Green and blue and yellow and bright, blinding white. Like the ocean when the sun shines on it in books. Her stick arms poke out from under it and she shouts at me. What were you doing there? What? Questions! I don't have time for questions. Ask yourself.
And then it's dark again and my eyes don't want to hold on anymore. There isn't ever any time for questions. They all tell me I shouldn't wonder. I'm only a boy and ask my mum and I'm telling your uncle you said that and let him deal with you. They say I can't ask questions because seven year-old boys don't ask questions. They tell me obey my uncle and treat my aunt nicely. They tell me do my homework and pretend you're a normal boy for once in your life. For once in your life can you just be normal? They tell me I'm an ugly boy and it's a wonder any school ever let in the likes of me. Me with my knobby knees and my round nose and my big owl eyes behind their glasses.
I can't ask why my mummy died or how she died or where people go when they do. I can't ask why my dad wasn't strong enough to stop the other car in that car crash because surely my dad would have been very strong and clever, just like my cousin's super hero comics. But they said he was a drunk and I can't ask what a drunk is or why my dad was one or if it's something that gets passed down in families because I'm only seven and I'm not normal and I'm just not supposed to ask questions. I think to myself that my mummy and my dad must have gone to a very nice place where it's always warm and there is a thick eiderdown on every bed and windows everywhere so the sun can shine through.
A man told me by the sweet shop once that people can't go to nice places if they haven't repented or gone to Confessional ever in their life, or if there wasn't a priest to bless them when they died. I wonder what a priest and Confessional and repent is and if my mummy and dad did all that. The man says if you haven't, you go to a horrible place for the rest of all time and it's always dark and fiery and hot. At least it's hot.
Is Harry going to die? My cousin asks from the hall. I can hear Aunt clicking and clacking all the way down the stairs, my heart thumping all soft-like in the darkness. He looks like a ghost, whispers my cousin and the darkness is gone again. There are those colours. They are lovely. Green, blue, yellow, white. Maybe things up in the nice place will be those colours when I die. Mummy would have liked them.
Drink this, orders my aunt. Something cold and slimy and sweet is poured down my throat. It feels so good on the dryness that I swallow it all, choke. Coughing and heaving, the blackness is coming back and I can't see those pretty colours anymore.
My belly is grumbling and growling for food. Just a piece of bread. Just some cheese and some milk. Maybe a crisp or two? A chip? Only a little food, it begs. But I can't give it any. Normal boys get food and rooms without the darkness. They get to sleep with heavy blankets on them so they can be warm and they haven't got aunts shouting and uncles smacking and cousins chasing and laughing. I think it might be nice if I was normal, but I can't be. I have my dark room under the stairs with my baby blanket and the bottles and bottles of cleaning stuff that burns my eyes. I have the dryness in my throat from never drinking milk or juice or sodapop. I have my messy black hair and my round eyes and I can never ask questions.
But I can go into my head for hours. I can go in there where it's sunny, even if I can't feel the sun. Even when my body is shaking and shivering with cold because my blanket is wet from all the sweating and the chill that stole the air in my darkness. Even when my belly is empty because it threw up the bread I had yesterday and the water and the sweet stuff Aunt gives me. In my head I see nice people and sun. I'm in a bed with real sheets and a pillow and smiling people stroke my hair, whispering. They sound careful like I do when I have to talk to Uncle. Red hair tickles my face as lips on my cheek kiss like Aunt's do for my cousin. Maybe I've died and gone to the nice place that no one talks about. Maybe I'm with my mummy and dad and grandmum and grandpop up in the nice place.
But I can't be.
I haven't got a priest or a Confessional or a repent. I only have my blue baby blanket and my round glasses that look like owl's eyes. They put the Prime Minister in a box when he died. It was on the television one day and no one notices if I peak through the cracks to watch. They put him in a big white box with flowers all over it while people cried and cried. It's funny they were crying because crying is only something bad boys and big cousins can do. They should have known that, or did they have aunts and uncles to tell them so? I wonder if they'll put me in a white box with flowers on it while people cry for my body.
It's silly crying for dead bodies. What good can that do? When people go to the nice place they don't want to come back. Not when they have food for their angry bellies and blankets and beds with real sheets like the ones in my head. Those whispers come back again as hands stroke my hair. Aunt can't be doing that. She doesn't stroke my hair, not even when I'm going to die and go to the horrible place where it's always sad and hot and fiery because I haven't got a priest or a repent.
Hang on for us, Harry, says the whispers. The sticky sweet stuff is back down my throat. The darkness comes back like a heavy curtain over my eyes. Hang on for us, Harry.
My belly feels sick from the sweet stuff; it doesn't want it. It wants food. Just a crumb of bread. A little drop of soup. It feels warm and steamy with the tubers and noodles in my mouth. Down my throat where my belly is begging for more as ice is holding up my head. I can't have gone to the horrible place. It isn't hot enough. It's too cold here with the ice holding up my head and then the ice is gone and it's a hand. Black hair, glittery eyes. More slimy things down my throat and the whispers are gone, but it's hot.
The lady in the library said it got hot in the big section. She let me read books while Aunt took my cousin to look at the colourful shelves they called the kid's section. The library lady let me look at pictures in massive books with red and blue covers and gold titles. She knew I couldn't read them, but she didn't care. She read them for me. Even though I wasn't normal. Even though I never had a Confessional or a repent before. She showed me pictures of ladies with long hair. They were beautiful with their sparkly eyes that smiled at me from the pages. This one was St. Ursula. She was a virgin. I can't ask what a virgin is or why St. Ursula is one, but isn't that a funny name? St? I wonder who would name their baby St. until I remember that I'm not supposed to wonder. Maybe I'll have a wife one day and we can name our baby St.
Hang on for us, Harry. The whispers are back. They poke, prod, brush my hair.
What do I hang on to?
There isn't anything but the darkness and red hair and lips that kiss my cheek. There's only whispers and glittery black eyes.
Hang on for us. We're all waiting for you here.
They must mean the nice place. My mummy is waiting at the nice place. She must be the red hair and the lips. Those glittery eyes are my dad. I'm smiling. Take me out of the darkness. I need a repent and a priest and a Confessional to come to you. Can you send me those?
I've asked a question. They aren't angry. They don't tell me mind my own business or go to my cupboard. They don't push me in the darkness with my one blue baby blanket and the cleaning bottles that itch and burn when I spill them.
You can come back, if you try. If you try you can come back.
The icy hand is on my forehead. My dad. He doesn't care that I'm seven and a burden and I'm not normal. He touches my forehead and whispers to me with Mummy. That must be her, the one that holds me and makes things warm again. The darkness is fading, fading, gone. My angry belly grumbles, but Dad is touching my forehead and Mummy is kissing my cheek so it's okay. Everything is okay when you've finally died and gone to the nice place. It's warmer. More slimy things for my throat, but they clear my eyes. I can see those beautiful colours again. Green, blue, white, yellow, like the ocean in the photographs and pictures. The one I can go to now that I'm in the nice place.
Harry, Harry . . . .
I open my eyes. The sunlight shines through and I see the red hair and the kissing lips. They aren't my mummy after all. The glittery eyes. They stare at me. I blink back at them because that's the only thing you can do when you're seven and no one wants you.
"You ever call me 'Dad' again, Potter, and I swear you will be begging for the Dark Lord to find you by the time I'm finished."
It's not the nice place. Those eyes are hard. What can you say to that when you're sixteen and you've fallen from your broomstick?
"Stop smiling, boy. Sweet Merlin, you look like you've died and gone to heaven."
The fog in my brain is clearing and I can smile properly now. "No I haven't," I smile, holding my blankets. "I haven't even got a repent."
He gives me a funny look, like I've just told him I'm Saviour of the World or something ridiculous.