I land with a soft thud under the weeping willows of Hampstead Heath. The bristly tendril branches with their soft leaves brush against my face as I close my eyes before daring to look over at the Macmillan family cemetery. The headstones barely glimmer in the dull light of early evening. The sun has not yet set and the moon has not risen, so the evening is like me right now: no sense of direction but a direct sense of what I need to do after I leave here.
Susan and I paid a visit
to those who were taken from us right after we left our reception
. Ernie’s death seemed to too near to really even have it sink in that he wasn’t a part of our special day and we didn’t come here that night.
Clutched in my hand is a piece of the Wood family tartan that was Oliver’s gift to us for our wedding. I approach the small wrought iron-gated plot area and whisper a charm to open it.
"Not to dwell," I utter quietly and the lock squeaks open. Not to dwell...
That password was Mrs Macmillan’s idea. In his will, Ernie stated that he never liked the idea of people standing, mourning over his grave. I can understand that, but somehow it’s easier talking to a stone than to the air while standing in a crowd of people who think you’re mental or something. Not that I haven’t done that, mutter here or there, Why you?
out loud in public. A thought that should have been an inner muse, but bursts out of you is because secretly you hope that in that crowd somewhere is someone who can answer your question.
I place the tartan over Ernie’s stone quietly and joke that it would have made a better kilt.
"We missed your Scottish Country dancing at the wedding, mate," I tell Ernie.
A chill comes over me as the wind of the coming Autumn pulls the willow’s long branches and the tiny leaves whip against my jacket and make the tartan stand out straight from the stone like a flag.
I close the metal gate, sliding the bolt into place and wishing I could lock up bravery inside me as easily as I lock this gate, just for long enough get home from Greece in one piece.
Oliver and Dean are meeting me inside Hampstead Heath. I walk up to the door and Mistletoe let’s me in without so much as a knock. I hand my jacket to the house elf and watch as leaves fall from it onto the marble floors. No one comes to pick them up. No one really lives here anymore.
The house is maintained as far as structure and overall cleanliness. The chandeliers sparkle still, but the light seems white, not the basking kind of glow they once had when you didn’t have to stare right up at them to even register that it isn’t dark in here. It’s just devoid of the voices of children and family.
I walk into the sitting room and Oliver comes over to me and claps me on the shoulder. He made me promise at my wedding that I would protect Susan and I will keep that oath. I made that promise to him in front of Susan, and I hope Oliver and I live to face the music for what we have done by slipping away to Greece to destroy the Horcrux without her and Lavender.
"Liam loves Lavender and Lassie. He’s lost enough. We can’t all go off now can we?" Oliver says, running his fingers through his hair nervously as if trying to justify us not taking Susan and Lavender with us. "And Lavender, she’s only now just feeling her old self again," he reminds us.
I nod at him, feeling like I should be rehearsing our return speech as well, but somehow with what happened to Ernie the last time we left on a journey such as this, I don’t want to. I want to hear Susan’s angry voice, yelling at me for being stupid, even feel a stinging slap cross my face. I want to feel alive. It’s not the first fight I’d imagined we’d have in our married life...I’d kind of hoped it’d be a punch on the arm about not wanting to make love for the seventh time in one night and to leave her alone to get some sleep. Okay, so a bloke can dream can’t he?
Dean overhears us talking about Lavender and Susan and shudders just thinking about having to face Padma when we get back. I think he means if we get back...
He tells us that he kept a lot of things from Padma in the past and it was nearly the end of them as a couple, but it’s nothing compared to what we’re about to do now. He looks uncertain about that. I’ve always meant to ask Dean about his years before I got to know him after school. Somehow, we always end up drunk and having way too much fun to talk about something he seems to want to hide. If we live through this Horcrux hunt in Greece, I’ll ask him about it then.
Olga stands up and thanks us for our part in the research into what happens to a Portkey when it’s eaten, and Tav, at least I presume it’s him, raises a drink with an umbrella in it to me. He’s wearing some sort of Muggle bleach bottle with accordion plastic hose on it and retractable eye and mouth holes that seem to be made of Pez dispensers. Olga rolls her eyes and tells him he’s lucky he didn’t insist on wearing the other homemade part of his Storm Trooper outfit because she was having no part of helping him out of it.
"Well I ordered my real costume for Fancy Dress at Halloween a month ago, but it’s not in yet," Tav complains, his voice echoing inside the bleach bottle making him sound more like Darth Vader than a Storm Trooper. If Darth Vader was on steroids that is...
Mistletoe brings us some drinks. I think the poor thing just poured one of everything, so happy to have someone to look after.
"Mr and Mrs Macmillan says Mistletoe is to take care of Master Ernie’s friends," she cries. "Yous must come here in times of joy and Mistletoe will take care of you just like she did for her Master Ernie." The poor house elf is next to tears, her protuberant eyes shining brightly.
"I might need a place to stay for a few days when I get back, depending on how mad my wife is. We don’t have a dog for me to bunk in the doghouse with, so I’d be honoured to stay here," I say to the house elf, only half joking.
"Mistletoe will make the preparations in advance should you need her hospitality, sir," she claps happily, running off down the hall grabbing towels from cupboards as she goes.
"It really feels empty," Dean says and Oliver and I agree. Someday I hope to get the blokes together to have a game of hockey on the lake just for old time’s sake.
I plunk my bag of supplies down for inspection and realize that there is no one here who wants to question me about what’s in them. As much as it hurt not to be trusted, it hurts more to miss Ernie. This whole thing feels wrong but it’s the only thing we can do.
Oliver, Dean, Olga, Tav and I all raise or glasses of whatever we’ve grabbed from the tray.
"To finding forgiveness when we get home!" Oliver calls out and we all take a drink.
"To dog houses and mad girlfriends and wives," Dean says grimly, trying to smile.
Just as I open my mouth to say something stupid, Tav interrupts me. "May the Force by with you!" he bellows, the tip of his umbrella going through the eye opening of his homemade Storm Trooper mask.
"Why are you wearing that thing, Tav?" I ask, finding nothing more suitable to say and thinking that if the Force exists and includes Dumbledore and Chief Cheshire and others like them, then if they are with us, we can’t fail.