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Galen Ward

Mourn the years before I got carried away

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Galen Ward

Continued from here.

Galen sat on a random park bench in a suburb of London. He did not know where he was, or the name of the park, but he remembered that he had been to this place once when he was younger, while visiting family friends. It stuck in his mind because he remembered that he had pushed Margo in a mud puddle to show off to his friends, and she had cried.

By the time he realized that he needed a place to sleep, it was very dark and very late. In fact, it was too late, and he was not allowed to use magic. The muggle busses weren’t running, and it appeared that he was in a residential area.

Galen slept on the park bench that night, and early in the morning, a muggle police officer nudged him awake and told him to move along. Galen left without argument, because he was carrying a garbage bag and he looked like a hobo.

Once out of sight, he apparated into the city, where he wandered aimlessly. He bartered for a threadbare backpack in a thrift store, which cost him two shirts. Now, instead of a hobo with a garbage bag, he looked like a hipster.

While he considered his life, what to do with it, and where to go next, Galen sat in a dingy pub where he ordered a glass of water and told the bartender he was ‘looking for a friend’. He knew that Helvellyn Mountain was a safe place for werewolves, but he could not face Naomi or the others who lived there. Would they even take him? Galen thought about going to Diagon Alley, or King’s Cross, or Hogsmeade, but he feared the looks he would get. He worried that people would recognize him. Worse, he worried they would call him a murderer.

Perhaps, what Galen feared most, was feeling again. He had spent many days and nights alone in his cell, thinking about what he had done, what he could’ve done differently, how he could’ve done better - prison really was the ultimate time-out. Whatever he got, he knew he deserved all of it: the anger, the outrage, the backlash, the insults, the slurs, the misconceptions. But after so many weeks of this, feeling too much, it began to fade until he only felt empty. Now, back in the world, he couldn’t pretend it was all a bad dream.

When dusk came, he hailed the Knight Bus. He boarded with his head down, hair covering his eyes, and offered the driver a meager fare, made up of mostly knuts and a few sickles. He mumbled the name of an address and found a seat. Despite the hazardous ride, he pretended to be asleep until he reached his stop in Edinburgh near The Meadows.

The bus wooshed away, leaving him standing in a narrow street lined with flats. The house in front of him had a broken door, he knew, because it opened with a thunk when he tugged on it. He trudged up the steps to the second floor, where he paused in front of a door with the number ‘3’. After a few moments of contemplation, he knocked. For some reason, it seemed easier to knock on this door than the last.

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Hedwig Lane-Foley

Hedwig and Elodie had not spoken in almost four days. Lately, it felt like they were always not-speaking or almost not-speaking, verging on some sort of silence that clawed inside and glued firmly shut against the palette of their mouths.


“You know, you can just leave if you want to,” Elodie had said that morning, last week, last month, the other month—maybe even a year before that, or three. The conversation insisted itself. Elodie said, “you can leave,” and Hedwig said, “no.” Elodie said, “I don’t want you here,” and Hedwig said, “you’re lying.”


Elodie was just being stubborn. She seemed to have some idea that she was holding Hedwig back for as long as they were living together, as though Hedwig didn’t have a say in where she chose to be, and who she was with.


“I know you want to go and live with your boyfriend already; just do it.”

“No, I don’t want to move in with him; I want to live with you.”

“Don’t you have a salary now? Go back to Wales and be with your family. You don’t have to stay in this dump.”

“No, I don’t want to go back to Wales; I want to live with you.”


Elodie had thrown a kettle at her once. Hedwig had thrown more than one shoe in response. Hedwig was a lawyer now, after all, and good at any sort of debating.


In their breaking, all the while, Hedwig wondered if she was doing the right thing, and if maybe she was the one holding Elodie back from all the things her best friend might be.


“You know, you’ve been on clean up duty for Naomi for three years now. Don’t you think that you maybe you could—” During these conversations, it was Elodie’s turn to answer her. Could she be anything more? “No.”


Anytime they were having a fight, Hedwig liked to go for a run up Arthur’s Seat. She went in the early hours or later in the evening, before and after the tourists—when the only ones at the peak were other joggers and their dogs. There was peace at the top of that volcano she’d never found anywhere else. The sky was heather in colour behind monolithic clouds, as purple as foxgloves at the corners, and rust-coloured with the bleeding of the sun. It polished the wet grass golden, crumpling the green until it glistened and shone.


She sat there now, perched at the cliff top as the night set in, holding her palms against her eyelids. It was a cold October. The dirt was frosted and smothered with ice, but Hedwig did not mind it. She breathed, counted—one, two—her lungs entwined with air and with blood, reminding the muscle that she was still alive. More than that, Hedwig was happy. (She suspected this was most of her problem.)


Tomorrow, she promised herself that she was going to do better: she wasn’t going to be happy, she was going to be proactive. Hedwig had a list: before bed, she’d go home and check on Elodie (always the first of her priorities—always); owl the witnesses in the Dredgelock case; and then she would plan a confrontation with Seymour Mudgrove about the ‘issue of a peculiar nature’ in which he had not allowed Hedwig to participate. They were on a case; it was a secret. Her employers had been avoiding her these past few weeks, and Hedwig had grown overripe with curiosity. They wouldn’t be at their offices tomorrow, she knew, as she’d scheduled each Mudgrove with fake blind dates (courtesy of a desperately good catfish)—so if he refused to answer her questions, she could search through their files while they were away, being heartbroken.


Hedwig may have been twenty-two—somehow, somehow—breaching at the borders of adulthood, but she was still Hedwig. Hedwig would always be Hedwig. And Elodie would always be Elodie, she reminded herself. Somethings (at least somethings) never changed.


With a final breath, Hedwig disapparated from the top of the hill. It was not difficult to imagine their home. She and Elodie had been in their flat for over three years, since graduation. Hedwig knew the cause of each stain on the carpet, the number of mice they’d captured and released from the cupboards by the fridge.


Her body swirled and reappeared just in time to hear the knock at the door.


“Elodie?” she called out. “I’ve got to take a shower. Could you get it?”


No answer.


“Right, bloody typical,” she mumbled, and worked at opening the front lock. “Sorry!” Hedwig called through. “Thing's a bit sticky!” She wasn’t expecting guests, but it was possible that Elodie had ordered a package, like maybe a book called ‘How to Lose Friends and Alienate People’ or, as Hedwig so hoped, ‘How to Just Get Over it Already’. Maybe she even had a date.


The lock clicked, and Hedwig smiled as the door swung open. “Finally!”


Then, she looked. Suddenly, Hedwig wasn’t smiling anymore.




Heart-sick and shaken, Hedwig’s hand reached for her wand.


“Who are you? What are you doing here?” It had to be an impersonation. It had to be. Galen Ward had killed his sister; Galen Ward was in Azkaban; Galen Ward was not here, at the doorstep of her and Elodie’s home, bearded and sunken at the eyes, yellowing, looking at her like he couldn’t quite remember who she was.


“Is this some sort of crazy joke?”

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Elodie Aldridge

As Hedwig watched the sky fade to purple over Edinburgh, Elodie watched the sun die on Helvellyn mountain, more than a hundred miles away. She watched it leaking bright colors, weeping shades of scarlet, like a punctured organ. She watched it shrink to a bright, pulsing bead of light clinging desperately to the horizon. And she watched that tiny bead of light lose its fight with nature and slip, again, into darkness.


If Hedwig could see how the sun sets over Helvellyn, she would know that I’m all right, she thought. But Hedwig didn’t understand, couldn’t seem to understand. Elodie did not need more. She did not need to be more. Working at the dragon reserve made her feel useful. She liked working with her hands, liked the feeling of her soft fingers bleeding and tearing and hardening over into callouses. Her skin was sun-browned, as tough as leather, and she was impenetrable. Her body had risen to the physical challenge of the work and instinctively formed a protective shell around her.


At Hogwarts, Elodie had dreamed of greatness—of riches and renown. For months after Margo’s death, she had dreamed of nothing but pain. Lately, the nightmares had abandoned her for richer pastures and weaker prey.


But the good dreams had never quite returned.


Still, some of Hedwig’s nagging had seeped through the cracks. Earlier that day, Elodie had scoured Naomi’s property until she found an empty, abandoned shed. It was dilapidated, weak, and sagging, but she had already begun to rebuild. And she had nailed a sign to the door: The Aldridge Institute for Lycanthropic Research.


After the sun set, Elodie apparated directly back into her bedroom, so that she would not have to walk past Hedwig. She collapsed onto her bed and gazed up at the ceiling, arms splayed on the wrinkled sheets. When Hedwig called her name, as she always did, Elodie pressed the heels of her palms into her shuttered eyelids until her vision sparked. She ignored the summons and tuned out Hedwig’s words.


Then Hedwig’s voice changed—louder, pitched higher, spitting questions and disbelief.


Elodie sat up, her wand clutched in her calloused fingers (in case there was trouble) and apparated to the front door.


She had no time to steady herself, no time to adjust—one moment Galen was in prison and the next he was just there, standing on Hedwig and Elodie’s doorstep, looking like a ghost, like a wraith. Like a memory of a person.


Elodie started and stilled and stared, while Hedwig’s shock thrummed in her ears—too loud—and her heart hammered in her chest. How many times had she pictured this moment? How many times had she replayed the sight of him walking away from her, manacled, and how many times had she imagined his return? She had been hungry for it, desperate, for so long. And now he was back, and Elodie could not think of a thing to say.


She swallowed. “Galen?”

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Galen Ward

Her voice.

He heard it on the other side of the door. That was Hedwig’s voice. Oh no. He began to panic. In his head, everything was under construction. His mind filled with the noise of jackhammers and steam-rollers, which tore apart once-reliable streets, now cracked and riddled with potholes. His thoughts created detours and erected walls of doubt in their stead.

Was this a good idea? Did he really want to see them again? Of course he did, he was desperate for them. But did they want to see him? Did they hate him? Would they still think of him as a friend? Galen considered disapparating before she could open the door. He could disappear forever and never bother them with his existence.

But it was too late, and suddenly there was Hedwig’s face. It was beautiful, radiant, glowing from exertion. But her expression quickly changed to one he didn’t recognize. She went for her wand and he stepped back, hands going up defensively, uselessly. He realized that coming here was a mistake and he was about to go when Elodie snapped into view.

He stared at her, captivated by her eyes, her lips, the curve of her cheeks. He was so stunned that forgot to breath, so the air sat heavy in his lungs, building pressure in his chest. Then she said his name. His name. He dreamed of her voice sometimes, but it never sounded like that, thick with uncertainty.

Galen fought the urge to go to her and cling, and never let go. He realized how badly he wanted contact, just to feel the warmth of another body. But he didn't move. She kept him there, grounded. He let out his breath, a bad idea, because his eyes began to sting. Ashamed by his appearance, he looked down to hide his face.

“I-I need a place,” he started to say, his voice cracking with emotion. But what should he say - that he needed a place to stay? To sleep? To belong? He let the sentence go unfinished because he knew they would understand.

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Hedwig Lane-Foley

Her voice. His voice, and then it Hedwig’s again, as all of the things she might have said got lost like she was shouting in a river; all of her coherence was rushing downstream.


“Galen, I—” I didn’t know that it was you.


I knew you would get out someday, but you look so different now.


Hedwig wanted to tell Galen about the dream she’d had where they had been running. In her dreams, the three of them were always running, to each other, or from each other, so the dream was no surprise. But she wanted to tell him how in this dream they had been ageless, white in ways they were not white, and gleaming, tumbling in an underbrush of forest light, their mouths open and wide in reckless laughter, empty of sound, like the ringing of tin. They had been together, as they always were, in her dreams, as they had always been Before: the capital letter. Hedwig wanted to tell Galen that the dream had made her believe they might return to themselves someday. Capital letter: Someday.


But grief was a peculiar chemical. It made the eyes think ghosts could have skin.


I love you, but I will never forgive you.


“I’m sorry," she said instead, "I—didn’t realise. Come in, always, Galen, please come in, of course.” Hedwig's tongue was tangled with the weight of inadequacy, but she shouldn’t have had to say it at all—“Stay as long as you need.” That’s what the three of them did: they stood by each other, and they fought for each other, and they loved each other (even when they shouldn’t), even if they never said it out loud.


“We should sit,” Hedwig instructed. It would be her job to be stable. She closed the door behind him, picking up the backpack of all the things that Galen had brought. It was light in her hands. Galen hadn’t packed much, obviously.


“The living room’s to the left if that works for you. We haven’t cleared the table, so sorry for the mess. I can tidy up while you get... settled.”


She reached a hand towards him finally, her imprudent, horrible, dear, dear friend, and touched the red fuzz of his uneven beard. Their Galen had never been able to grow a beard, she thought.


“Later, we can get you a haircut, and maybe a shave.” Hedwig dropped her hand when she realised that it had been shaking. Absently, she noticed that she had been crying, too.


“Unless you want to keep the beard.” Hedwig smiled, somehow, her cheeks still wet. “I don’t know—I’m not sure you pull it off.” She kissed his cheek, just to prove it. “You're all scruff.”


To Hedwig, Galen Ward would forever be eleven-years-olds, red-faced and red-haired, laughing at students on the Hogwarts train; or twelve, trailing after his girls like a bug seeking out lamplight; but mostly, Galen was fourteen, red-faced this time for different reasons, for the linger and the watch of his eyes as they followed Elodie’s own, both their mouths chapped, their fingers bruised with a love that Hedwig had never been able to follow.


Oh sh—Elodie.

Edited by Hedwig Lane-Foley

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Elodie Aldridge

I’m not ready.


The thought struck her with a sudden, bracing clarity—the first, the only thought to break through the fog of Elodie’s confusion. Her initial surprise had left her breathless and numb, but she was more ashamed of her thoughts. How was it possible that she was not ready, when she had craved Galen’s release, his company, his safety and security? During the trial, she had hoped for a short sentence. She had worried about him every day he was in prison. His early release should have meant relief, not disappointment—so why?


It wasn’t that Elodie wasn’t ready for him to be free. She didn’t fear him. She knew that the creature that had attacked her and killed Margo was not Galen—it was the wolf and its hate, its insatiable hunger.


Galen had been punished, and Elodie was ready for him to be free. But she was not ready for him to appear on her doorstep, needing strength and support, needing bravery. Galen needed Elodie to be the girl who had held his hand when they were eleven years old and he had been blinded, the girl who had saved him from a spider in a broom closet, the girl who had told the whole world that she was a werewolf and (somehow) felt no shame. But what if that girl no longer existed? What if she had forgotten how to be brave?


Elodie watched as Hedwig took charge, murmuring reassurances and issuing directions. Hedwig instinctively pushed her fear aside and kept Galen from running. She stitched them all together, kept them from falling apart. Hedwig was indomitable—whenever they were faced with ruin, she pulled them back from the brink.


The selfish voice in the back of Elodie’s head wished that Hedwig would just make Galen leave.


Come back another day. Come back when I’m ready.


Then, suddenly—absurdly—the thought of Galen actually leaving made Elodie’s vision blur. She tried to blink away the abrupt onslaught of tears, feeling like a hormonal teenager again.


Finally, she stepped forward, past Hedwig, and pulled Galen in close. She buried her face in the crook of his neck, staining the fabric of his shirt as she cried. He was thin and brittle in her arms, and she feared that he might crumble, might scatter into dust and dreams and blow away with the wind. She instinctively pulled him closer, held him tighter, partly to convince herself that he was real and partly to keep him from shattering. They were both weak, both unsteady, and Elodie knew that she wasn't strong enough. But she could not let him go.


“Just—stay,” she whispered, hoarse, scared.

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Galen Ward

She ushered him in with a flurry of words, none of them questions, none of them accusations. She said: come in, sit down, get settled. He thought: I love you, I missed you, I’m sorry.

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Don’t hate me.

Galen took a few steps forward, uncertain despite Hedwig’s constant reassurances. She relieved him of his bag, but the weight he carried on his shoulders was heavier now than ever.

His eyes remained trained on Elodie until he felt Hedwig’s hand touching his cheek. He turned his face into her palm and closed his eyes, craving her acceptance. He wanted it, but he knew he didn’t deserve it. Still, she joked about his hair. She kissed his cheek. His expression crumpled because he could not believe that she could still care about him. Why should she?

Suddenly, Elodie was there, filling the space between them. Her cheeks, burning, pressed against his neck. He reacted instinctively, wrapping his arms about her shoulders tightly. He clung to her and hid his face in her hair, breathing in her scent.

Another word joined the others: stay.

He didn’t know what to say to that. He could hardly stand. He leaned on her to keep him up because he knew she would, she always did.

“I missed you,” he whispered in her ear, his voice wavering. He meant to say “I love you” before they took him away, but he couldn’t say it now. It wouldn’t be the same, even if it was still true.

Galen hated hugging. He hated crying more. And yet, here he was, hugging and crying because it seemed like the only sensible thing to do.

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Hedwig Lane-Foley

Hedwig stepped aside willingly as Elodie hugged him, willing to remove herself, as Elodie's body moved like a ship in the sea, taken by a stormbut Hedwig did not remove her gaze from the two as she stood by the door of the kitchen, waiting for a sign that she should go.


Of her friends, Hedwig had always been the most sensible. She’d had to be, because all of Hedwig’s friends were either werewolves or idiots. Why was it that all of Hedwig’s friends were either werewolves or idiots? Or both, she amended—Galen had always been the exception. Worse than that, however, was that Hedwig knew he was Elodie’s exception, too, in everything: and always.


Elodie was guarded as Hedwig had been guarded, and continued to be so—and she was logical, as Hedwig was logical, but she had not learned to temper herself the way Hedwig had. Between the two, Elodie was the one incapable of bringing herself back from a cliff. Jumping was a fondness; jumping was a thrill. Jumping was some sort of immaculate pleasure she would gladly die for. Looking at the pair of them now, Hedwig knew, too, and fiercely, that only thing she would ever die for (unquestionably—eyes dry, her head clearing, listening to that flicker of an electric bulb hesitating above their heads, twk, twk, which Hedwig had not repaired, still needed to repair, dividing already their love into lists) was Elodie.


Hedwig loved Galen, but Hedwig loved Elodie more than anyone, and she would die for Elodie before she let anyone hurt her again.


“I’ll go boil the kettle.” She excused herself. She would give them this moment, before she’d have to… be there, she thought. Be there for what? And when? Always. Or decide, she thought. Decide what? But this she did not answer.


Hedwig opened the cupboard where they kept the tea, immediately to the left of the fridge. Elodie had forgotten to eat the bagel Hedwig had packed for her lunch, or purposefully rejected it. It was sitting on the bottom self. Hedwig had thrown in an avocado, too. Elodie loved avocados. She opened the bag to check if it was still fresh, but it had moulted, raisin and brown at the rim. Absently, the witch thought of poison, and how it felt to occur in distances, too far from her own body, too close to her heart.


She boiled the kettle, and cried out above the scream, the sound of it whistling like a featherless bird.

“Two blacks, right?” Galen and Elodie had always taken their tea the same way. Hedwig preferred rooibos.


And Hedwig wasn’t irrational. She had always known that Galen would get out, and Hedwig had always assumed (or hoped) he would return to them. This was the coherent outcome: Galen Ward was out of Azkaban, and he had come home. Why was it then that this felt like a second, more threatening sentencing?


She needed to get back to them. Unequivocally, she needed to return. But Hedwig found she could not hold strength in her legs, her arms. She leaned for a moment on the kitchen counter, hands gripping to the lip of the sink, cold, her mind slipping into sounds of the drip from a faucet.


“I’ll be right there…” she said to no one in particular. Hedwig was still sweaty from her run. The sweat was beginning to cool, settling like a white film on her clammed skin. I just need a moment. Her head pounding like the empty kettle of a too large drum.


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Elodie Aldridge

Elodie knew that she could not let go, because if she did, Galen would fall. So she clung to him, salt on her lips, her fingers trembling, as though diminishing the physical space between them might help to shrink the yawning chasm of their pasts, their circumstances, and all of their mistakes. As though she could mend it all, just by holding on. But it was impossible. And that terrified her, because she could not lose him—not again.


She finally mustered the strength to pull back and look up at him, to touch his cheek. She took his face between her hands, taking in every minute detail. He was so thin, and pale, and broken, and Elodie did not know what to say to make it better. It’s all right? It wasn’t. It’s going to be okay? It never would be.


I love you?


She turned away, ashamed, and belatedly noticed her best friend’s absence. Her heart seized with a ridiculous surge of panic. She looked to the kitchen, but her throat was dry—and what would she say? Come back, come back, come back. I’m lost without you.


Elodie nearly laughed at the thought. She had been trying to convince Hedwig to move out for months. Now she couldn’t even handle being without her for two minutes. It was pathetic, really. She was pathetic, and needy, but that was nothing new. She had needed Hedwig like air since the Christmas Eve they were fourteen years old, when Elodie had knocked on Hedwig’s door scarred and broken and cursed, and Hedwig had let her in. There was love, and then there was love that was vital, that was necessary. Hedwig was vital.


She looked back at Galen. She’d thought she was so tough—that her skin had hardened, and her fingers were calloused, and that would be enough protect her heart. But Galen had always gotten under her skin. “I missed you, too,” she said finally. “Too much, maybe.”


Then Elodie untangled herself from him, and stepped away, and away again. It was a painful separation, like leaving a part of herself behind. A trail of organs. That was what it would take to stop loving him. “Stay,” she said, again, affirming the need. “We’ll figure it out.”

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Galen Ward

When she stepped away, he was cold again. He wanted her back in his arms, he wanted to feel her body heat, but Galen knew that he could not ask for it. Instead, he sniffed back his tears and hung his head, working hard to compose himself before Hedwig returned with their tea.


In an instant, the construction was finished and his walls were up. He wiped at his eyes and gave Elodie a short nod. The only indication he had been crying was the slight redness around his eyes. He would stay, of course, because he needed to stay - he had no place else.


"Yep," he answered her in a tight voice. Would they figure it out? She didn't know, he knew, but she was at least being nice. While the two of them waited in awkward silence, he chewed on his lower lip. It was chapped and raw and it tasted like blood.


He couldn't kiss her with these lips. He spoke up quickly to interrupt his thoughts, before they wandered further, to her hair, and her eyes, and her freckles -


"Er, my mum said you've got my stuff?" he asked, looking around their modest flat. "If-if you got rid of it, that's fine. I mean, I just don't have..." Anything. He raked his fingers through his hair, suddenly self-conscious about the tangles.



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Hedwig Lane-Foley

“We do,” Hedwig answered Galen’s question, perched at the doorway once more, and watching them. Her crisis had been averted, at least for now, and returned to its proper drawer (labelled: emotions, often problematic, to be opened only in times of absolute peace). That day was not today. Elodie needed her, and Galen needed his things.

“C’mon.” Hedwig gestured for the two to follow her to the living room. She dropped Galen’s bag at the end of their sofa, balancing the tea tray with her free hand. Hedwig was glad she’d aired the mattress pads out the week prior and gotten rid of that salt-mud-smell Elodie often brought home from Helvellyn. The windows were clean, too—open to the ochre of a night sky. Earlier, Hedwig had dusted the mantleplace. There was only one sock and one empty beer can trapped left by the tele—and one potted plant, sadly wilted, which Elodie had neglected to water. It was important to her (somehow) that Galen thought his girls were doing well, no matter how modest their quarters. Hedwig wanted him to think they’d been okay without him: not happy, but okay. Thriving would be reserved for his rehabilitation.

Hedwig blew on their tea, placed it down at the coffee table, and then popped up and winked (again, somehow) at her two best friends (together—they were together; silently, Hedwig’s heart ached in its corners) before leaving them again. On the way to the corridor, she scratched her fingers soothingly against Elodie’s shoulder blades, then vanished. Hedwig’s movements were as frenetic as the weather, and just as necessary.

“I’ll grab them,” she called back. “We’ve been keeping your things in the closet, along with our old brooms, Quidditch gear—gotcha!” At the back of the shelf, wedged behind boardgames and Christmas decor (a deflated Santa balloon, puzzleboards, and purple tinsel): the dufflebag that contained all that remained of Galen’s life. Hedwig had not touched it since their graduation, but suspected Elodie may have done in the years since—in her love for him, that wretched longing. It had lived quietly beneath the floorboards of their home for years, something unnamed and untraceable, but whispering, whispering.

Galen was in both of their blood, running through them, making them everything they were and everything they might have been, and would never be in the aftercare of his violence. Hedwig proceeded with caution, afraid she might unearth spirits, their former selves, hopes, dreams, and miseries with the padding of her too-loud feet—but she could not resist the return, touching Galen again on the cheek once she’d slipped the bag to his lap, sitting between them on the couch (Galen and Elodie had had their moment; Hedwig had allowed them the one; she had been merciful in this).

Gently, she leaned her head against Galen’s shoulder. He was weak, too, too pale, whitened like a ship’s masts in a ghosting of moonlight, but he would be strong enough to support her; he’d have to be. With her other hand, she touched to Elodie’s knee.

​"We lost Nietzsche though," she admitted. Galen's owl. "I'm sorry." Hedwig was sorry for more than the owl. But then, that was already explicit. What else needed to be said?

What are we supposed to do now?

Edited by Hedwig Lane-Foley

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Elodie Aldridge

He didn’t believe her.


That was new, wasn’t it? Hadn’t he always believed her before? From the day they’d met, and Galen had been blinded, and Elodie had told him that it would be all right, that she would protect him—Galen had always trusted her. (Even when she used him for illicit, possibly dangerous experiments.) She couldn’t help but wonder, now, if that trust between them had broken. They’d never made a promise to protect each other, at least not explicitly, but it was there all the same, and for Hedwig, too—


And they had broken it, the night Margo died. He had not protected her, and she had not protected him, or Margo—


The blinds fell over Galen’s eyes as they emptied out, draining of emotion. She wondered when he had learned how to do that. In Azkaban? What else did you learn?


As for herself, Elodie was still fraying at the edges, still unsteady. She clenched her hands into fists to hide the shake of her fingers and dried her damp face on her sleeve. She was relieved when Hedwig finally returned, full of answers that Elodie didn’t have. She sat on the couch when bid, Hedwig carefully ensconced beside her, separating her from Galen. She crossed her arms over her chest and waited.


This was the hard part—living between the death and tragedy and fear. Elodie knew how to react to adversity: survive. In the quieter moments, the safer moments, she was lost. And yet these moments were supposed to be what you survived for. Living was supposed to be the reward. So why was it so much more difficult for her?


She picked up the tea, needing to do something with her hands. She drank while it was still too hot, and scalded her tongue, but what did that matter, in the grand scheme of things? If you aren’t careful, the little things can kill you just the same as the big things, her grandmother had said once, when Elodie was a little girl and trying to refuse care of a skinned knee, trying to prove that she was brave. The little things—those were the hurts that snuck up on you and caught you unawares. They would just keep accumulating if you let them.


Like a missing owl, or a dead plant, or a scalded tongue. Like learning how to hide your pain. Like forgetting how to withstand it.


“Careful,” she said, to no one in particular. “Tea’s hot.”


Elodie untucked her wand from her waistband and summoned a box of biscuits to float out from the kitchen. She conducted it over to the coffee table, depositing the box directly in front of Galen. If Hedwig had made the offering, she would have picked something more filling and nutritious. At least the biscuits weren’t stale (probably). “Are you hungry? she asked. Tired?”

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Galen Ward

In another universe, Galen might have sprawled across their sofa like it belonged to him, leaving the girls to complain, each blaming the other for letting him in. While Galen imagined what might have been, he sat down gently, barely making a dent in the cushion. He grabbed a throw pillow and held it to his chest to hide his trembling. Just as Hedwig left to get his things, he let out a long breath and with it he released whatever emotions still lingered beneath the surface. The rest he tucked away to the back of his head, where he would deal with them later, like in the middle of the night when he couldn't fall asleep.


He kept his gaze trained on his knees, his expression blank, and he didn't dare glance at Elodie when she sat next to him. He watched her in his peripheral for a few moments before closing his eyes. He was so tired...


Galen startled when Hedwig returned, pulling his face away from her hand (which he immediately regretted). He blinked at the bag in his lap but decided not to open it. He already felt too exposed, and he worried that he might find something inside that would remind him of Margo. At least, in this hollow state, he managed to stay relatively composed. He only relaxed when he felt Hedwig's head on his shoulder. He watched her fondly, wondering where he would be if they shut him out. It felt nice to be wanted by someone.


Even though he didn't want any tea, Galen sipped it politely. "Both," he grunted in response to Elodie's question. Galen knew he needed food because his stomach hurt, but he was not hungry. The biscuits smelled like sugar, which made him nauseous, but maybe that was dehydration. The tea certainly wouldn't help with that.


Cautiously, Galen swiped a biscuit from the box and chewed on it slowly. His mouth was so dry that it was like eating a saltine cracker. He swallowed and reached for another, and then another, until finally the box was nearly finished.


"Oh...sorry," he mumbled pathetically.

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Hedwig Lane-Foley

Hedwig’s hands did not move, but she could feel Elodie’s pulse beneath her fingertips. Elodie's knee was too hot, the skin dry. There was dirt there, and blood, and freckles, and lint from the sofa top—bruises, too, blueing and open like the eye of a great moon. They were unknown wounds from the girls’ days of distance. Each colour had its own reflection, and absurdly, Hedwig fixed to their marks. This was a physical wound, she thought, and through it, Hedwig could make sense of a pain she could not speak. All the while, Elodie was a constant surface when the world did not make sense.


Elodie summoned biscuits from the kitchen; Galen began to eat; and Hedwig closed her eyes, still leaning on his too-frail shoulder, reforming the shapes she’d made of her own life. The Gryffindor had categories: Before and After magic; Before and After Galen; Hogwarts, and Now. Where was she? What was permanent? Them; this. What was different? Everything. And where was she meant to fit in? Between them, always—the three of them had been like a home. But there were other, less calculable objects chewed between Galen’s teeth like the gum of his biscuits: the question of how love could be love without allowing the bloom of affection, or how they were meant to live in a world outside the castle walls, brutalised, or feared.


Hedwig had never read a manual for a thing like this (she'd doubt there'd been a cause to write 'REHABILITATING YOUR WEREWOLF BEST FRIEND WHEN HE GETS OUT OF PRISON', and Hedwig refused to be the first). Maybe she should have spent more of the past three years preparing for a tragedy, however, rather than moving on. Hedwig’s mind dripped to the former hour at the top of Arthur’s Seat, and she soaked again in the guilt of her progress. She had a career, and Dictys (her heart brightened), and hope. What did Galen have?


An appetite, inherently.


Hedwig stared at the near-empty box from between thick lashes, and laughed—suddenly, sudden, too loud, perhaps, but her ribs opened, and the sound burst like air from a tire swing.


"You're fine," Hedwig answered. "It's fine." We're fine. They weren't, but maybe...


“We should all get some rest, and I can make a proper breakfast for tomorrow." Inherently.


Later, later. They had a later. They had a now, and they had their past: but they also had a future, however bitten, however crescent and diminished its shape. Perhaps, they could begin to forge a new life—tentative, uncertain, built on sand and not on stone, but Hedwig would erect each brick, and keep rebuilding until she could remember their form as they were. Fractured, perhaps a little bit broken: but shining impossibly with light. She smiled, nuzzled into Galen’s shoulder and looked to Elodie to confirm it.


Sometimes, maybe even Hedwig needed a person she loved to tell her it would all be okay.


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Elodie Aldridge
“Hang on, are you implying that biscuits aren’t proper breakfast?” Elodie asked, forcing a laugh past her dry throat, her words shaped with a burning tongue. She told herself that it would get easier—this, them. That they would be normal again, someday. That they would find their way back to their familiar rhythms, the jokes and taunting, the too-loud laughter, the eyes brimming with mischief, the familiar love. Her love for Galen and Hedwig was as soft and timeworn as any love she carried, and she knew it well enough to follow her way back.

More importantly, Galen and Hedwig needed her to find her way back.

Elodie nodded at Hedwig’s look, then reached out, past Hedwig, to fasten her fingers around the back of Galen’s neck. Then she pulled them all together, a messy knot of limbs, uncomfortable and perhaps too close (but at the same time, not close enough). For a few seconds, Elodie held on mercilessly to the two people she loved most.

“We’ve still got each other,” she said. “It’ll do.”


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