I stand at the edge of the pond, stones dropping one by one from my trembling fingertips. It lies nestled among trees, this pond, on the far west side of my parent’s old farm, cradled lovingly by swaying branches and the veiled beginnings of a starry blanket. One at a time the pebbles shatter the calm surface of the water, sending gentle ripples into the distance. I have always liked the plopping sound they make when they hit the water and sink slowly out of sight. Every difficult moment of my long life has been thought out in this very spot. It’s refreshing out here with the birds and the red-orange sky of dusk. I sigh quietly to myself, realizing just how worn out I really am. It’s not just my body, not just my mind, not just my spirit, but the combination of the three that steals my energy from me. It is an exhaustion that reminds me that I am well past my youth.
I listen to the crickets as the sun sinks into twilight. They tell stories of when I was young and would swim in the pond, the cool water carrying my hair behind me like a ginger scarf someone has left to drift upon the surface. They sing of times when I would catch lightning bugs in a mason jar with holes punched in the top. Past the pond I can see the field where my brothers taught me Quidditch and I married my first true love. When I close my eyes I can remember watching my own three children running about with scabbed knees and toy broomsticks, during a time when they were young and carefree themselves. Oh, how the time passes you by…
The leaves are starting to change from their summery garb to the yellow-gold of autumn; rust colored and brittle, they float down to crunch beneath my feet on the well worn path that I have walked so many times. If I squint, I can see the smoke from the chimney drift over the red spruce trees as it fades into the evening sky. I know I am not ready to start the long walk back, not yet. My family will chastise me for sneaking out again, and I’d rather not listen to their fussing...
They, especially Draco, don’t understand my hunger to be in this place. I need to breathe, and I cannot breathe when I am caged up in a room, pinned to the mattress under heavy blankets and watchful glares. The low ceilings and oppressive attention steals the breath from my lips. Out here, where the crisp autumn air smells like honey in the back of my throat, the blood flows through my veins much more effectively than the potions and fluids they pump me full of these days.
As much as I have enjoyed my life, sometimes I wish I could go back to the dusty wood floors and the sunlight that streamed through smoke filmed windows, back to a time when there was always extra pie crust that my mum would let me eat on the back steps while I watched the gnomes race around the backyard. I want to go back to the days when skinned knees were kissed and the kitchen smelled of fresh cut lemons and sweet tea.
The Burrow has always been the one place I could always escape to when things became difficult. When I lost Harry in an automobile accident, I found its familiarity comforting. When our peaceful lives were shattered by the tragedy of Lily’s potions accident, while things were still touch-and-go, I came home to gather support and rally my daughter back to health. When I’d realized I was in love with Draco Malfoy, positive that my family would shun me, I still came home to ask for acceptance. I would come here to find peace, and somehow the ever-tightening knot of thoughts would slowly unravel and make sense once again.
Peace and laughter. I can almost hear the laughter of my brothers, my children, and my grandchildren echoing off of the hills and trees. I look across the pond and I can imagine my younger self climbing up the gnarled trunk of a willow tree, finding a hidden sanctuary amongst its bowed branches. Perhaps if I close my eyes, I can be there again—even if it’s just for a moment.
I kick my slippers off my tired feet and step slowly into the pond. It’s been years upon years since I’ve swam in it, relishing in the feel of the cool water sliding over me. Years have passed and still the water ripples about my feet, urging me to slip into its cool depths.
I turn onto my back, floating, and look up at the sky. I can see the first star of the night winking at me like it promises not to tell my family of this secret hiding place, but Draco knows. I’m sure he’ll send a search party out for me in no time, if he hasn’t already done so.
Draco is the only reason I feel bittersweet about coming here now. We’ve not had near the time I would have wished for us. I know he would rather be holding my hand through this than leaving me to my own devices and the tranquility I find in these woods. I think that in time he will understand. I hope he doesn’t hold it against me for too long. I wish I had more to give him, but I know my candle is almost out.
I wonder, if I had I known the feelings he hid from me during our Hogwarts days and the years following the war, would things have been different. Would I have married Harry? Would Draco have married Asteria? I would never dream of giving up my three beautiful children, nor would I want Draco to have been without Scorpius. Still, it saddens me that Draco and I never had a child together. He will have to remember me through my own and theirs.
I close my eyes and feel the water stroking my cheeks with soft and easy caresses. I can hear children laughing as the suns last beams dance across my face and down my body, glistening on the surface of the water like stardust. I watch my memories like a picture show behind my lidded eyes and let them relax me. It has been such a happy, fulfilling life…
It’s getting dark and I really should go home, but I think I’ll stay a little while longer and listen to the laughter that still echoes between the hills and through the forest like some elusive dream that has lost itself in waking. My heart swells with happiness, pride, and love – so much love – as I drift on these midnight waves and wait to be cradled in the loving arms of the land.
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