I awoke in what was obviously a boy’s room, struggling to figure out exactly how I’d ended up here last night. Quidditch posters covered most of the hideous dark blue floral wallpaper, but it was the Gryffindor banner which clued me this was the room of their eldest. Wallace, William, Walter...I couldn’t remember his name right now. He’d been a page boy at Jamie and Lily’s wedding. I did remember that much. The last definite memory I had from last night was sinking to the floor when Sirius had left. Too weak to resist any longer, I let the pain and emptiness crash into me, and I felt things that I hadn’t allowed myself to feel in three years, three months and eleven days. Not since the last night we had together, the night before Sirius had married… Her. Jamie had rescued me in the early hours of the morning, carrying me home and holding me as I wept. He stayed with me all day, not really saying anything, not promising me anything, just being there. He missed his best mate’s wedding to care for me. Sirius was thankful for Jamie’s actions that day as well. By the following morning, the heart-searing pain of their first night had passed, and I had constructed the wall behind which I had hidden since. I became the shell in which I existed but didn’t live. In the ensuing years, I would catch Jamie watching me, hoping for some signs of life. I know it saddened him when there weren’t any. I wanted to be the girl from his childhood, but I just wasn’t able to do so anymore. The only glimpses he caught of her were brought out by little Harry. He’d died without really seeing me smile again. I couldn’t imagine how disappointed he must have been in me and the way I lived.
“Would you just tell me what has you so happy?” Jamie yelled at me from across the lawn. I was turning lazy cartwheels in the grass, my shoes off so I could feel the warm dew on my feet. “You’re—you’re making me barmy this morning.”
“I can’t tell you, it’ll make you upset,” I told him, knowing he’d blow up something if he knew what was making me happy. Whenever Jamie did accidental magic, he blew up something. Finding out I’d snogged his best friend last night would definitely make him angry enough to do accidental magic.
“Ellie, if you’re this happy, then it won’t make me upset,” he tried to promise me; however, I knew better. We’d been at the summer house for two days, Sirius was already here, and he was waiting for us. He’d confessed that he was sweet on me three days before the end-of-year exams. It had been ten whole days since I’d seen him, but I knew I wanted to confess that I felt the same way, then snog him. Thankfully, Jamie ended up in trouble and had to stay in and do chores after dinner last night. That gave Sirius and me time to be alone.
“Nope, it will make you upset,” I said, again turning myself upside down and then righting myself. “It’s my secret.”
“Nothing would make me angry—well, except a bloke making moves on you. There isn’t anybody good enough for my little sister,” he announced, and I fell out of the cartwheel and landed on my head with a rather ungraceful flop. James had always felt this way; no boy would ever be good enough for me, and whomever I wanted to go out with would have to get past him. I was thirteen, almost fourteen; his attitude was already old.
“What made you say that?”
“Because I don’t know anyone who would be good enough for you, Ellie.”
Just then, Sirius ambled up; he waved at James, but smiled at me, and I could tell he was thinking about last night, too. A blush bloomed in my cheeks just from remembering his lips on mine, his hands holding my hips as we embraced.
“Sirius, agree with me here, there isn’t a bloke alive who’s good enough for Ellie, right?” James asked, interrupting my pleasant memory.
“There might be one,” Sirius said with a smirk, “but for the most part, nah, she’s just too sweet,” he said, and thankfully James didn’t notice that Sirius couldn’t take his eyes off me, and I was having a hard time breathing from remembering the amazing sensations of our private time.
“See, Sirius agrees, so please, tell me what it is that has you so happy.”
I tipped my head to the side, my forefinger tapping my chin in mock contemplation. “Nope,” I said shaking my head. “Just accept I’m happy, Jamie, I’m very happy,” I told him, returning to my cartwheels in the grass.
“I give up. Sirius, we’re gonna have to work extra hard to keep the guys away from her. Pinky-swear, no boys near Ellie till she’s thirty,” James said, holding his little finger up to his best friend. Sirius took it in his and they shook the requisite number of times.
“I promise, no other boys near Ellie,” Sirius said, looking at me with a knowing smile. I couldn’t take it anymore; I just started giggling and ran off to the tree house.
I sat up in the bed, wondering what time it was. When I Summoned my watch to me, I realized I had slept through the morning and it was nearly noon. I needed to go in to work for a while today, to tell them I was taking a few months off to figure out what my life was going to be like now. I didn’t currently have an existence that lent itself well to a toddler. There would need to be changes. My mind started cataloguing all I needed to do.
I needed to find out what had happened last night, where Jamie and Lily’s bodies were. There were burial and memorial plans needing to be arranged. There were the basic necessities of clothing and nappies and such that Harry would require. I had to do some shopping today. There was the issue of my work. The potions I was experimenting with would need to be given to someone else or set into stasis.
I rose from the bed and dug through the clothes I had brought with me. I would need some new things if I was going to be home with Harry now. I couldn’t wear my work robes around a toddler. It would be too easy for him to get caught up in the flowing sleeves or the long hems. He was going to need clothing as well. Professor McGonagall had told me that what was in his small case was all they could salvage. I couldn’t even wrap my mind around everything a little boy should have. I hoped Molly would be able to go shopping with me. She would at least know the important things, and what was best for Harry. I also needed to take care of a permanent place to live. Remus had been living with Jamie and Lily; I guessed our new home would need to be big enough for him, too. Jamie and I had made a promise to each other that we’d always take care of him, since it seemed the larger society didn’t care. I’d appreciate his company and help with Harry. The little guy loved his Mus. The feeling was mutual.
I pulled out a pair of jeans; they were ripped and patched, but they were the best ones I had. It struck me how I’d purchased them on a shopping trip before our seventh year with Mum and Lily. They were both now gone, but I still had this ratty pair of denim. I grabbed the Quidditch jersey from in my bag. As I slid it over me, I realized I had grabbed Jamie’s and not mine. I had stolen it from him not long after the shopping trip.
“Ellie, give me back my jersey,” Jamie said. I was trying to help the guys pack. We were supposed to leave Hogwarts in a few days for holiday, and there was junk all over their room. I couldn’t tell whose stuff any of it was. “Potter” on the back of the jersey let me know it was Jamie’s, otherwise it could have just as easily been Sirius’ or Remus’. They were all slobs back then.
“Nope, I want it. I need something to sleep in,” I told him, quickly shrinking it and putting it in my pocket.
“Why would you want to sleep in your big brother’s jersey?”
“Because it reminds me how you’re always there and you’ll always take care of me,” I told him and it made him smile. He drew our secret symbol in the air, the one we’d make at night before we went to sleep as kids. We’d started it when I was five and I’d been having recurring nightmares involving an old hag, a dragon and soup that featured me as the main ingredient.
Jamie and I could see each other if we left the doors to our bedrooms open, but once lights were out, we couldn’t talk, a Mummy rule. So one night, James made up the symbol, a rough outline of a bird in flight: an arc, half a circle bump and another arc. We had agreed that, when he made it, I would make the symbol back, and he’d know I was okay.
Standing in their dormitory, I made the symbol back, but Jamie could see in my eyes I really wasn’t all right. I wasn’t sure if I would ever be all right again. I was losing hope that the mess Sirius and I had found ourselves in was going to end well. I had just had a crying jag with Lily, weeping that perhaps all fairy tales didn’t have a happy ending after all.
Jamie wanted me to come and live with him and Lily after they were married, but they didn’t need his sister in the house as newlyweds. Mum and Dad wanted me to live at home, but I refused them as well. I had our flat — no, it was now my flat — and I’d be fine alone. In my bones, I could feel that I was destined to be this way. It would make it easier on those who loved me, to not live with my anguish.
“You won’t be in the same house as me anymore, Jamie, I need the shirt as a reminder,” I said quietly, hoping no one else in the room could hear us. Jamie closed the distance and smothered me in his embrace.
“Wear it then, and think of it as a hug from me.”
I wrapped my arms around myself in my brother’s torn and worn-out jersey, and tried to feel the comfort I had felt that day, but it wasn’t the same. I could feel the tears and the pain coming on again, but I didn’t have time for them now. I pushed them away, vowing to simply get through today. I quickly cleansed my mouth and pulled my hair into a loose ponytail and headed downstairs. The noise of a family this large reached me as I neared the bottom floor, and I was suddenly thankful for the eight children who