He looked in the mirror. It was the same old reflection, shadowed now
by the glow of the single candle on the mantelpiece. Blue eyes.
Red hair. Horn-rimmed glasses
that shone glaringly even in the dim light.
Pale skin, dotted with freckles, which showed the strain of the late
night, the emergency meeting, the fear and the confusion and the arguments that
had marked the night just passed.
not so bad to be alone. If anyone knows
that, I do. Twenty years have taught me
that if you can't rely on yourself, you're lost. So it doesn't really matter much whether
anyone else sees things your way. Not
when you get down to what's important.
The emergency meeting at the Ministry had ended less than a
half-hour before. He couldn't remember
ever being this tired, not deep down in his soul. Even though the fear hadn't begun until it
was all over and everyone—almost everyone, he corrected himself with weary
meticulousness—was safe, it had drained him.
He knew, in his head, that he had to get some sleep. He knew the coming day would be no less
exhausting than the past several hours had
been. Yet his mind, which had always
before been his pride and his most cherished asset, betrayed him. It simply would not rest.
and Ginny could have died.
never would have gotten the chance to say good-bye.
The thoughts ran through his head in a frenzy of repetition,
a kaleidoscope of words that would not stop whirling, no matter how he fought
to still them. He hadn't been present
during the battle. He was slightly
ashamed that he was glad of that fact.
It wasn't that he didn't think he could acquit himself well in a fight. Regardless, he knew that his strengths lay in
other areas. He could fight, but he
wasn't a fighter by nature. He was a
detail man. A planner.
He walked over and sat down on his one decent chair, which
he'd bought before his duties at the Ministry prevented him from having time
for furniture shopping. His brother and
sister might have died. He couldn't seem
to get that thought out of his head. The
knowledge pounded there like a drum, relentless and wild. He shook his head, trying to clear it. He wasn't surprised when his head only ached
more violently when he was done.
might have died, and I never would have had a chance to say good-bye. Hell, it might have been my parents. Or Bill, or Charlie, or the twins.
At the thought of the twins, his eyes narrowed
slightly. They had never been
close. The twins thought him stuffy,
self-righteous, and self-important. He
thought them completely immature, shiftless, and an embarrassment. That didn’t mean he wanted them dead. He didn't want any of them dead.
and Dad are wrong.
Bill, Charlie, and the others are wrong.
I know they're wrong. Fudge was
correct not to announce that Voldemort was back until he was sure. Potter's word wasn't enough to change the
entire Ministry policy concerning Voldemort.
He was a fourteen-year old Wizard with a history of attention-seeking
and rule-breaking. Hardly a solid
foundation for a decision as important as whether to announce that Voldemort
and Dad are wrong.
Bill, Charlie, and the others are wrong.
But I almost lost Ron and Ginny.
And I might have lost them all.
Is knowing I'm correct enough to keep me going if I do lose any of
them? Can I live with myself if I lose
them, knowing I could have healed the breach between us and didn't try? Is being right worth losing them all even
more than I already have?
He looked longingly at the bottle of Firewhiskey on the
kitchen counter, just barely visible from where he
sat. He remembered buying it just after
he'd moved into the flat, because his mother had always claimed it was a good
thing to have around, just in case. He
looked around and suddenly noticed that a lot of things in his flat seemed to
be arranged the way they were at the Burrow.
The sofa was a hand-me-down from the flat's previous tenant,
its dull green velvet threadbare in places.
It wasn't what he'd consider his favorite. He'd planned on replacing it soon after
moving in. His job had prevented him
from having the time to shop for furniture, but even so, the sofa had grown on
him. It was a bit long in the tooth,
true, but it was comfortable.
Homey. Far more so than his one
good chair, which had cost a month's salary and was rarely used.
The bookshelves were crammed full of books, most of them
secondhand, all of them often-read. He'd
considered, many times, straightening them up.
The shelves were overloaded and cluttered. He'd prefer it if they were neater, more
orderly, but somehow he never seemed to get around to straightening them. There was a strange comfort in the cozy disorder
of them. He thought that if he ever
actually straightened the shelves, or got more to disperse the clutter, he'd
miss the way they had been.
The kitchen counter was spotlessly, precisely neat. The small table he'd managed to cram into the
corner was overflowing with parchment and old quills, a book or two, piles of
posts he'd yet to find time to answer, and the wrapping from his mother's
Christmas parcel last year. Ever since
the incident of the jumper, which he'd returned in fit of rage that now embarrassed him,
he had tried to throw out the bright wrapping paper, but hadn't been able to
bring himself to do it. The clutter on
the table had grown around it. He hadn't
been able to clear that away either. The
sight of it eased his heart somehow.
His clothes were always put away neatly, hung or folded or
set aside for cleaning. Just as they had
been at home. But the dresser top had,
over the months, acquired its own layer of clutter. There was a Quidditch magazine in the
corner. He'd bought it on impulse,
joking to himself that he'd been so used to Ron and the twins leaving them
around the Burrow that it wouldn't quite be home without one. But he'd found himself looking through it a
few months ago. He decided now that it
was no coincidence that the Chudley Cannons were on the cover. It was a piece of home, even if it had never
seen the inside of the Burrow. He might
not have realized that when he'd bought it, but it was difficult not to notice,
now, that it still sat on the dresser top.
right. They're wrong. Is that worth the price we're all
paying? Maybe I shouldn't have to be the
one to apologize. Does that mean that I
can't do it anyway? Wouldn't it be
better than being alone?
nothing wrong with being alone. Not if
you can rely on yourself. Nothing's more
important that that.
even being lonely.
As an argument, it wasn't very convincing. Not now, when the knee-trembling realization
that his younger brother and sister might have died hours before was still
rolling through him in waves. Not now,
when he knew that his parents and brothers, not too very far from where he sat
now, were feeling the same thing. Not
when he'd never felt so alone in his life.
He couldn't take it anymore.
He headed for the kitchen and the whiskey bottle.
He drank silently and steadily, out of the bottle, until the
waves of fear had stopped their rolling, and the loneliness had been blunted by
alcohol. Until the regrets and the
recriminations had ceased their repetition, and were no more than whispers. Until his mind had managed to convince itself
that the close call with his younger siblings hadn't been so close after
all. Until the voice in his head that
insisted that he put aside all that he'd worked for to put things right, no
matter who had been to blame for the breach, fell silent.
The fire flared up and he looked over to see Fudge's head in
the flames. He slid he bottle of
Firewhiskey out of sight and went over to the hearth. A few moments later, the fire flickered out
and he sighed. He left the bottle where
it was and headed to his tiny bathroom to shower and change. There was another emergency meeting. He had a job to do, and he couldn't ignore it
now. Not when the situation was so
critical. Not when he was needed.
His head clearer, he picked up his wand off the dresser top
and caught sight of the copy of Quidditch
Illustrated, the Chudley Cannons beaming at him, a few of them
waving. One of them had bright red hair,
just like Ron's.
With a pang, he turned his head away and Disapparated.
Author's note: Original
content ©2004 by DarkWitch; story based on content and situations created by
J.K. Rowling, and no infringement of any and all copyrights held by her is