think we have anything to say to one another. You know
where the door is. Don’t bother coming back until you’re willing
to be honest,” Emily said storming out of the kitchen and slamming the
door behind her.
Justin buried his face in his hands and leaned on the table,
focusing on taking slow, deep breaths as he tried to regain his
composure. When he finally looked up, he looked around, in some
hope that Emily had come back into the room, but she was nowhere to be
seen. Defeated, he put his coat back on and walked back out into
the chill winter day.
He couldn’t say that he was surprised by this turn of
events. It had been building for years, ever since the long
standing plans for him to go to Eton had been changed. The letter
he had received had stressed the need for absolute secrecy. At
first, it had all seemed like a great adventure, but soon he began to
see that there was a dark side to it. He never suspected how much
his adventure would cost him, but he soon found out.
Justin trudged back to his parent’s house, looking back over his
friendship with Emily. He stopped on top of a hill and looked
around. It wasn’t much of a hill really, barely five yards tall,
but to two children, it had seemed like a mighty mountain. He had
fond, vivid memories of Emily standing up on top of the “mountain”
lobbing snowballs down at him. They had been inseparable almost
from the beginning. They had been next door neighbors, and best
of friends. Though they had never talked about it in so many
words, Justin had always assumed that eventually he would marry her,
and he was pretty sure that she thought the same way, even in the days
that neither of them had the least understanding of what that would
All of that was gone, taken away by some impersonal Ministry of
Magic rule, obviously written by a pureblood who had no conception of
what Muggle-borns went through. “Justin, I thought you trusted
me,” she had said. He did, he trusted her like no one he
had met before or since. When he was with her, he was at ease,
willing, even eager to share secrets that he had shared with no one
else. He had been totally honest when he said he wanted to tell
her everything. Oh, how he was tempted to tell everything.
The only thing that kept him from doing it was fear. Not of her
reaction, but of the Ministry. What would they do to him?
Expel him? Or worse? Was it enough to get him sent to Azkaban?
Even as that thought hit him, he pushed it away. Deep
down, he knew that Azkaban was not a place for a fifteen year old who
said too much, but that didn’t relieve the fear. Azkaban.
Dementors. He still remembered that day on the train. He
eventually heard that Potter passed out, and he was glad that the
Dementors didn’t seem to affect him quite so badly. In fact, if
it hadn’t been so incredibly unsettling it would have been funny.
He’d been sitting with Ernie and Hannah when the Dementor had started
searching the coach. Afterwards, when they asked him what he
felt, he’d answered, “nothing.” Ernie and Hannah were surprised,
since they had felt the Dementors quite strongly. Justin didn’t
bother to correct them. It wasn’t that they had no effect on
him. They did. He’d felt like he was trapped, trapped in
nothingness, nothing to see, hear or taste. No feeling, no
movement, like he was petrified.
Justin walked up the drive to his parent’s house with that
word thundering through his head. Petrified. He had a
calendar in his room, and on it he had marked in red every single day
of his “condition.” From the day he was attacked until the day
that Madam Pomfrey poured the Mandrake potion down his lips.
Sometimes he wondered if he would get those days back. Since he
didn’t really age during those months, he supposed that he might die
that much later. Assuming of course, that he didn’t die in an
accident or something, in which case he’d lost six months of his life.
He’d never been able to talk about it with anyone. His
parents were no help at all. He could already hear his father’s
voice, “Justin! Finch-Fletchleys are tough. We just go on.
There was a Finch-Fletchley at Malpaquet with Marlborough, and did he
cry about it? Did he want to see a therapist?” Justin hadn’t even
bothered to ask, because there just wasn’t a point.
He supposed he could have talked to Ernie, Susan or
Hannah. Maybe he should, but as close as he was to them, there
was something holding him back. No, there was only one person he
was really willing to talk to about it. There was only one person who
he was willing to express his fears and his grief to. Only one
person, and she had just said she never wanted to talk to him again.
Justin dully walked into the house and hung his coat in the
closet, then headed for his room. When he saw his mother in the
hallway, he looked into her eyes, and she turned away, as usual.
His parents had always been rather distant, but the news about the
basilisk had made it even worse. They had wanted to pull him out
of school for good, to pack him off to some “normal” public school as
they saw it. They doubted he could get into Eton, but they
thought that maybe he could get into Smeltings or some school like
that. He was quiet about it, but Justin firmly insisted that
summer that he return to Hogwarts. When he went out into his
mother’s prize garden, it seemed so empty, so flat. Her prize
roses were pretty, but after seeing venomous tenticula and mandrakes,
they were just boring. Cars were all very well, but they weren’t
broomsticks. He had seen a new world, and the world he had grown
up in was flat, two dimensional. He couldn’t imagine following
his father to London and working in some investment bank.
It didn’t take long for Justin to figure out why his parents
were so willing to let him return. He saw it every time they
looked at him. Fear. Not fear for him. Not the kind
of fear that any parent has for a child who goes into harms way.
They were afraid of him. They were afraid that any moment he
might do something to them. Justin didn’t know why, he knew he
would never do anything to his parents. It was just that they
didn’t seem to know it anymore.
Anger boiled up inside of Justin. That wasn’t anything
new. It had been building since the day the letter from Hogwarts
appeared on his door. Lately, he’d taken to pushing it back
inside himself. Hiding it behind jokes and quips. Sometimes
though, it pushed itself past all his defenses, past every joke, and
forced itself out. With a roar of frustration, Justin drove his
fist again and again into the doorframe, not caring how much damage he
did to himself.
Hogwarts had taken so much from him. It had taken six
months of his life. It had taken his parents. It had taken
away the friendship that had been the most important to him in his life.
Hogwarts had given so much to him. It had opened a world
of wonder to him. It had given him a world of exciting
possibilities. As he lay on his bed, ignoring his throbbing hand,
he realized something else he had found there. He was ready to go
back to Hogwarts, to see his friends. He was ready to see Ernie,
Susan and Hannah. It wasn’t only that they were his friends, but
in that moment, he realized something important. They didn’t
treat him as if he had just betrayed a life long friendship. They
didn’t treat him as if he were some sort of potential maniac.
They treated him as Justin, just plain old Justin. As he thought
about that, a slow smile came to his exhausted face, and he went to
find some iodine for the cuts on his hand.
A/N: (My inner history geek is showing). The Battle of Malpaquet
was the last of the Duke of Marlborough’s four great battles in the War
of the Spanish Succession, and was one of the largest battles in
recorded history at that point