Progress Notes: The following chapter comes in two parts, the first of which is completed, provisionally, whilst the second is undergoing a drastic rewrite owing to certain inconsistencies and purely dreadful dialogue.
Chap Title: Come on Home Chap Warning: Alcohol consumption, sexual situations Chap Rating: PG-13/R
There and Back Again Lane
Ch. 3 – Come on Home
I’m panicking, in no fit state to confront Harry about anything. Desperate to change alone, I place Harry’s clothes on the chair outside and put the first tie I find on top. Calm down, I tell myself as I sit on the edge of the bed. Everything will be fine. I glower at my clothes in the old oaken armoire, one of the few remaining pieces of furniture from the Burrow. Why not work clothes? But that would let Harry down – we’re a couple, both of us might as well look like berks – and Hermione would kill me. It’s to be the complete girly-girl treatment: light green silk dress, low-heeled shoes, and a little make-up and scent. Actually, peering at myself critically in the long mirror within the armoire, I clean up pretty well.
My little preening session is rudely interrupted by an obnoxious wee git of a bird tapping on the window. I do love Pigwidgeon, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s part snidget. He bears a letter from Hermione. Ringing this morning wasn’t enough. The Muggle-born witch who received the maximum possible number of OWLs and NEWTs has probably committed one of the more obvious breaches of wizarding secrecy, but then maybe Pigwidgeon was blown off course.
I hope this letter finds you well and before you depart Edinburgh. I apologise for writing by regular post, but the telephone lines were down this evening.
We will likely be a little late to the meeting tomorrow afternoon, say three o’clock, as I’ve a meeting with the Ministry in the morning, though I’m certain you will probably enjoy reacquainting yourself with London.
I don’t know exactly how to write this without being direct: have you told him yet? Now that you are engaged it is essential that he is aware into what sort of situation he is entering. Also, there is the concern regarding the effect such a revelation will have on his treatment. The staff on the fourth floor are worried that regression or worse might result. Please, I beg you, consider what you are doing to the both of you.
Probably you think I’m over-stepping the bounds of friendship or family by making writing these things, but I do understand what you are going through. Ron and I lost him that night as well. Though we knew slightly more than you, we were sworn to secrecy for both his and your benefit. It’s highly improbable he will ever been the man he was or could have become should he recover.
I’m so sorry and hope you understand.
It takes all my strength not to demonstrate my vast knowledge of obscenities at the loudest possible volume. The tiny owl, usually so obtuse in such matters, senses my fury and flutters to rest on the armoire. I’m tempted to append my response to the end of her letter.
I hear Harry getting ready just outside and decide to leave my answer for when we get to London. Pigwidgeon gets an owl treat before I usher him out the window. Time to face reality. I take my rarely-used mobile to explain my foul mood.
Ginny leaves the bathroom for the bedroom as I toss Hedwig’s rubbish into the bin. My black suit’s hanging from a chair in the hallway, not very stylish but formal, a red tie draped on top. I would have thought my Uni tie would have been more appropriate to display me as a proper prospective brother-in-law, but I’m too nervous to argue. And while shaving goes without severing a blood vessel, my hair still won’t stay down. It’s been a two year battle. I’m tempted to put styling product in my hair, but it makes Ginny sneeze. So I admit defeat, get dressed, and ensure there’s at least some shine on my shoes.
She emerges from the bedroom a radiant vision, but with a scowl that curdles my blood. I ask her what’s wrong but she just waves off the question. She crumples what looks like parchment in one hand whilst crushing her mobile with the other.
“Hermione sends her love,” Ginny grunts finally. Her face is hard, her eyes burn with fury when she looks at me. Tossing the parchment into the bin along with Hedwig’s leavings, Ginny shakes her head and tries to cradle it in her other hand. Instead, she succeeds only in striking herself with the mobile. “Damn it.”
“You’re beautiful,” I declare, pulling her gently into an embrace, “though clumsy.” I kiss where she struck herself and hear her giggle. I adore the feel of the cool green silk as it flows over her soft skin. Her scent enchants me, the gentle perfume of lilies. She relaxes briefly in my arms before prompting me towards the suitcases and the door while she grabs Hedwig’s cage.
The cabby isn’t impressed by our avian accompaniment, but he is professional enough to attempt disguising it. I give him a twenty-percent gratuity when we reach Waverley Station, brightening his mood somewhat. The shops in the station lounge and my awakening anxiety try to entice me with the thought of purchasing a third bottle of whisky for the trip. Somehow I resist, though even as the decision’s being made, I’m not certain whether it is the correct one.
There is more behind my panic than the very real concern of making a complete arse of myself before her family. I don’t know what it is, but every time I go south by train, less so when I went to see Ginny, I feel miserable. London’s a beautiful city, and I love it when I’m there, but the trip always shatters my nerves. She’s strangely tetchy today as well. Her family can’t be that bad, can it?
Ginny, being sensible, opts for tea. Her strange silence belies the calm she displays to the general public. She smiles, but haltingly and without conviction. Consequently, the apprehension I had been experiencing is rapidly evolving into full-blown terror.
I don’t know whether Hedwig can sense our worrying or she’s simply reacting to having to spend the next few hours in another carriage along with dogs, cats, and other obviously inferior creatures. Whatever the cause of our owl’s alarm, Ginny convinces the porter that our dear, silly bird – a description that earns my fiancée an angry nip on the finger – will behave itself (and there’s a glower) inside our compartment.
Once we three found ourselves inside that small space, the cheer with which we had begun the day condenses into a corrosive tension. I wish I’d bought three bottles – I could murder at least half a bottle right now. Hedwig ignores the plight of her fellow travellers, ruffles her feathers importantly, and falls asleep. Ginny has taken to scowling out the window as the train exits the station. I’ve never seen her so nervous. She’s not having second thoughts, is she?
Sod it. I know of a decent whisky seller in the City and buy them a fresh bottle when we get to London.
Thank Merlin, he’s opened the bottle. I thrust out my empty beaker of tea and don’t let him stop pouring until it’s near the brim. What was I thinking? I hold the beaker out for another treble. I can’t look at him except by sidelong glances, even though the speeding countryside along with too swiftly consumed liquor is making me ill. He’s gazing intently at the bottle when he isn’t casting anxious looks at my face. Probably wondering why he’s engaged to a nervous lunatic.
Remember what you are, dearie. An unripe banana in this silly dress, thanks to all that bloody whisky. Ignore the voice that says, better out than in.
A chanced glance at Harry does nothing to quell my collywobbles. If anything, the little buggers have begun a lively Quidditch match in my stomach. Maybe if I drown them a little more... No, no more of that.
Sweet sodding hell. I wonder if I hit my head hard enough against the window I’ll knock myself out. Damn, he’s capped the bottle.
Having spent all of my concentration on the surprisingly subtle art of twisting the cap onto the whisky, I haven’t the will for much else. The cabin is spinning a bit too quickly for my taste. Turning the top seems to have accelerated its revolutions. I reach out and grab Ginny’s hand, hoping that will stabilise me somewhat. She gifts me with a stunned, pitying grimace, but I don’t let go. Her hand is the only thing stopping the cabin from revolving in a thousand directions.
Whatever I do, I mustn’t be sick. Perhaps if I tell myself that enough times, I might believe it. Maybe I should simply stare down the wall opposite so that it stays fixed.
I feel his hand in mine and my breathing becomes deeper. This peaceful feeling is contrasting brutally with the alcohol so instead of a beaming smile I manage a squeamish grin. Bollocks. But he doesn’t let go. The sickness-inducing countryside is forgotten as I slump back into my seat, clutching his hand tightly. It’s OK, I tell myself, they won’t, we won’t bugger this up. I look at Harry; he’s staring fixedly at the wall opposite, his face slightly paler than normal. Why do I let this boy make my life all pear-shaped?
Because you love him, you daft git. And I feel a smile flow across my face as I fall asleep on his arm.
One of these days I’ll have to find out her secret of falling asleep on trains. I always have this odd fear something will attack me.
I hope her recent relaxed state isn’t entirely owing to the two full beakers of whisky. It’s rare to see her drink so much. I have a shufti at the letter Ginny’s sister-in-law, Hermione, sent us. Unfortunately, it’s completely unintelligible as the small, neat handwriting shifts and curls around the parchment in my alcohol haze. The wall is quite interesting, isn’t it?
I wake thirty minutes later, my mind still well behind an amber curtain. A surreptitiously cast anti-inebriation charm later, and the world’s just a sepia wash away from perfect clarity. Harry’s nodded off, well mostly. The letter from Hermione’s in his hands. He’s too drunk to read it, he won’t remember if he did. I can’t even convince myself now. A little legerdemain and the letter’s in my purse. He’s trying vainly to keep his eyes open. The best time to ask some questions.
“Harry?” I whisper hesitatingly.
“Did you read the letter?”
He shakes his head. “Couldn’t.”
A sigh escapes me. Then, I recall vaguely something he said about how his previous girlfriend at that pub two years ago.
“Why did Siobhan break it off?” Hide the quaver in your voice, Ginny.
He snickered. Maybe he’s more awake than I thought. “Coffee pot,” he muttered. “Bloody carafe exploded, cut my hand. Said I was a menace.” He drifts off again. “Said I had nightmares, too.”
While slightly jealous that I wasn’t the catalyst to his recovery, it at least explained his reaction to the toaster. “Has something like that happened before?” I continued. “Other than that toaster. Anything odd?”
“Dunno,” he mumbles. He laughs again. “There was that time in a pub, when these lads started to get rough. Pint glasses bursting, the sods,” he chuckled. “Never bothered us again.”
“Do you remember anything before,” calm, Ginny, “before the car crash?”
“Football.” And the bastard grins. Men. It’s tempting to hex him, but in his present state half the fun would be lost. What if he’d said, “Quidditch”?
Who needs a drink? But the sight of the whisky bottle sickens me now. I take it from his hand and put it back in the carrier bag.
The train arrives at King’s Cross on time, five hours ahead of Hermione’s revised schedule. Nudging Harry awake, I hand him a bottle of water and a pair of paracetamol tablets. He moans his thanks and kisses my cheek. We collect our luggage and Hedwig, cabbing it to the hotel. Thankfully, Hermione’s made a special arrangement through the Ministry allowing us to keep Hedwig en suite. Even after two years of living amongst Muggles I forget such things.
I still haven’t told him. There’s enough residual effects of the whisky to dull the panic to a vague anxiety. I tell him we’ve a few hours before we’re to meet the family. Harry’s taking things in stride, though that may be because his head’s still careering from the voyage. Gryffindor, my arse. If I can’t tell the man I love I’m a witch by the date of the wedding, what kind of marriage would it be? I know it’s customary to inform the Muggle-to-be-married after when the joint marriage license/magical secrecy contract has been signed, but this is a special case.
As we pass the British Library en route to the hotel, I suggest returning there. He accepts even though I know he would either prefer to sleep off the drink or reacquaint himself with the local music shops. “A little culture would be good,” he replies with an honest smile. Instead, we end up shagging ourselves senseless, our mutual panic along with the lingering drink proving to be an irresistible aphrodisiac, much to Hedwig’s dismay. But with this pleasure comes pain: what if this is the last time, if when he finds out I’ve lied all this time he buggers off to who knows where, if he forsakes me at the altar, forever? The dam and dikes I’ve built to withstand the thought of his loss ever since I was a little girl burst. I wail horribly as I lay upon him: there can be no return to some antediluvian paradise. He embraces me tightly, kissing my face, pleading to know what’s wrong. But I can’t tell him, can’t bear to lose him.
And that’s what’s most wrong.
She begins to shake against me. I remember the first time we had sex, she started trembling awkwardly. Worried that I was somehow injuring her, I opened my eyes and look at her. Her face was beet-red, eyes brimming with tears, her hand over her mouth like an embarrassed schoolgirl, and the ends of her lips threatening to reach her ears. “What’s wrong?” I asked. She completely lost it. I’ve never heard anyone laugh so hard in my life. “You should see your face,” she managed finally in the brief pauses between bursts of laughter. So I started pulling faces like a schoolboy. I doubt I’ve ever had such a maddeningly enjoyable time in my life. Still, she occasionally giggles afterward. But as I feel the tears burning on my neck and shoulder, there’s no doubt she’s crying. I hold her tightly, entreating her to tell me what’s wrong. She won’t say but cries desperately, squeezes me as if she’s drowning, begging me between sobs not to let go. I can’t, I won’t.