The Cocoon
By Rey

Chapter 1

The Black Hole residence, Kent, England, the United Kingdom
31st July 1998

Eighteen years old. I am an adult in the magical and non-magical worlds, now.

Strange. I don't feel any different.

Ironically, I don't feel any different, either, from the eleven-year-old that was yet to know anything about the undeniable existence of magic or the magical world itself.

It's my birthday today, but all of my measly number of friends and pseudo-family already have things to do, and everyone else likewise, making this small house all too silent and empty, like an oversized cupboard-under-the-stairs. Hermione is training as an Unspeakable while finishing her NEWT year and continuing her Muggle education. Ron is training as Keeper for the Chuddley Cannons. Neville is training as an Auror. Luna is training as the next owner and sole operator of the Quibbler. Ginny is training as a Seeker for the Holyhead Harpies. The Weasley family is still assisting other families in rebuilding their homes. Andy Tonks is in Saint Mungo's with little Teddy Lupin for a routine check-up regarding the concern of him inheriting the Werewolf condition from his late father. They have all sent me birthday cards and gifts, but they won't be present at all today.

In a way, it's worse than before I knew anything about the magical world, with their seemingly abandoning me on this important day.

It's not that I've got nothing to do to distract myself from the silent emptiness; far from it. I am attempting to address all loose and pending matters regarding myself, my conduct – and lack of it – throughout my short, horribly adventurous, terribly abnormal lifetime, my combined estate of the Houses Potter and Black, and also those that have somehow fallen under my purview by bequeaths from hopeful and/or thankful strangers, as I have been doing since a few months ago. But still.

And speaking about the mountain of terrible and terribly boring homework assigned to me, now I can say that, if I have been wavering in my opinion about one Albus Dumbledore, leaning towards forgiving him for everything that he has done to me, by this point I am much more inclined to despise him. This on-going, guilt-heaping, never-ending task is one of the culprits, aside from – surprisingly or not – Andromeda Tonks née Black, with her Pensieve and her shrewd, detailed analyses of events from a somewhat neutral point of view.

Growing up with a family of non-magicals who hated even the sight of me? Well, I could have grown up with Andy, a decent mother of one, who also has been brought up knowing how to behave as a child of an Ancient and Noble House; and I found only about a couple of months ago that I am the heir to two of those Houses, vast ones at that when it comes to the matter of estate and power – and therefore, expectations and influence.

Not knowing that the title of "Ancient and Noble House" does exist and what it pertains to? Again, this could have been solved by being raised by her – stable, decent, independently well-off, relatively obscure – family, if Dumbledore was so concerned about me being raised in an environment that would either kill me, or drain my coffers dry, or make me big-headed and/or evil.

There are many other blunders and deficiencies that could have been avoided if only I were raised "decently," and I would like to blame all those points on Andy's biases as a Black in blood and a grieving survivor of a wrecked family, but… well… I can't.

She helped me clear the air and negotiate for reparations with the goblins without having to bleed my vaults – I have vaults – dry. She has been educating me, however belatedly, on how to be a proper lord for not just my own House but also the House of Black that Sirius has left me in his will. (And how mad she was, when it turned out that I didn't know Dumbledore had represented me in the will reading.) She also dumped tomes of investment accounts and property list and family journals and so many others on my desk just after the business with the goblins was finished, with the blunt declaration that these are my inheritance that's more worthy, more tangible, nobler, more lasting and more weighty than heaps of gold. She is the one who informed me of the unanswered letters and unopened gifts that had been sitting un-thanked in one of the vaults deep in Gringotts by Albus Dumbledore's order. She is in fact the one who has been helping me answer the letters that used to sit in that vault, whether on their own or along with gifts; even those that have been cursed, rigged with some harmful substance, or contained unpleasant words.

And she has witnessed my waterworks in play more than once, when I tried to thank some senders of nice letters and gifts, only to have the owls I sent off return with the unopened letters within seconds, which, according to the book on post owl's characteristics, would signify that those senders were no longer among the living, not just enclosed within impermeable wards.

The waterworks, embarrassingly, haven't been exclusive to such instances, either. In fact, the worst happened when I matched the names of more than a few senders with the names of the various caretakers of Potter holdings, humans or otherwise, and realised that they had sent me letters, even birthday wishes and gifts; and, the most poignant of all, requests to see me to assure themselves that they were not going to be dismissed from my life and House's protection.

I have been loved and cared for in absentia, all my life, and I didn't know it. No wonder that it's so easy for fellow students at Hogwarts to dismiss me, even when I was being earnest. They never knew me, after all, and their previous attempts of reaching out to me before I had gone to Hogwarts had been in vain. And many had indeed tried to reach out to me before my Hogwarts years, in various ways.

Then again, I didn't even try to reach out to them when they tried once more at Hogwarts, on my own volition; too content with just Ron's friendship at first, then Hermione, then Neville and Luna, then Ginny…, and too afraid of losing their friendships, if I ever branched out.

Well, now, the consequence is: I have nobody indeed.

I flee to the small bar installed in the living-room, just so. It's all too much. I hate silence.

I wish I hadn't agreed with Andy not to apprentice myself to Bill Weasley for a curse-breaking career. I wish I had taken up Luna's offer to go with her for an Arctic, magical-animal-seeking expedition this summer. I wish I had taken my non-magical education alongside my magical one, so I could have the option to flee to the non-magical world when the pressure feels too much like this. I wish I could have paid more attention, more interest, more mind to the lessons my teachers at Hogwarts tried to impart to me, so my magical education wouldn't be just so-so….

Well, it's high time for me to forget it all for a little while, when I'm beginning to sound like Hermione.

So one bottle of Firewhiskey gets opened.

Then two, three, four….

I don't know how, I don't know when, but blearily, I realise I'm now curled up into myself, rocking back and forth gently, humming the broken version of a melody that, it seems to me, I heard a long, long, long time ago. In all the years, it has never failed to comfort me, to make me safe, to peak my drowsy interest, to cuddle me warmly….

And again, as I reach the deepest depth of my own self, something that I have rarely achieved in all recallable memory, the sensation of being cradled in a soft, all-encompassing something with somebody else replaces reality.

I could live here forever.