Disclaimer: If I owned Harry Potter, Dobby would not have died.

If I owned Spongebob Squarepants, Plankton would have gotten the Krabby Patty recipe. ;D

A/N: Here is the second chapter for HowDoesThatMakMeFeelJasper. I hope you enjoy it!

. . .

Chapter Nine: Remember Dobby

July 2007

The room was a war zone.

Soldiers lay strewn across the ground – some missing limbs – as various vehicles raced among them, several overturned, no doubt through the ministrations of a giant Transformer. A Monster truck lay, abandoned, next to a vicious Tyrannosaurus, its rolling red eyes fixed solely upon the door, standing guard over the partially-destroyed army barracks.

Her own brown irises fixed upon those of the dino, a girl crept silently into the room, wincing as she stepped on several discarded rifles. Determined, she darted through the warring masses, coming to crouch in front of the menacing Rex. Tucking a loose strand of light brown hair behind one ear, the girl's eyes darted every which way as she gathered the columns of colored blocks into her arms. Heedless of the pile of dismembered soldiers left behind, the girl headed resolutely back to the no-man's land of the hall. Her breathing came in sharp gasps, not out of exertion but fear.

If she were caught. . . .

No, don't think that.

Nevertheless, it was impossible not to breathe a sigh of relief as the cold hall floor met the bare soles of her feet once more. Safe.

"Suze?"

"Ahh! God, Andy, don't scare me like that!" Nearly toppling over, Suzanne spun around to face her little brother.

"Sorry." He shrugged. "What are you doing?"

Her brother's tone held no note of accusation, but Suzanne immediately leapt to the defensive. "Nothing! What makes you think I'm doing anything?" she retorted, attempting – unsuccessfully – to hide the brightly-colored blocks behind her back.

Andy's eyebrows contracted in thought. "I dunno, you just . . . hey, are those my Legos?" he demanded as a blue piece dropped from Suzanne's hold.

"Erm . . . um – no, of course not!"

"They are – you took them!" The eight-year-old took on the countenance of a much younger child as he latched onto his older sister's arms in an attempt to regain the remaining blocks.

"Give them back! Gimme, gimme, gimme!"

"No Andy, you. . . ."

"You stole them - gimme!" Andy's voice rose shrilly.

"I didn't steal them. I'm just borr- ow! - don't do that!" Suzanne tore her heavily-scratched arm away from her snatching brother.

"Then give them ba-ack! Mo-oom!" Within seconds of her son's summons, Mrs. Saunders's footsteps were heard.

Oh, shit. Shit, shit, shit.

"Andy. Andy, listen," Suzanne hissed, kneeling so as to be at eye-level with the boy. "I'll make you a deal. You let me borrow – don't worry, I'll give them back! - these, and . . . and you can watch whatever you want on TV for a week."

"A month," he countered, eyes narrowed.

Suzanne suppressed a sigh. How many episodes of Spongebob Squarepants would that be? Still . . . a glance at the Legos stiffened her resolve – it was worth it. It was so worth it.

"Fine."

"Andy, Suzanne, is everything okay up there?"

"Everything's fine, Mom," Suzanne called back, watching her brother intently for any signs of defection. "Andy just tripped, is all."

"If you're sure. . . ." As the footsteps retreated, Andy extended a small, pink hand.

"Pinky promise?" he asked, grinning as the two linked fingers.

Suzanne couldn't help but grin back. He really thinks he's getting the better deal.

How very wrong he was.

. . .

August 2007

The room was a shrine.

A bed stood in the very center of the room, festooned with brightly-colored hangings – crimson and emerald green among them – each bearing the same lightning-bolt insignia while the walls themselves had been so plastered-over with posters that there was nary a blank space left. Instead, numerous robed persons gazed down from the walls, most prominent among them a bespectacled boy and his two companions – one with red hair and a crooked grin, the other a pretty brunette.

The bookshelf, occupying one of the few blank spaces of wall, was crammed with fantasy books while the top shelf, containing seven of the thicker tomes was clearly the most revered. A red-and-gold scarf, matching the bed hangings, draped over all. So embellished was this hanging that the title itself – one renowned the world over – was barely visible.

Harry Potter

Suzanne's eyes, however, did not immediately shift to this shelf or the posters or even the desk where the brightly-lit computer screen displayed the filming schedule for the next movie in the world-famous, Warner Bros. franchise. The girl's eyes darted, instead to the far end of the room where a plain, white piece of paper had been tacked, striking in its' very plainness.

Displayed upon the paper was a crudely-drawn sketch of what might, at first glance, have been taken to be a very ugly cat with particularly prominent eyes and ears. Unlike Harry, the creature was not instantly recognizable, unlike Harry it – he – required a caption.

Remember Dobby, the Free Elf

Below the sketch was built a low wall of Legos – the bright colors dancing oddly upon the cartoon Dobby's face – leaving a clear space in the middle which Suzanne now knelt in front of. Looking uncharacteristically grim for such a bright summer's day, it was this space she reached into, removing a pair of mismatched socks – one neon green with pink-polka dots, the other red-and-blue striped – and a paisley-patterned hat.

Singularly uninteresting they might seem, but Suzanne clasped the few items to her chest like holy relics. She gazed from the two socks, to the hat, to the portrait and its' caption . . . and back again.

"I will not forget," she whispered.

She refused to forget.

. . .

September 2007

The room was a jail cell.

Suzanne had ceased to take notes long ago and could now only watch the clock ticking down, interminably slow, to their time of release. Could it only be two o'clock? How was she supposed to stand another half-hour of this mind-numbing drivel?

"Miss Saunders. Miss Saunders?"

"Huh?"

Mrs. Hanson, a peeved expression on her pinched and wrinkled face, did not attempt to conceal her sigh of annoyance. "I was asking, Miss Saunders, if you knew what x equaled."

"Erm. . . ." Suzanne squinted at the board, covered with unintelligible numbers and symbols. "Which one?"

Another loud, ostentatious sigh was the only answer she received as Mrs. Hanson directed the question toward a blond boy several rows over.

"Good one," came a voice from her right. Suzanne turned to face the cynical Caleb, the shadow of a smile on his lips.

"Oh, like you were leaping to my defense," she hissed back.

"I knew the answer. I just didn't feel like giving it." He shrugged a nonchalant shoulder at Suzanne's irritated expression. "Anyway, I was gonna ask if you wanted to come over today. Sara and Tim are coming, too."

"Can't. I'm busy."

"With what? You can't have that much homework, the year's barely started."

Suzanne simply shook her head.

"C'mon, we hardly saw you at all summer and now. . . ."

"Excuse me, but what is so interesting over there?"

. . .

What with the pound of extra math homework and Caleb's incessant nagging, the bus ride home couldn't come quickly enough; it was with a relieved air that Suzanne climbed the stairs to the sanctuary of her room.

"Suzanne, is that you? I made chocolate-chip cookies if you want some. . . ."

An indistinct mumble was the only response she received. Bag in hand, Suzanne wearily pushed open the door to her room . . . and screamed.

"What are you doing?"

Turning away from the half-dismantled memorial, Andy faced his sister, eyebrows knit in confusion. "It's been a month," he stated.

"Huh?"

"I've watched what I want on TV for a month," the boy explained, "now I want my Legos back."

"No . . . no, you can't. I . . . I still need them. . . ." Dropping her bag on the bed, Suzanne joined her brother on the floor, struggling to repair the damage.

"Why? You're not even playing with them. They're just sitting here."

"I don't care." A gasp caught in her throat as she saw Dobby's picture, thrust casually to one side, its' edges crumpled. "You can have the TV for . . . for as long as you want. Just . . . just don't touch it."

"Pinky promise?" Andy looked as if he hardly dared believe his good fortune.

Suzanne nodded, enacting the ritual with her own shaking hand before returning to the monument.

"Mom made cookies if you want some."

"Mhm."

"Suze?"

"Mhm." Now holding the paisley-print hat, Suzanne hardly seemed to be aware of her brother's presence.

"And you call me weird," he muttered.

. . .

October 2007

The room was a nightmare.

Drawers and closet both thrown open, piles of clothes – T-shirts, sweaters, jeans – lay in haphazard piles across the floor. Fruitlessly, a redheaded girl dug through the pile, discarding items at random in her search.

"Where – is – it?" She chewed anxiously on one long braid. "I just wore it a couple of months ago. . . ."

"Kay, I'm telling you, just ask your mom if you can borrow her bathrobe or something. That's black," Suzanne suggested for the third time, shifting her spot on the bed.

Kayla hopefully lifted a bulky black sweater from the bunch, only to discard it, sending her friend an irritated look as she did so.

"And I keep telling you, Suzanne, that I can'tbecause it's not authentic."

"But if you can't find it. . . ."

"Do you think Ginny would have given up that easily?" Kayla scoffed, her braids swinging as she sorted through another pile.

Knowing her friend's dedication to the youngest Weasley – who, with her bright-red hair and stubborn disposition she did resemble – Suzanne merely shrugged.

"Who are you being, anyway?"

"Huh?"

"You know, for Halloween?" A green jersey went whizzing by Suzanne's head as she spoke.

"Oh, I thought I told you – Dobby. I got a mask and everything. . . ."

"Dobby?" Kayla repeated, raising a quizzical eyebrow. "Huh."

"What's that supposed to mean – 'huh'?"

"Nothing . . . well, I just thought you'd make a good Hermione is all. I mean, I'm going as Ginny and Sara's gonna be Luna. We thought you might be Hermione."

"I don't have to be," Suzanne retorted defensively.

"I know, Suze. I wasn't saying that. I just thought it would be cool, you know?"

"Excuse me, Dobby's just as cool as Hermione. Or Ginny, for that matter," Suzanne snapped.

"Suze. . . ."

"I have to go. I forgot, my mom told me to be home early today."

"Oh . . . alright. See you at school." Kayla's nonchalant response couldn't totally hide her hurt expression.

"Yeah, see you." But at the moment, Suzanne didn't care if she ever saw those red braids again. Nevertheless, once outside – the crisp fall air biting at her pale cheeks – Kayla's words continued to reverberate in her mind.

Do you think Ginny would have given up that easily?

Never.

Do you think I would give up that easily? Stop remembering?

Never. She refused to.

. . .

November 2007

The room was a furnace.

At least, entering from the chill outdoors, that was what it felt like. Stripping off her thick gloves and hat, Suzanne struggled to massage feeling back into her numb fingertips.

"It shouldn't be this c-cold," she stuttered, teeth chattering together. Out the window, she spotted Andy and his friend, Nate, jumping around in the few piles of leaves that had not yet been bagged.

"How do they d-do it?"

Her mother smiled tenderly. "You'd be surprised. And it wasn't that many years ago Suzanne when you and all your friends were running around out there – Sara and Kayla and Tim. I nearly had to scream just to get you to come in!"

Suzanne's expression hardened at the mention of her friends. Halloween, although fun, had been a tense affair for all involved and, since then, Suzanne really hadn't spent much time with them. They, on the other hand, believed her to be acting too weird and did not actively seek her out.

Fine – they don't want to see me, I don't want to see them.

And besides, if they thought she was weird now, how would they react if she shared her secret with them?

"Do you want anything to drink, hon? I have some hot apple cider here."

Almost involuntarily, she had been edging toward the stairs.

"Erm . . . sure." From her mother's wheedling expression, it was obvious she was itching for some quality mother-daughter time.

Or maybe she thinks you're acting weird, too. Maybe she's worried about you.

I'm fine, though.

Are you?

"Just, uh . . . let me go to the bathroom first." Rushing up the stairs, however, her first stop was not the toilet but her bedroom. Crouching in front of the monument, she extracted a small wreath of leaves from her coat-pocket. She had made sure to pick the most vivid colors – Gryffindor red, Hufflepuff yellow, the orange of a Halloween pumpkin. . . .

Last year, they had carved pumpkins . . . all with grotesque expressions but the same lightning-bolt scar . . . Tim had even given his glasses. . . .

"What are you doing?" Andy's voice startled her out of her reverie.

His expression shrewd, the eight-year-old glanced from the wreath of leaves to the memorial to his sister's guilty face. He shrugged.

"They're just gonna rot," he stated.

. . .

December 2007

The room was a wonderland.

Twinkling lights and baubles festooned the tall evergreen, its' lower branches hiding from sight what, several minutes ago, had been a pile of festively-wrapped parcels.

Suzanne leant back on her slippered heels as she brushed a scrap of wrapping paper out of her hair, surveying her pile of gifts with no small satisfaction. Accepting a mug of hot cocoa from her mother, she leapt up a few seconds later – nearly sending the hot liqiud flying – as a wall of Legos crashed down around her, closely followed by Andy, a velociraptor figure clutched firmly in one hand.

"Careful, Andy," Mrs. Saunders scolded, offering her daughter a hand up. Her remonstration, however, was barely heard as Andy gave voice to the dino in a triumphant shriek, obviously reveling in his new toys.

Eager to be away from the noise, Suzanne was quick – much more so than usual – to clear up her own parcels. Folding the last of the sweaters, Suzanne's eyes fell first upon the memorial – given a more festive tone with a gold-and-green ornament – before moving on to the gift sitting next to it, her pride and joy, the special-edition Order of Phoenix DVD.

She knew her mother would expect her to wait, to socialize with her relatives who would be coming to dinner. But they weren't here yet, were they? And it was right there, just waiting. . . .

Oh, hell. . . .

Placing the movie into the computer's disk drive, Suzanne's fingers drummed in tandem with the computer's whirring and clicking, waiting impatiently for it to load. Of course, it had been much better quality when she'd seen it in theaters – she and Sara, Kayla, Caleb, and Tim had gone to see it that time.

She wondered what they'd gotten for Christmas – the movie? Or something else? Sara had been pining for Luna's radish earrings, she knew. . . .

Whatever. It didn't matter.

Besides, it was Christmas. They were probably busy. . . .

Finally, finally, the main menu appeared on her screen and, almost over-eagerly, she clicked Play.

Below, her mother was chatting animatedly to her sister on the phone. Andy knocked down still another Lego tower, crowing in victory. Pulling the door closed, Suzanne returned to Harry, sitting alone on a swing-set.

. . .

January 2008

The room was a firework.

Multicolored confetti almost completely covered carpet and chairs, dotting a few stray pizza slices alongside pepperoni and mushrooms, some sort of bizarre topping. Curled up in chairs and sleeping bags alike, four teenagers lay asleep.

The fifth sat watching.

Her glance shifting from her friends to the digital clock, Suzanne counted down the minutes – not until the New Year – but until they would leave. She would have been just fine with a simple pizza or two with her family, but had anyone listened?

Of course not.

Worried about her daughter's recent reclusive tendencies, Mrs. Saunders – deaf to her daughter's insistence – had invited Sara, Kayla, Tim, and Caleb to a dusk-till-dawn celebration. Obviously believing herself to be giving her daughter a tremendous treat, the woman had left the teenagers to their tense silence: the four visitors all-too conscious of their unwanted presence and their unwilling host wanted nothing more than to be alone.

All attempts at friendly conversation – even among the latter four – had seemed unnatural and were quickly stifled. Even Mrs. Saunders's suggestion of watching "Suze's new DVD" had been shot down within a few minutes of the opening scene. The idea of Harry, secluded and snappish, had struck too close to home.

Harry Potter, once such a uniting force amongst them, now served to drive them apart.

The confetti had been thrown, the kazoos had been blown, at midnight – welcoming in 2008 – but it had been more out of habit than anything.

They all had drifted off sometime after – too weary for any "till-dawn" festivities – but Suzanne, restless, had woken only a few minutes ago. Another glance at the digital display showed seven o'clock on the dot and Suzanne darted a furtive glance at the DVD, face-down on the floor beside a snoring Tim.

I should probably bring it upstairs before someone steps on it or something.

Understanding – and accepting – how crappy an excuse this was, Suzanne extricated herself from the chair and, movie in hand, tiptoed out of the room.

Draping the Gryffindor scarf safely over it again, Suzanne turned to leave – already musing over what she wanted for breakfast – when a figure, standing stock-still in the doorway, made her start.

"Hey," Sara yawned. "I was wondering where you went."

"Yeah. . . ." Suzanne had to forcefully prevent herself from saying, Well, it's my house. "What are you doing up here, anyway?"

Sara's normally serene face hardened slightly. "Bathroom."

"Don't let me slow you down, then." Suzanne's laugh did not conceal her unkind expression.

The other girl, however, didn't move. Eyes narrowed, she appeared to be squinting at something . . . and Suzanne had a very shrewd suspicion she knew what.

"Sara? Hello? Earth to. . . ."

"Suze, what is that?"

"What – what's what?" Attempting to obscure Sara's line of vision, Suzanne began chivvying her away from the door. "I don't see anything."

"That . . . that – are those Legos?"

"N-no, what are you. . . ?" But Sara had already sidestepped her and had knelt down by the memorial, was even now reading the inscription.

"Remember Dobby . . . Suze, is this what's been wrong?"

"No!" It was a bad lie, even to her own ears. "And don't touch that!" She stepped protectively in front of the sketch.

She didn't know why she was lying to Sara. Unlike Caleb – or even Kayla or Tim – Sara would never tease her about something like this. She supposed it was just the idea – that this had been her secret – that no one else knew, but Sara had forced her way into.

As if she had a right to know, a right to pity, just to make herself feel better for rejecting Suzanne in the first place.

"All this time? Suze, why didn't you tell us?"

"Well, I might've," she retorted angrily, "if you lot hadn't refused to listen in the first place!"

"Refuse to listen? When did we refuse to. . . ?"

"You called me weird . . . and you never wanted to talk to me, and. . . ."

"Suze, you know we only did that after you stopped talking to us!"

But Suzanne didn't care. She didn't want to hear reason or sense, she didn't want to be pitied; this irrational anger soothed her like nothing else did.

She wanted to know so bad, so let her deal with the consequences.

"Suze. . . ." Sara reached out a tentative hand, but Suzanne turned away.

"Get out." Her voice was controlled, calm. "Just . . . get out."

"But. . . ."

"Get out!" In the next room, Andy stirred, moaning.

Sara's eyes were suspiciously wet. "Fine. I'll be downstairs if you. . . ."

"I said – leave!"

Suzanne slammed the door just before the tears came.

. . .

February 2008

The room was a torture chamber.

"Isn't this, like, great?" Rachael trilled excitedly, applying a third coat of lip-gloss to her already shining lips.

"Mmm." Suzanne nodded vaguely.

"I mean, it's so great that Miss Boucher like, cares about her students so much y'know? I mean, she's like, so young and she understands how important Valentine's Day is and . . . ohmygawd, it's just so amazing!" she squealed.

"Mhm." Chilled to the bone, Suzanne's mood matched compared more with the stormy-gray sky rather than that of the pink, sparkling, and cupid-adorned homeroom.

Granted, she had never really been a fan of the big V-Day. The mushy cards, teddies, and antacid "candy" hearts had almost made her gag, but at least before there had been someone to gag with.

This year, she was alone.

"Ohmygawd, he's so sweet!" Another squeal from Rachael, this time louder, as Miss Boucher handed a rose, presumably from her boyfriend, Brandon. For a small fee, students could send a flower and, if they chose, a small message to their sweetheart.

Several other girls sat, swooning and giggling over their own messages – a few whispering over who their secret admirer might be – while a few jocks had flushed scarlet, hastily shoving lovingly-crafted poems into their bags.

The vast majority, however, were sitting, heads on hands, watching the proceedings with dismal gloom, their hope dwindling with the roses. Suzanne knew that, by the end of the day, they would have wilted entirely.

Because they were alone, too.

"And so the lion fell in love with the lamb," Rachael read. "Isn't that like, so sweet, Suzie? It's like, so deep, y'know?"

"Sweet." Captain of the hockey team, Brandon was about as deep as a puddle.

Rachael, now busily texting her boyfriend under the table – OMG, I luv u! 3 – barely noticed her companion's lackluster response.

With someone like Rachael, there was no true connection. Vapid and ditzy with her primary concern the sale at Hollister, secrets were left unexplored. Any possible emotional founts were left untapped.

Which was just the way Suzanne liked it.

Investing less meant there was less to lose. Less pain to endure when it finally ended.

Because it would end – everything did, eventually. Love. Life.

Friendship.

"Well, well, someone's certainly popular today!" Staring at nothing, Miss Boucher's chipper tones made her start.

"Huh?"

The teacher's actions, however, spoke for themselves. Suzanne could only stare in wonderment as one, two, three, four roses were placed on the table before her.

"Ooh, who sent you those?" Rachael's eyes widened in envy.

"I dunno. . . ." she lied. She had a shrewd suspicion, one she desperately hoped was wrong . . . but, no, that was a lie, too. She half-wanted to be right.

"I bet you have a secret admirer!" Rachael gasped; there was no hiding her jealous tone now.

"Oh, you lucky girl, you!" Tipping both girls an enormous wink, Miss Boucher moved off to deliver the last few missives.

"Well . . . aren't you gonna open them?" Rachael's pink-taloned nails reached for the first flower. Before Suzanne could stop her, she had read aloud the first word, "To."

"Is that all it says?"

"Yeah. . . . You know what, Suzie," and her expression abruptly became pitying and – or was this her imagination? - somewhat relieved, "these were probably like, sent by a bunch of weirdos who don't even, like know what romance is."

There was no doubt they had been sent by weirdos. Whether they were her weirdos was the question.

"OMG, and you probably got your hopes up, too! You should just throw them right in the bin . . . show those assholes just what you think of them! Here, I'll do it. . . ."

"No! Erm . . . I mean, no thanks, Rach. I think I'll just . . . see what they say. I mean, it's kinda interesting, isn't it? A mystery?"

An eye roll was the only reply she received. "Whatever. Ooh!" she squealed as her phone beeped, signaling her own return to its screen.

Heedless of the attached flowers, Suzanne ripped open the three remaining cards.

Back

Us

Come

And, at the very bottom of the Us card, you lovable idiot. Well, that was obviously the final one. As for the remaining three . . . To Come Back . . . Back To Come . . . Come Back To. . . .

Come Back To Us (you lovable idiot).

Maybe she wasn't as alone as she had thought.

But did she want to be? Being alone was easier. The less you cared, the less of yourself you gave up to be hurt.

Did less pain equal happiness?

"Well?" Rachael demanded. "Who were they from?"

"Just weirdos." Suzanne shrugged. "You were right."

She had always been bad at math.

. . .

March 2008

The room was a scale.

Untraceable and unquestionable, it was the unspoken law of the cafeteria, a sort of supernatural force that, upon entering the hall, gave each student his or her place in the hierarchy.

The popular group claimed the center table, holding court over every other clique.

Punks darted glances between their table and the bathroom – only a few feet away – which smoke furled out of, a noxious odor.

Honor students sat, primed and ready, directly next to the exit; a few pored over textbooks or test papers.

And, tucked away in the farthest corner were the stragglers. The misfits. Suzanne.

That unspoken force gave even those who didn't belong a niche to cling to – albeit an unhappy one. Bent over her styrofoam tray, Suzanne stared at the table. Eye contact might lead to conversation, conversation to that inevitable question, Why are you here?.

A question ordinarily posed to prison inmates and one that, ike the inmates, Suzanne was just as unwilling to discuss.

What would she say, anyway?

How'd I get here? Well, let's see . . . I drove away the only real friends I had and when I tried to get nicey-nice with another girl, she turned into a total bitch on me.

Or maybe she hadn't turned into one. Maybe she'd been one all along.

Either way, a few days after the card incident, Rachael had taken it upon herself to let much of her social circle know "poor Suzie's" story.

"Don't worry, I just know you'll meet someone someday. It's like, destiny, y'know? Like me and Brandon." Patting Suzanne's hand, Rachael could barely conceal a grin.

Having her suggest "hooking up" with Tim – because he's like, totally cute – had been the last straw. As the biggest gossip-monger in the school, Rachael must surely have heard about the rift, must have known how much it would hurt.

A hesitant glance showed the girl, sitting with her arm twined possessively around Brandon's.

Bitch.

"You gonna eat that?"

Speak of the devil. Tim had taken a seat directly across from her, fork poised over her cup of macaroni salad.

"Go ahead." She pushed the half-devoured tray toward him, not sure exactly what she was doing. Half of her wanted to tell him to leave or, failing that, to leave herself. But she didn't – couldn't. He was just . . . just. . . .

"Awesome." His sheer exuberance startled several stragglers, who apprehensively glanced up from their own meals. "Hey, what's up?"

. . . Tim. The Tim from last summer, before everything had become so wrong.

There was silence for a few moments, save for his slurping of noodles and mayonnaise.

"What are you. . . ?"

"Doing here?"

Suzanne nodded. "Why aren't you with the others?"

"Well, first off," he raised a finger, "I was hungry." He grinned and an unwilling smile tugged at Suzanne's own lips. This was safe, no emotional upset, just the old, laughing Tim.

"And second . . . we – I – miss you."

Jaw tense, Suzanne turned back to the table.

Tim shrugged, ever-nonchalant. "Just letting you know . . . so you get more in future, that is." He nodded toward the empty cup of pasta.

It wasn't funny. It was cheesy and stupid and everything Suzanne had been missing.

She laughed.

. . .

April 2008

The room was a studio.

Dye-spattered newspapers were scattered across the floor, comics and classifieds eclipsed by stains of baby blue, yellow, and pink.

Spring colors. Colors that a dozen eggs – placed neatly in their carton – were now sporting, each drying in its respective plinth.

Leant on her elbows, Suzanne proudly surveyed her creations. Their bright hues cheered her like nothing else did. . . .

Even Legos.

No, she didn't want to think about that now. Not when she was so content.

But she knew she would never have the courage to face the truth, otherwise. She let it come, let herself hear the truth, no matter how painful.

Investing less hurt less. She knew that. But, if that were true, why had she idolized it so, given up so much of herself to it? A mere collection of plastic and paper? Her mind struggled to find justification.

It helped you. What about that tough time last month?

But no . . . Tim had done that. In truth, was still doing it. Through his presence, lunch had gone from the most-detested, to her favorite part of the day. They would never discuss anything serious but just talk about everyday things – homework, TV shows, family – simply enjoying eachother's company.

Sometimes one of the others – Sara or Kayla or Caleb – would join them, but it just wasn't the same. Taking their example from Tim, none of them would ever try to force the issue, would smile and laugh in all the right places. But when their laughs seemed a bit too forced, their smiles a bit too mask-like, Suzanne saw it. They weren't comfortable just ignoring the problem; to them, it was as big as an elephant in the room.

It was these visits that drove the point home to her all the more clearly.

This couldn't last forever. A friendship based solely on ignorance and lies was doomed to failure and, eventually, Suzanne knew she would have to face up . . . or be alone again.

And when you are alone . . . who will help you then?

But who said she really wanted to be alone?

They're just selfish. They called you weird, remember?

No, they weren't – aren't.

They cared about her. And the memorial – built to honor Dobby, one of the most generous creatures in the fandom – had done nothing more but drive her away from them.

Was that all it would stand for now – her own petty selfishness?

Or could she still remember Dobby?

Remember how much he valued love and friendship, how much he had given to save his friends.

Remember her own friends – Sara's serenity and Kayla's perseverance, Caleb's wit and Tim's . . . sheer Tim-ishness.

As if on auto-pilot, Suzanne found herself ascending the stairs and crouching in front of the badly-drawn sketch – now yellowing – the encircling Legos, the mismatched socks and the paisley-print hat.

She slipped the socks onto her feet, the hat onto her head. On such a muggy April afternoon, she was sure she looked ridiculous.

But she didn't care.

Her best friends would be with her, wherever life may lead.

. . .

May 2008

The room was a courthouse.

Filled with chatting patrons and screaming children enjoying an air-conditioned respite from the warm day, the ice-cream parlor served as the perfect cover for the five teens. Squashed into a corner booth, the silence surrounding them – in stark contrast with the rest of the shop – was eerie.

Four pairs of eyes lay fixed upon the last member of their group. Though not accusing – more curious than anything – Suzanne found she couldn't look at them, instead poking uninterestedly at her sundae. Her face, despite the cool atmosphere, was flushed.

Today wasn't a friendly, lunchtime meeting.

Whatever she said, they would judge. Judge if they really did want her to Come Back To Us.

She wouldn't blame them if they didn't.

So what's stopping you? The pain?

No. Sure, it hurt to care, but it hurt not to care more. She had known the risks when she had arranged this meeting. Now, she needed to face them.

"Look, guys. . . ."

Giggling, a toddler smashed their chocolate cone against the wall. He began to cry mere moments later.

"That's my cue." Rolling her eyes, Kayla donned her visor and name-tag, heading toward where the mess lay. Suzanne watched her go with a mixture of apprehension and relief – should she continue? Should they perhaps wait for a more opportune time?

But would she ever be able to do this again?

"We know you've been an idiot." In her friend's absence, Sara seemed to have taken Kayla's outspokenness upon herself.

And it was that, more than anything, that broke the spell. Before she knew it, Suzanne was talking, talking more than she ever had in her life – telling them everything.

How the memorial had been hers and hers alone.

How they had disturbed that secret.

How the ideals that it – that Dobby – had stood for had been so grossly twisted.

How she came to be wearing a winter hat in seventy-five degree weather.

And how . . . how she would understand if. . . . But she was afraid to ask – could this be the end?

"Oh, I was wondering why you did that. Because, no offense -" Caleb placed Kayla's pink-and-green visor atop his own head - "it looks stupider than this. And that is saying something."

As Kayla swatted at him with said headgear, as Tim flicked a spoonful of whipped cream at the pair and she proclaimed that she "wasn't cleaning that up," as Sara snorted into her smoothie, Suzanne tucked the paisley-print hat into her pocket.

There was no need for it. Not now.

. . .

June 2008

The room was a theater.

With the lights dimmed and the door closed, five faces crowded around the computer screen. A close fit, but with Andy still exercising his privilege over the television, there was very little choice.

Suzanne cringed as Spongebob's dulcet tones edged through the crack between door and wall, an odd contrast to Harry's almost-perpetual angst.

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?

SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS!

Why had she allowed him free rein of the TV again?

"You wouldn't understand."

"Then help us to."

Briefly, Tim's hand squeezed hers. She squeezed back.

They will understand, Harry. They will. Just tell them.

"We believe you by the way. That He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is back, and you fought him, and the Ministry and the Prophet are conspiring against you and Dumbledore."

"Thanks. Seems you're about the only ones that do."

"I don't think that's true. But I suppose that's how he wants you to feel."

"What do you mean?"

"Well if I were You-Know-Who, I'd want you to feel cut off from everyone else. Because if it's just you alone you're not as much of a threat."

Five glances, five grins.

Though difficult to see in the dim light, a second sketch had joined Dobby's aged portrait. Five friends – some mere smiling stick figures, others more realistic – stood in the middle of the page, joined by a chain – outlined in Magic Marker – a chain that comprised of one word.

Friends, friends, friends. . . .

"Do you ever stop eating?"

"What? I'm hungry."

"Can I join you?"

. . .

July 2008

The room was empty.

The bed still held its Gryffindor hangings, the shelves were still stuffed with stories, the walls had even gained a few new posters. The farthest corner, however, was now empty; no bright blocks redeemed the plainness of the walls. The two sketches lay askew on the desk, surrounded by various papers and paraphernalia – ballpoint pens and pencils.

Fanfiction, one notebook read.

Another paper, this one a card in bright shades of red and blue, proclaimed:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

And, inside, in Caleb's neat script:

Deathly Hallows, how we love thee.

Come celebrate its anniversary.

Wow, that was a really bad rhyme.

Just come, OK?

P.S. Remember Dobby

. . .

A/N: I understand that I'm probably in the minority here, but I wasn't really crazy for Dobby's death scene in the Deathly Hallows movie. I feel that, in the book, it had far more emotion. Hmm . . . maybe because we didn't really get to know Dobby in the films?

Let me know what you think in a review!

As this is the final chapter, I am now going to start work on Distorted Reflections. The next chapter is tentatively called The Underground, but it will not be out until after Christmas is over.

In that spirit, I wish you all a Merry Christmas! :D