Here it is then; the last chapter of The Edge of a Knife. Nine chapters might seem short, but when you consider that it is over 30 000 words long, it puts in a different perspective, doesn't it? I hope you enjoy it, and don't worry; Book 2 isn't far away now. Just a little further.

*******'

"I will see you again to-morrow.

I will see you again in a million years.

I will never know your dark eyes again."

-Carl Sandburg, "Valley Song" (1918)

******'

It's official. I hate my life. Do you know how much the sixth year books weigh? I swear, I nearly broke my back when I tried to lift my trunk. Not to talk about how annoying Mrs Parkinson is when she tries to help me pack. I told her I had already packed everything, but oh no, she wouldn't listen. Annoying woman. I'm amazed Mr Parkinson can still stand her.

I said goodbye to Draco, Pansy and Millicent, and climbed into the carriage that would take me home. Unease came over me once more; just the thought of spending any time in a home where my mother would force me to study, and my father was never home made me edgy. My sister would be coming to me with her questions again, and I would have to feel my anger rise as I answered them. Sometimes, I hate my family. Why can't they just get along and get it over with?

I know divorce is out of the question; it's against the traditional Pureblood marriage law, but they could at least resolve their differences. I want my father home with us, and I want my mother to not be miserable. I want my sister to stop having to come to me with her questions, and I want to be able to live as normal a life one can have as a Slytherin. It's just my luck that I had to go to school with Draco Malfoy and in the same year as Harry Potter. Had I been just one year ahead, as I should have been, none of this would have happened the same way, that was for certain. I was born on New Year's Eve, just one day short of being a year ahead of Potter.

I watched the landscape pass by slowly, not really registering what was happening outside of my own mind. I have a habit of drifting off into my own world that I know annoys my mother no end. She says my father is just the same, and that we really should change. But my father and I won't change; I for one am happy being a very mentally preoccupied person. It is part of who I am, and there's no changing it, not now, not ever.

My father and I are alike in so many ways, and not just the physical. We're both very quiet by nature, and find that poking fun at others and insulting them is amusing, as well as an unexplainable passion for fishing. Maybe we're both so fond of the peace and quiet that we are natural born fishers. A strange occupation for a Slytherin, but nice all the same. My mother and I, however, could not be less alike.

First of all, she chatters. She can talk and talk and talk for hours about curtains and sewing and clothing. And she's so boring. Whenever I try to ask her something, she either stares blankly at me for a while before resuming her chattering, or she tells me to go and study instead and not waste her time. I'm sure she's a nice woman and all, but as a mother, she frankly stinks. She never should have been allowed to have children. If she had never married my father, and they had been friends instead, I'm sure she would have been much happier.

*****'

My feet had barely touched the ground when I was tackle-hugged by my little sister Marise. She barely reached to my waist, so I squatted down and picked her up easily. I swung her around a bit, grinning from ear to ear much like she did, before hugging her properly. I don't go in for public displays of affection all that much, but when it comes to my sister, a certain set of rules apply; Marise does what she wants and there's no stopping her, whatever I might be doing at the time.

"Hey there Marise," I said, trying to get her to let go of my neck, "You do know I need to breathe, right?"

"I missed you," She said, looking accusing, "Why were you gone for so long?"

"I had to go and visit Draco and Pansy and Millie," I explained, starting for the house with her still clinging to me, "Like I do every year. Mother wouldn't let you come with me, so I had to go alone."

"But I wanna go," She pouted, "And now mama says you'll have to go to school again. I don't want you to go."

"But look at it this way," I grinned, "I'll be home for two days now, and we can go fishing and everything, and then I'll be home for Christmas, and then we can have a snowball war."

"Yay! A snowball war!" She squealed, hugging me again.

I chuckled. My sister was so easy to bribe; all I had to do was promise her a fishing trip and a snowball war come Christmas, and she wouldn't be able to wait for me to leave. She'd even pack my bags so I'd go away quicker. She was the kind of child that got to bed early the night before Christmas, because she thought it would come quicker if she did. Flawless logic, that.

I pushed the door open, and put Marise down on the floor. I was home again. It was a strange feeling. It had been nearly two months since I put foot there, and before that, it had been almost half a year. I had opted not to go home for Christmas because of Umbridge and the uncertainty if I would be allowed back come term. I dropped the levitation charm on my trunk and let it fall to the floor, looking around me in silence.

Our house, inherited from my maternal grandparents, it for the lack of a better word, huge. It appears to be built over scale, each detail larger than it should have been, and much larger than in any other house I had been inside. I tried to measure the distance up to the ceiling once, but gave up. I did measure the floor of the dining room once though, in my own steps. I came up with about two hundred, but I lost count a few times, so it could be more than that. And my steps are about a metre long. The dining room is the biggest room in the house, but that does not mean the others are very small.

I ascended the stairs, mentally counting them in my head like I always did, and skipping the second step from the top. It creaked something terrible, and I did not want to alert our House Elves of my arrival. They tend to want to be of service a little too much, and get very annoying after more than a minute. I wandered through the hall, looking at the portraits of my maternal ancestors staring down at me, some smiling and waving, some fast asleep and snoring. Far off, I could hear Marise shout something at the top of her voice. She must have found mother or maybe even our elusive father, and must be telling them about my homecoming.

I came to a stop at the door to my room. After a moment, I pushed it open, revealing the familiar blues and greens of my walls and bed. Everything was exactly where I left it; my books still spread over my desk and my bed, and some repairing supplies for my Silver Arrow still scattered on the floor. I'm proud to say that it's been a long time since I had to repair it; it's almost thirty years old, and I've only ever had to repair it twice, once when the twigs got bent, and another when the handle began to crack at the tip.

I collapsed at the bed, staring at the ceiling. Two days left before I would be going back to Hogwarts for my sixth year of schooling. Damn, those years went by fast. I can still remember putting on the Sorting Hat and having it ask me if I wanted to be in Ravenclaw. And now, two years left and I would be out of there. Hopefully, in the test if I'd sink or swim, I'd swim.

"Blaise, dear, come down here for a moment!" I could hear my mother not- quite-yelling.

I sighed and rolled off my bed and got to my feet. This was exactly what I did not want right now; deal with my mother. But there was no choice, so I walked down the stairs again, skipping the creaking step, preparing to face the misplaced maternal feelings. I could see her standing in the hall, and one glance at her appearance had me snorting.

My mother, while beautiful, has no sense at all. It was barely noon, and she was wearing an evening dress and had too much make up on, and her hair. Oh ye gods, her hair. While black as my own, and curly as well, it was longer than how I wore it. And let me tell you, wearing hair as curly as ours longer than down to ones shoulders results in nothing but a hideous crow's nest, as Granger can testify.

As soon as I reached the hall, she gave me an obligatory hug before letting me go quickly. I rolled my eyes behind her back; she had no clue as to how to deal with children. She had yet to understand why we weren't perfect copies of her and father.

"Welcome back dear," She smiled, "Did you have fun while you were away?"

"Yes," I answered truthfully, "I did. Is father home?"

"No dear, he isn't; he had to work again today," That's another of her annoying habits; she calls me "dear" all the time, even when she could just as well use my name, "He will be back later tonight. He's very proud of you and your high grades."

"That's nice," I sighed, "Mother, I have an assignment I have to finish, can I go?"

"Of course you can dear," She kept that vapid smile up the whole time, "We don't want you to fall behind on your school work now that you've got so high grades, do we? Professor Snape would be very disappointed with you."

I refrained from telling her that I wasn't going to take Potions in sixth year, and instead nodded silently. I did have some assignments to finish, but I worked best at night. However, it was a good excuse, and I wasn't going to tell her that. Wasting a perfectly good excuse was nothing but stupid. She gave me one last hug before she sent me on my way, and I went happily.

I dislike talking to my mother. She sets very high standards for me, and if I do not fit them, she racks down on me and insults my intelligence, all veiled in what she calls "motherly concern." Motherly concern? Oh yeah, and I like the colour pink. Please, if she was concerned about me, she'd come right out and say it, not ask me some stupid questions about how my school work is going. My mother must be the very image of stupidity. I can't believe she actually graduated from her school of choice.

Don't get me wrong, I don't hate her; she's just so interfering in a life I am doing perfectly fine on running on my own. I don't need her any more than I need someone to tell me how to put on my shirt the right way. I slammed the door to my room closed and stopped for a moment. I really needed to finish my last assignments. I fished them out of my trunk and walked over to the desk. If I got a few hours of effective work in now, I wouldn't have to stress with them tomorrow. I work well under stress, I do, but I prefer not to. I tend to consume a lot of coffee, and I act like a zombie for some time afterwards.

******'

Darkness had fallen when Marise woke me up. I'd fallen asleep on my parchment, and I could feel the ink marks on my forehead, but I had finished them. Arithmancy equations glared up at me from the page, each one solved, Transfiguration incantations spelled out cleanly and correctly, and a satisfaction over having finished washed over me. Though I wished to sit there for a while and smile as if I was demented, my sister hanging off my arm distracted me somewhat, and I turned away to face her instead.

"What is it Marise?" I asked, "Is it dinner yet?"

"No, stupid," She giggled, "Dinner was two hours ago. Mum said to check if you were sleeping. You were, so I woke you up."

"Two hours ago?" I exclaimed, lifting her up into my lap, "I didn't get any food? What is this, some kind of starvation program? I'm getting some food right now; to the kitchen!"

I hoisted her up on my shoulders as I headed for the door, laughing along with her. To think that my mother had neglected to wake me up for dinner. Well, I knew my way around my own house, and could easily get some food on my own. But it irked me that she had just plain ignored to call me down. And it meant that my father had yet to come home, which bothered me. Mother had said in her last letter that he would be, and now that he wasn't, I felt robbed of something. My father was supposed to be home.

We came out in the corridor, and I headed down the stairs towards the kitchen, making sure my sister, who was bouncing up and down, did not fall off my shoulders, while grinning to myself. Whatever bad happened, my sister never failed to make me smile. She's so liberating in her spontaneity; never has she ever let life get her down. She usually comes up with something to do to keep boredom away. Like climbing the highest tree she could find, which turned out to be located right next to my bedroom window. Needless to say, I pulled her in through the window, and spent the night on the floor, as she had occupied my bed.

We descended the stairs together, still grinning and giggling in my sister's case. I turned to start towards the kitchen, and froze in mid- step. My father was standing in the hall, still wearing his working robes, looking bone tired. Marise squealed, but I did not join her in her exclamation of happiness. I merely put her down on the ground so that she could run up and hug him properly, instead of clinging to my head.

It came as a shock, and a nasty one at that, but I did not recognise my own father, as I should have. I knew it was him, of course; the height was the same, the facial shape and general build was the same, but had it not been because I knew in my bones that it was my father, I would have taken him for a stranger. It was over a year that I saw him last; I did not go home for Christmas, and he was on a business trip when I returned home before going off to Pansy's. And he had changed; he was no longer the happy, laughing man I remembered.

"Blaise," He said, holding out a hand towards me, "Welcome home."

Plain words, much more heartfelt than my mother's, and somehow, I finally felt as if I was home, even though it was this father turned stranger who spoke to me. No longer thinking straight, I took the last few steps up to him, my eyes filling with tears I knew I would not shed, and wrapped my arms around him, following my sister's example. Not something I would normally have done, but it felt like something I had to do.

"It's good to be back," I answered, letting go of him, "Now, I would love to stay and talk, but I missed dinner, and if I don't eat soon, I'll keel over."

I left my sister and my father in the hall, and wandered off. I could hear Marise telling him about me taking her fishing the next day, and smiled. Always enthusiastic that one. But now for food; anything else could wait until tomorrow - food was, and always has been, my main concern.

*******'

My sister is, without a doubt, one of the most annoying creatures in this world. She woke me up the next morning by jumping on my bed and putting her bony knees in my ribs. I opened my eyes only after hitting her with my pillow, and got up swearing to buy a lock to my room, if only to ensure privacy. There are times when one does not want to be disturbed. I most often do not want to be disturbed, but that is mainly because of my independent and anti-social personality than anything else.

I managed to fight my way out of bed, and into my clothes and down the stairs without any major injuries. Still not fully awake, I listened to my sister's chatter as I drank my morning coffee, glaring at nothing. Marise did not seem to notice, or did and did not let it bother her, and kept on chattering about fishing for the ten minutes it took me to finish my coffee. Then, getting a hold of a fishing rod each for us, I took her by the hand and led her off towards the lake.

The lake is located some fifteen minute's walk from our house, and we chatted about everything under the sun on the way. She asked me about Pansy and Millicent, both of which she really likes talking to, and how Draco was. She's not really as fond of Draco as she is of the girls, but he is and will always be her "Uncle Draco". I still laugh when I hear that expression. Just the thought of Draco as someone's uncle is hilarious.

"Blaise?" She asked after we had gotten about halfway.

"Yes?"

"Do butterflies die?" She looked so sincerely curious that I did not even stop to think about the absurdity of the question.

"Yes, they do," I answered, "But they don't live as long as we do. Some of them only live for a day. Some of them live for a week; I never learned how long they can live, but not as long as we do, that's for certain. Why do you ask?"

"I had a dream," She shrugged, "There were butterflies everywhere, and there was this old lady who told me the butterflies would burn. I didn't like her; she was creepy. But the butterflies burned; so did our house. It was a scary dream."

It concerned me that my sister was having nightmares, and I stopped. I knelt down in front of her, and put a hand on her shoulder. She looked so scared, and I didn't want to think about how she must have felt waking up after that dream.

"Our house is not going to burn," I promised her, "Not unless it is an accident, and I promise nothing bad will happen to us, alright?"

She nodded, and with a smile, I stood up again.

"Let's go fishing," I told her, grinning and holding out a hand towards her.

Fishing turned out to be a pleasant experience; we didn't get any fish, but we were hardly discouraged. Like me, Marise had grasped the concept of fishing from the word go. The idea is not to get fish, but to spend as much time as possible with a fishing rod in you hands, pretending to get fish. She learned from her older brother, and I'm proud of her. Our father used to be a champion fisher in our own spirit, but after getting promoted, he never had time for it anymore.

We spent the whole day at the lake, trying our hardest not to get any fish. As my sister will be going to Hogwarts in a few years, most of our conversation centred on that topic. She asked about everything she had heard me talk about before, just to hear me tell of it again. Stories about Hogwarts are the stories she loves she most, and she can hear the same one over and over, and still think it's wonderful. Personally, I can't understand her fascination with hearing the same story over and over. Sure, Hogwarts is a wonderful place, but hearing about the moving stairs seven times in a row? There are limits, even for me.

"Tell me about Slytherin's House ghost again," She requested.

"Alright," I said, rolling my eyes. Not that I was protesting too much; the Bloody Baron is a favourite topic of mine when it comes to talking about Hogwarts, "He's called the Bloody Baron, although when you meet him, you call him Baron. He doesn't like being disrespected, but if you are polite to him, he'll help you if he can. He won't help you if you're Gryffindor, because Gryffindor's have been disrespectful to him in the past. But since you most likely will end up in Slytherin, you won't have that problem."

"What's it like being a Slytherin?" She asked, looking up at me "Is it nice?"

"Well," I drag out my answer, not knowing how to phrase it, "It's nice being a Slytherin among other Slytherins, but the other students aren't too nice to you if you wear silver and green. They'll think you're bad because you're in Slytherin, and you'll have to work really hard to prove that you aren't. Ravenclaws tend to be nicer to Slytherins, though."

"Oh." She fell silent after that.

As the sun began to set, we got our things together and began to head back towards our house. As the fifteen minute walk leads through quite a thick forest, it took a while before we could see the house. As I'd put the fishing rods in the tiny hut-like building at the lake, I'd picked up my sister so that the walk would be faster. I did not want to miss dinner again. Last night had been traumatic enough.

*****'

As soon as I'd taken one step out of the forest, I knew something was wrong. For one, houses are not supposed to have flames coming out of their windows. I watched as everything slowed down, the flames soaring up towards the sky, people moving about closer to the house, trying to put it out. I froze up completely, could not think, could not move, could not even breathe. Marise tried to get down and towards the house, but I kept my hold on her, almost death-grip like now, to keep her from running straight into the flames.

The only thought that churned through my brain was; was my parents still alive?

Finally getting my sense back, I ran towards the house, heading for the group of people in front of it, instinctively knowing that if my parents were anywhere, they would be there. I reached them, still holding onto Marise, wildly searching for my parents among the soot-stained people. I did not find them, no matter how much I looked, and panic began to seize me. Just as I was about to run further, a hand clamped down on my shoulder. I spun around, crouching, and came face to face with a man I did not recognise.

"Do you live here?" He asked me.

"Yeah, I do," I answered, choking slightly on my words, "Where are my parents?"

"Your mum is over here," The man directed me, "She's been asking for you since she came to."

Not even thinking about thanking him, I headed in the direction he had pointed out, wanting nothing but to find my parents. I could hear Marise say something, but the urgency to find my mother overwhelmed me, and I could not listen. There she was; she was sitting on the ground, soot all over her and red eyed from the smoke, and I did not think twice before dropping to my knees in front of her and hugging her for all I was worth. I could hear Marise sobbing next to me, asking repeatedly where father was, and I could not help but repeat her question as well.

"Where's father?" I coughed in the smoky air, "Where's father?"

"He's in there," She was sobbing. Never in my whole life have I seen my mother cry, but now she let the tears fall, "He got caught by the fire. Oh gods, Blaise, he's still in the flames!"

My world froze, and everything seemed to move in slow motion. I could see the tears fall down her cheeks, and I could hear Marise crying. I could hear the people around us move and shout things to each other, but it all seemed insignificant. My father had been caught in the fire; he was dead. By now, he would have Apparated out if he had been able to. But he hadn't. He must be dead, and the thought fell into place in my mind with a small click, a quiet sound that drained out everything else around me.

And then I went crazy.

The world that had previously been so hazy suddenly when sharp and clear again, although every action was slowed down significantly, and I could see the flames roll in lazy waves from the doors and windows of our house. I got to my feet, letting go of both Marise and my mother, and I screamed. I turned towards the fire, still screaming my father's name, trying to run towards the house, but various strangers held me back. I attempted to fight the restraints, and almost made it, but then more people got a hold of me and prevented me from an insane suicide.

I watched as the house began to collapse, the top floor going first, crashing down into the others, definitely sealing my father's fate. I fell to my knees, out of breath from screaming, throat hurting. I felt tears course down my cheeks, but did nothing to stop them. For a moment, I had stopped feeling, and I had a hunch that I would not start feeling again in a long time. Our house burned in front of my eyes, and I could do nothing to stop it. I would rage, I would hurt and I would hate later. For now, I just watched with an indescribable feeling of sorrow choking me.

I closed my eyes from the flames, feeling the heat on my eyelids. For every heartbeat that passed, my life was spiralling out of control.

*****'

Ending Notes; abrupt ending, I know, but I needed to end in quickly, and dramatically, so that I could get going with Book 2. Which I've been working on for some time now, and which will be up in the next few days. You might even get the first chapter on Christmas! Have fun now.