I struggled with my tie, my hands not working properly to tie the stupid knot. They were too busy shaking and fumbling. I knew James was watching my every move, his eyes were practically boring into me, but I couldn't admit it. Admit that everything seemed wrong now, turned side-ways and messed up and I didn't even know what I was doing.
When I looked up again, I realized Lily suddenly standing by the doorway, probably coming to get us so we could finally leave. I sighed, trying frantically to just tie the knot and get it over with, but my mind went blank and I couldn't remember what to do next.
"Here." Lily crossed over to me and she forced me to let go of my tie so she could do it herself. Her hands were composed, but I could see her biting down on her lip hard, as if she was holding back something. "There." She smoothed out the fixed tie, looking up at me. "Better?"
I could only manage a weak shrug. I don't know what I did, but suddenly, she was looking down again and she was pulling me in a hug.
"I'm so sorry."
The lump in my throat was back and I knew I wouldn't be able to get rid of it. I was going to hear sorry more times than I could count today.
"Dumbledore's saying a few words today," Lily finally said, pulling away and wiping her eyes. "He's not going to say what happened because I don't think – that's not what matters. It's just – he offered to say something."
"Okay." I couldn't think of anything else to say.
"He wanted to know if you're going to say anything."
I froze at her words. I knew I would be expected to say something – but what did I have to say? What could I say about her in front of her family? What could I say that would comfort everyone? What were you supposed to say?
"Uh..." I faltered. "Yeah, of course."
I had to.
She nodded mutely, turning toward James who was watching us silently. He was still shaken from earlier when he told me about how Ivy had left that morning and Lily noticed. "You okay?"
"Can I say something too?" he asked out of nowhere.
Lily looked momentarily startled and then looked over at me. Neither of us had the authority to tell him that he could, but I found myself nodding anyway.
Even if her family said no, I wanted James up there too. I wanted everyone up there. I needed them there.
Ivy's mother was the first one to see me.
I don't know what I expected, but when she quickly looked away and made an effort not to talk to me, I felt my stomach drop sickeningly. Even after all of this, she wouldn't treat me civilly. Maybe she blamed me for her daughter's death.
I tried to ignore it, but my throat was burning and my head was spinning.
Even after a tragedy. Even after something that should have given us common ground. I didn't even want to fight anymore.
Eleanor was the only family member to acknowledge me. Her eyes met mine as she was coming down from upstairs with an older lady following her every step. We saw each other across the room and she stopped in her tracks, her eyes large and nervous.
She opened her mouth to say something, but the older lady quickly ushered her away and I watched as Eleanor tried to keep eye contact with me until she was out of the room.
I wanted to ask her how she was doing. I wanted to talk to her about Ivy and say something, but I was even forbidden from doing that.
Turning around, I saw Ivy's mother making her way to a defeated-looking Remus.
I would have rolled my eyes if I wasn't feeling so sick.
She was talking to him immediately in hushed whispers and many apologies. I ignored them, making my way outside where the procession was set up.
It was small – a few benches and a platform. Then her – up in the front, lying there, still and silent and beautiful.
I cringed at the familiar word and looked behind me to see Remus standing behind me.
"About back there," Remus then elaborated, "And...everything. I really didn't mean – if I would have known that she was going to – I wouldn't have let her stay over and I wish I could change everything."
He was the one that got to spend the last night with her. Even if he didn't know it, even if Ivy didn't know it, he meant something to her. Something that I was never able to be. And it killed me.
I didn't trust my voice to work and only nodded.
Everybody was beginning to take their seats silently without any notice. I paused, waiting a few long seconds before making my way up to the first row and finding a seat on the end.
And still, all I could see was her.
She was dressed in a light blue dress, her curled hair spilled out on the pillow and I could have sworn the corners of her mouth were turned upward. She didn't look like she'd never wake up. She looked like she was dreaming, just sleeping.
But she never slept with her hands clasped on top of her stomach. It looked unnatural – there were flowers clasped in her hands – roses, I realized with a jolt. Common. Not special like her. Not tulips or orchids. Just roses.
Dumbledore suddenly stood behind the casket, looking over the crowd. "We are here to celebrate the life of one miss Ivy Bennett."
I gulped, trying to get rid of that stupid lump in my throat, but it wasn't working.
"She died courageously, refusing to divulge important information that could have kept her alive if she would have said something. It was an attack, something unexpected, something no one could have imagined, and yet, she never wavered."
I couldn't even listen to every word. Instead, I kept studying everything about her, trying to remember every touch and every word. How could everything be fading so quickly? Why didn't I pay more attention in the moment?
Remus was next and he only managed a couple short sentences.
"She was unlike anyone I ever met," he said, looking down at the parchment in his hands. "I thought she'd be the last one out of all of us that-" He stopped and immediately started again. "I thought she'd live forever. She was wonderful and one of my best friends."
After staring at her for a couple long seconds, Remus looked up again and quietly folded up the parchment in his hands. His eyes were closed – tightly shut – and then, without a word, he stepped off of the platform and sat down again.
Suddenly, someone was pushing on my shoulder.
"I just want to say something quick," James was saying in a hushed whisper. I looked at him, trying to understand what he was trying to say, and then remembered I still had to say something.
I didn't have any words on parchment to say. I had nothing – just a bunch of jumbled thoughts that came from everywhere and anywhere.
"I-" James began, wiping his hands on his trousers. He was visibly shaking now like all of us. "I think – to me – Ivy was like my little sister. She was always there – quiet and just Ivy, you know – and I never really realized how much she meant to all of us. Without her, I probably wouldn't have gotten a chance with who's now my wife and Remus would have never found someone to find comfort in and Sirius – he would haven't found someone that made him happy. I don't know if it was my fault – I don't know why she had to die because she never deserved something like this. She...brought us together, sort of. I can only hope we don't break apart because she's gone."
He stepped back, his shoulders slumped.
It was supposed to be my turn.
My breath came out sharply when stepped forward and I clenched and unclenched my hands, trying to think of something to say.
Looking down, I saw her lying there, still so innocent and so unlike anything I've imagined before.
"She never was what I pictured. I had this certain plan in my head, I guess. It was always this dark-haired vixen in my life, then a blonde, and then someone else, never one person. But then, Ivy just showed up and she took every idea I had and everything I ever wanted to have and changed it.
She came with that shy smile and her story and I don't know much about stories, but if I was trying to write something like her, I'd say...she – she wasn't a part of my book, my beginning or ending or whatever comes in the middle, but then now, she's the beginning and ending of every single part. Every...every chapter. She really was the best thing I never knew I needed.
And now, now I don't know where to go. Everything was perfect when she was here and now, everything feels like it's falling apart. She wouldn't want us, her friends, to fall apart, I know that much, but I don't know what else to do anymore. I loved her and I can't just forget about her. I don't think I ever will. I don't think anybody will."
I pushed my hands into my pockets to stop them from shaking and felt a box at the bottom of one. Without even taking it out, I knew exactly what it was.
James' eyes only met mine briefly, but it said everything.
"I think I need a couple minutes."
We were standing in front of her casket in silence, trying to take everything in. Lily was shivering violently as James grasped her hands and tried to comfort her. Remus couldn't even look up anymore – he had been staring at the ground for the longest time. Peter was standing behind us, afraid to take a look at her.
James took a long look at me and nodded, pulling Lily to his side and helping her back to a seat. Peter immediately scampered away, probably to the food table where he had been eating the mangos and other fruit before the ceremony. But Remus still lingered.
"You're going to-"
I tried my best to smile, but it came out more as a grimace. "Yes."
"You could still-"
I shook my head. "No, it's her's. I couldn't."
Remus fell silent, nodding his head once before stepping away. There was no left except me and her.
I rested my hands against the edge of the casket and looked down, surprised at how easily it was to find the words. "They all know now. Ruddy timing, I know. James must have saw the ring and slipped it in my pocket this morning. Definitely told Lily by now and Remus and Peter if they didn't already know. I wish...this would have happened differently. Of course, I do," I laughed bitterly. "James was right. You didn't deserve this, not you."
I paused, teetering on my hands for a few seconds. Reaching next to me, I pulled out a tulip from a bouquet of flowers on the platform and eased it into the middle of Ivy's bouquet. "Tulips suit you better, you know."
With a shaky sigh, I grabbed the box in my pocket and set it on the edge of the casket. "I wasn't able to give you this. I bought it for you and I can't even imagine selling it. It's just...forever yours."
Opening the lid, I eased the ring out of its case and leaned forward, slipping it on Ivy's left ring finger.
Stepping back, I looked for another long moment and then jumped when someone touched me on the shoulder.
"So sorry for your loss," someone I didn't recognize exclaimed. I managed not to flinch that time. "Are you finished?"
I looked at her again and knew the answer was no, but whispered a soft "yes" anyway.
And then he shut the casket and I had nothing left. Nothing except her belongings – her clothes, her shoes, her quills, her journal.
She was still alive, somewhere in those pages. And I was going to find her. I was going to make everything right again. Someone else had to hear her. Everyone needed to know who she was, how amazing she was, what they missed...
I still had a part of her.
YEAH, IT'S OVER!!!!!!!ONEONE111!!
Anyway, that's how I feel right now. It's sort of bittersweet, but right now, I'm just excited about it. Don't worry, I won't be gone for long because I still have Don't Stop Believing and I'll start writing Everything I Ever Imagined again.
I really hoped you all liked this story and I'm so glad that you all stuck with me as I struggled to write this. Thanks so much for everything.