A/N: What's that they say? Live life with no regrets?

At 11:59pm and a test tomorrow I haven't studied for plus a ton of other stuff to do, I'm starting to hame some...

But anyway, hope you enjoy the chapter. Take the above comments as the result of a sudden striking passion for this new story. I really like Kevin.


Chapter Four: Stuck at Home


In the following days, stuck inside my parents' home, I found myself thinking more about Ed and Al's argument, and the answers that had only seemed to bring about more mysteries and new questions. Mostly, the emotional strength and impact of the argument had lingered with me - it had been stronger than anything I had seen with my own two eyes, like something vivid and fresh out of a book, but disturbingly real.

I felt it had been… an old argument, a familiar, and well-worn one, but still fresh like a gaping wound that had never healed over.

Why did I feel this pain when it wasn't even me?

I thought I knew.

Like the saying went: If it was too good to be true, it probably was. There was always a cost for everything.

After the peak, comes the fall. I was left feeling disturbed, after the cheeriness of the first day of the break, like a sudden void I hadn't known existed now filled me. My mind knew nothing else to grasp at, but the tenderness of the sorrow of that day, the way it had deepened colors in my mind, and I fixated on it, so much so that I might've felt I was going mad, drawing away the feeling of it with my penetrating thoughts, that seemed so keen on dissecting it, rather than truly feeling it. By the end of the hour, I felt like an unempathetic beast and was thoroughly sick of myself.

So I went outside, and sat in the lawn, and instead watched the trees move in the breeze.

It helped, and helped me abandon my thoughts, and just take in the slow stimuli, see the trees brushing back, letting ideas ferment in the back of my mind without my active guidance. It was like my head was a pot of brewing beer, which needed my careful stirring, but the little seeds I planted would do their work, constantly, in the background. It was sometimes frustrating, but if I fed the pot well, the seeds would flourish and I would gain some rewarding fruits.

Or so the theory went.

In those moments, feeling somewhat disconsolate, desolate, lost, and miserable, I couldn't quite convince myself that it was worth it. For the first time, I quite wished that I hadn't had a head at all and was like those vapid, stupid Hufflepuffs.

… Immediately, I regretted the thought, and did my best to return to my staring of the tree leaves.

Soon enough, after repeating this pattern several times, on Day Four, I got bored, and trekked back inside.

"Mom, Dad," I called out. "Do you want to do something?"

Since it was break, they had promised to be home. They were used to me being reclusive, so hadn't bothered me much, for they were much the same as well - always involved in their work, their own books, their own worlds. Yet, when I called, they peaked their heads from their rooms looking down the bannister at me, faces surprised.

"Sure, Kevin," Dad said finally, trading a look with Mom. "What do you want to do?"

"I don't know," I said, somewhat petulantly. "We could play a game?"

"That sounds like a great idea," Dad said kindly, though I thought, perhaps a little fakely and indulgently, but they both made their way down the stairs and I was happy.

"How about… Risk?" Mom suggested, once they were both down. Her mouth curved into a hooked grin. "I know I can beat you all pretty bad at Risk."

"You're truly a warmongering nation," Dad told her dryly with a smile. He looked at me. "I suggest Monopoly, for investment practice, but you may be the Master Decider of the family, Kevin, as you have called this meeting of the Family."

I thought for a second. I knew the truly safest option was to pick something neither of them had said, but I actually really wanted to play Risk, now that it had been mentioned. It was a low-effort game, that, while it had some strategic dividends based on locational placement and troop allocations, mostly relied on luck and the roll of the dice when it came to battle.

Monopoly was the same, really, except Dad somehow always built up his properties into hotels before me, and I found it was annoying to lose to him when he bragged about how good his hotels were when I hadn't even wanted to land in his spot to begin with. Monopoly was stupid.

"Risk," I decided firmly. Mom clapped a victory dance and Dad made an effort to look upset.

The game started pretty normally. We set down some pieces, claimed our territories randomly. Dad definitely got an advantage in the beginning, nearly claiming Europe entirely for himself, but Europe was so contentious to hold, able to be attacked on all sides, that soon Mom had gotten a foothold into the country. For my part, I was holding South America, a secure position, and parts of North America, but I had poor expansion opportunities.

"Cognitive dissonance," Dad suddenly announced, looking at the table. "I am thinking two opposite things about this game - and I can't seem to reconcile them. I believe that mother's Russia will be impossible to defeat, yet I am absolute firm in my own victory."

Dad sometimes did this. He would announce "vocabulary words" at the table, and try to incorporate them into some game. He was scarcely really ever subtle about it, but he fancied himself so, so Mom and I usually played along with it.

Dad was a psychologist. Mom was a social worker. They worked, somehow, pretty well, both taken by their own causes for the world.

I wish I could admire them for it, but in truth, I felt rather bitter about what they had made me into, through their accumulated dreams, if I thought about it for too long. But no - that wasn't the truth. I had made myself, and chosen myself, just as much as they had influenced me. Even if I was young, just a child they would say, I had decided to think the way I do, and hunt for scraps of knowledge, and take some spiritual, deep joy in how they pieced together. It was - my own fault, if I was cold, and maybe also lonely for it. I felt rather fatalistic about it, to be honest, and by the time the game of Risk ended, I realized I had been quite unsuccessful in diverting my own thoughts.

When the game had ended - my mother had won, as she had initially predicted and Dad's vocabulary quiz had forewarned - I bid them good night, smiled like I should, and went to sleep. The day had felt like a dream. It felt like Hogwarts had been all a dream, and Ed too, and that day at the orphanage. Now I had returned to my real life, my dreadfully real, dull life, where nothing ever happened and everything stayed the same and everything was just listless. I had nearly managed to convince myself of it as I sat in bed and stared at the ceiling.

That night, however, an owl crashed into my windowsill, pecking insistently when I hadn't gone immediately to inquire after it. After staring at it blearily, for a moment wondering why it was there before I remembered, as if in a haze, the existence of the Wizarding World, this craziness that had come to occupy my life, and so I then rushed to the window to open it and pull the letter from the talons of the owl, who squawked indignantly and soon flew away quickly after.

Ed had owled me, asking me - practically demanding in his loudly friendly way - why I hadn't come back already to visit, like I had promised. I stared at the letter, not having even considered coming back so soon as an option. For a moment, excitement rose in me before I smothered it down.

But having experienced the loneliness of the last days, I wasn't sure if I wanted to. If I went there again, and had so much fun like last time, would the feeling grow worse? Could I even have fun, if I was feeling like this, and so afraid of this void?

I hesitated over the letter, and dawdled, and gave myself a million excuses.

I was sick. I felt terrible. Awful. I was dying. There was a hurricane coming through my area. I didn't want to see anybody. I was upset at Ed for not telling me what was going on. I'd only meet Ed if he told me immediately what was going on in an uncoded letter - which I knew he wouldn't do. I considered lying and saying I hadn't had fun at all the first day, that I had just been lying. I considered saying that my parents had grounded me for all the prank-pulling I had done (in fact, they had been very proud of me, even if they hadn't said so directly). I considered saying that I was sick, felt lonely, and that I didn't want to feel lonely again so I didn't want to ever see anybody ever again.

Most of my options involved lying, which didn't appeal to me and burned me in the wrong way. My last option was too much the truth and I knew I'd never write that down, ever. I was left with the option of either giving in, or not responding at all.

I seriously debated the merits of the latter option.

But it wouldn't be fair to my friend, and since I had little else than the codified list of morals I kept in my head to guide what I felt to be my dubiously immoral and cold heart, I decided to go along with it.

So I gulped, swallowed, and wrote back to Ed that, "I'll be there tomorrow." Looking around, I realized that the owl had already left, then decided that this all was stupid, I had no way to reply to him at all, so I could pretend I just had never gotten the letter at all or never knew how to respond and I'd just see him at Hogwarts again.

Then another tap came on the window. I looked up, wide-eyed, to find the owl there again. I opened the window quickly, to find another letter in its talons, and opened it with shaking fingers. This time, the owl stayed.

Sorry, my stupid owl came back without your reply letter. Tell me when you are going to come or else we're all gonna come after you.
-Ed

A grin broke out on my face, despite myself, and I added a P.S. to my letter, before tying it to the owl's talons.

Your owl's not stupid, he problably just forgot. Anyway, see you tomorrow, and tell Al, Alice, Bart, and Nicko that they better not have forgotten me! 'Cause I promise, from now on, I'll be there so much you'll be sick of me by the end of the break. Be careful with your threats, Ed, you might get more than you wanted!