Empty Space (Harry Potter)

March 1, 2012
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ASTORIA DIED on a Sunday, which might have been funny or ironic in a way, but it wasn’t. “There are no endings,” she whispered to him as the blood filled her lungs. She coughed, a rough red stain on the sheets. “Just beginnings.” He held her hand, his fragile fingers nearly breaking hers, as if in the hope that she might take him with her. She closed her eyes, because she knew how scary it would be for him to do it. She was so cold.
Monday was a water stain on his memory, blurry and wrong. He did not weep, but instead swam in the slow echoes of his children’s mourning, holding his daughter and letting her cry, watching his son bend and break midsentence. This was worse than weeping.

On Tuesday, his little granddaughter asked him what was going on. He told her that Grandmother was dead. She nodded solemnly, asked no questions: not how she died, or why, or where she was now. This was also worse than weeping, or watching her weep. The silence.
Wednesday was the funeral, attended mostly by people he knew, but also by a flock of strangers who claimed to be fellow Ravenclaws. He had never been told of them before. This was worse than anything else. Astoria did not look right in death: her freckles powdered over, her head too large, her eyelids not shut enough. He tried to go up to say something about her, but it was suddenly impossible for him to speak. “A,” he said, but her names stopped in his throat. “Shh,” he began, trying to say “she,” and “today” became “t-tuh” and “pneumonia” was “nuh” and he stuttered and mumbled and blinked because where were the words, where was she, and he stood in front of the coffin for too long like that, shattered with a mouth full of silence. He waited for her hand at his back. He waited for her to say it was all right. She didn’t. He walked himself back to his seat and bowed his head to make it look like he was weeping, but this was so much worse.
Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley sat quietly in the back row. He felt something sharp and sick in his stomach when he saw them – not her so much, but Weasley. He wanted to ask him, why are you here? He wanted to shout, you think you haven’t destroyed me enough? Is that it? You think making me an outcast, a traitor, isn’t enough for you? You didn’t know this woman! She was beautiful, and you did not deserve to know her! Get out! Get away from here!
But he didn’t.
After the funeral, he saw his granddaughter sitting on Hermione’s lap. He realized with a jolt that she was her granddaughter too.
On Thursday, he said goodbye to his son and daughter-in-law and grandchild and told them yes, I’ll be fine, yes, I’ll send you an owl, Scorpius, please don’t worry, Scorpius, your mother wouldn’t have wanted you to worry, shh, it’s all right, don’t cry, please please please don’t cry, I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry she’s gone take care. I’ll be all right.
I love you too.
On the dresser in his bedroom (her bedroom? Their bedroom? The bedroom? Childbed, sickbed, deathbed, he thought, deathbed deathbed deathbed, it reverberated like a footstep in a large tunnel) laid a white scarf that had been hers once (was still hers? Was now his? Was nobody’s? Deathbed, deathbed). He buried his face in it, breathing the smell of her in once more. The softness of it felt like her, and his eyes snapped shut and his knees went weak and he collapsed (yes, collapsed, and in the manner of grief he had never thought possible, collapsed like all the melodramatic stories he had ever sneered at, all the clichés that had ever failed to move him), to the ground, kneeling, weaving his fingers into the fabric and wishing, wishing, wishing he would cry.
He went back to work on Friday, nodding at his fellow Aurors and accepting condolences from people he barely knew. He went to his office and shut the door. There was a picture of her on his desk. He put it gently into a drawer and locked it.
Hermione came in with a stack of unimportant papers to be filed. He had a headache. The papers slid neatly into their file. When his back was turned and his head bent, she blurted out, “I’m sorry about Astoria!”
A terrible sound jumped from his lungs, something wrenched him hard in his stomach, Hermione gasped and said, “I’m sorry I’m so sorry,” over and over, and he wanted to cover his ears against it, he wanted to cover his face because of the shame. The world was unclear, wavering and stinging. Without feeling or wanting, he felt her hard little arms around him, and they were not Astoria’s arms, and her smell wasn’t like Astoria and her voice was wrong and her hair was wrong, it was like being held about the waist by an absence, cradled by an empty space, and the harder she held him, the more she hushed him. The more she hushed him, the more alone he was.

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Shorn1120 said...
Aug. 16, 2014 at 1:29 pm
This was one of the best Harry Potter stories not apart of the series, of course, that I've read. Truly amazing.
Artemisia said...
Mar. 10, 2012 at 1:34 pm
This is sad... but it's very well-written sadness.  I love the voice you wrote with. It felt dark and solemn, but not too brooding. It can be really hard to carry that off sometimes. :) Absolutely five stars.
Princess Morga said...
Mar. 9, 2012 at 10:47 pm
Stunning, as usual. But - please excuse my blondeness - is Draco the "he" about which the story revolves?
StrangeJade This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Mar. 10, 2012 at 2:29 pm
Aye, 'tis so. Blondeness excused. :)
HayBale said...
Mar. 8, 2012 at 5:26 pm
That was by far the best Harry Potter-related story I have ever read. Amazing.
StrangeJade This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Mar. 8, 2012 at 8:54 pm
Thank you! And I'm glad it didn't totally not make sense. XD Maybe it's because I'm a lame nerd, but I just have this huge head canon that goes on after the seventh book, so I was worried I'd confuse someone with stuff that wasn't in the epilogue. :P
HayBale replied...
Mar. 10, 2012 at 7:34 pm
I get like that, too haha. Don't worry, I love Harry Potter (which you could probably tell by the one fanfiction article I've written, if you read it) and it's kinda hard to confuse me on the subject :P
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