The Sunday morning sun is streaming into the living room as Clive tiptoes across the floor, trying to be as quiet as he can. The house is silent apart from the scuff of his feet on shiny floorboards and the rattle of Kelly’s water bottle as he approaches her cage. She’s thirsty, and he thinks that maybe—just maybe—he’ll be tall enough to reach the taps in the kitchen to refill the bottle.
“Hello, Kel,” he whispers, sticking his finger through the bars of the cage for the rat to nibble like she always does; it always tickles and he knows that she never bites hard enough to hurt, despite anything Mrs Mafloy might have to say on the subject. She doesn’t like Kelly at all. He knows she doesn’t, even though she sighs and says,
“I do not dislike her, Clive, sweetheart, I just... have an aversion to rats.”
Clive isn’t sure what that means, but when he’d repeated her words to Drake, he had snorted and rolled his eyes and given Kelly an extra treat through the bars of her cage, which she’d taken and quickly hidden in the corner for later. Even though Mrs Mafloy doesn’t think so, Clive knows his rat is dead smart. The man in the shop said so.
Kelly doesn’t nibble his finger today, and Clive frowns. With some difficulty and a loud clang, he prises the cage door open, small fingers slipping on the cool metal. The noise makes him bite his lip and glance around himself, and up at the ceiling where Harry and Drake are still sleeping. He’s not worried about waking Harry up, because he once tried to make his own breakfast and accidentally pulled out the drawer with all the knives and forks and spoons onto the tiled floor, and even that noise didn’t wake Harry up.
Drake, who says Harry sleeps like a dead man, is a bit different. He’s not very nice in the mornings and Clive holds his breath until he’s sure that everyone is still asleep.
Relieved, he reaches into the cage and grabs Kelly. He pulls her out and holds her up to his face, examining her in the bright sunshine. She smells like sawdust and warm fur, and he rubs her against his cheek like he always does, smiling as her whiskers twitch against his skin. Frowning a little, he notices that she doesn’t scrabble and kick sawdust all over his pyjamas as much as usual. She seems sleepy.
“Are you alright?” he asks, taking slow backward steps, careful not to trip over the pyjamas that Mrs Weasley said he’d ‘grow into’ as he goes. He flops onto the sofa and sticks his legs out, distracted for a moment from Kelly’s warm weight in his cupped hands—the pyjama bottoms completely cover his feet. Apparently, Mrs Weasley thinks he’s going to grow a lot.
Kelly sneezes, and Clive turns back to her, brow furrowed. She’s always sneezed a lot, though. He remembers the first time he held her, back in Dragon Alley when he was only five. It seems like a long time ago. A long, long time. Fyz’s friend Seb came to visit everyone at Foundations, and he had a shiny brown rat on his shoulder. Seb’s rat was called Nigel and he did all kinds of tricks. Clive, who loves animals of every kind, hadn’t taken long to fall in love with the little creature, and was soon desperate to have a shiny rat of his own.
Mrs Mafloy, unfortunately, was having none of it. Clive had gone to Harry next, and despite Drake’s complaints, it wasn’t long before the three of them were standing in the rustling, musty-smelling Magical Menagerie. Clive had thought he might burst with excitement, hanging onto Harry’s hand while they waited for the man behind the counter to finish helping a lady with a very noisy cat in her arms.
Drake had done that eyebrow thing and wandered off to look at the snakes in their glass boxes, and Harry had smiled and nudged Clive forward when the old man had looked up.
“We’d like to buy a rat, please,” he’d said in hushed tones, and the man had to lean forward to hear him.
The man looked into a big cage very seriously. “Ah. This one’s very friendly,” he said, picking up a struggling black rat with strange purple patches. It had reminded Clive of the nice nurse who used to help him with his drawings when he was in the hospital with his mum.
When he took it, it stopped struggling and sat very still in his hand, leaning up on its back legs. Delighted, Clive had stared and two beady black eyes stared right back.
“Hello,” he whispered.
The rat leaned closer until its whiskers brushed his chin and then sneezed in his face. He laughed.
“Is that the one you want?”
Clive had nodded and let the rat scramble up onto his shoulder where it sat, tickling his ear. He’d watched as Drake continued to poke at all the things around the shop, looking at price tags with his eyebrows everywhere. He’d then watched as Harry leaned across the counter and asked the old man very quietly how long the rat would live, in that voice that Clive knew he wasn’t supposed to be able to hear.
“’Least five years, them,” he’d said. “Shouldn’t ’ave any trouble with ’er.”
Not her, Clive had thought. Not her. Kelly. Just like the nice nurse.
Now, Clive smiles and strokes Kelly’s glossy black head with his thumb.
Harry says that the real Kelly, the nurse one, thinks it’s very funny to have a rat named after her. He says she doesn’t mind, though, and Clive doesn’t know why anybody would mind. She’s such a good rat.
He holds out his arm for her to scramble up so she can take her favourite place on his shoulder, but she doesn’t move. Anxious, Clive pokes her gently, but there is still no movement. Heart racing, he picks her up from his lap, ever so carefully, and, toes curling tight against his too-long pyjamas, he examines her, barely breathing.
“Kel,” he whispers, starting to feel sick. She feels limp, and her clever, shiny eyes are dull and empty. “Kel, what’s wrong?” he demands, but inside he thinks he knows. She’s very sick and maybe... maybe... it gnaws at him inside and his throat feels all tight.
There’s a scrape and a creak from upstairs, and Clive looks up at the ceiling, never letting go of Kelly. Hope sparking, he jumps up and races for the stairs, stumbling as he goes but not caring. Harry is a Healer. He’ll know what to do.
Harry comes down the stairs slowly, one arm stretched over his head and the other rubbing at his eyes. He always looks funny in the mornings with his hair everywhere and his glasses on his head, but Clive hardly notices today.
“Harry!” he cries, jumping onto the bottom step and cradling the motionless Kelly against his chest. “Harry, help!”
Harry startles and his hand drops away from his eyes and wraps around the balustrade as he peers down at Clive with worried green eyes.
“You made me jump,” he grumbles, and then: “What’s wrong, little man?”
“Kelly’s ill... I think... there’s something wrong with her,” Clive says, and it’s hard because his mouth is all dry. He holds his rat out to Harry, knowing that he can trust him. “You have to fix her,” he whispers.
Harry’s eyebrows fold up but his face looks pale and blank as he carefully takes Kelly and runs his fingers over her. Lifts her and places his ear against her chest. Clive holds his breath. Harry sighs and looks at the stair carpet as though he’s deciding something.
After a long time, he sits down on the bottom step with Kelly on his knee. He’s wearing shorts and her pink tail trails across his bare skin and a scar shaped like a leaf. “I can’t, Clive, I’m really sorry.”
“You have to help her.” Clive’s fingers twist into fists at his side and he feels sick. “You have to!”
“I can’t,” Harry says, and his voice sounds funny. He strokes Kelly’s head with his thumb just like Clive had done just minutes ago, and suddenly he doesn’t want Harry to touch her.
“You’re a Healer! Why won’t you—”
“Clive,” Harry interrupts softly, reaching out and touching his arm. “I’m afraid she’s dead. There’s nothing I can do to help her. I’m really sorry.”
Dead. Clive’s eyes are hot and stingy as he looks at Kelly. She’s so still. But he doesn’t want to hear it. “No, she’s not!” he insists, twisting away from Harry’s touch and breathing hard because the little twists of anger in his chest are stealing his air. “She’s not!” he shouts, and it hurts.
“I’m sorry... really... but...” Harry stops and covers Kelly’s black and purple fur with his hand. It’s pale and his nails are all bitten. Drake always tells him off about that. “Look how still she is,” he whispers, and Clive looks, pretending he’s not. “She’s gone, mate.”
“Then bring her back,” Clive mumbles, wrapping his arms around himself, feeling as though his insides want to fall out everywhere. He knows what Harry will say, but he doesn’t care.
“I can’t. I can only make someone better if they’re still alive. I wish I could.”
“She wasn’t supposed to die,” Clive says, feeling those angry tears spill over onto his cheeks. Scrubbing them away with his pyjama sleeve until his skin is sore. “And my mummy wasn’t supposed to die! Everybody dies!”
Harry’s eyes are wide. “Well...”
“Eventually, yes,” Drake says, appearing at the top of the stairs. He looks ruffled and sleepy and for once Clive doesn’t care about having woken him up. Kelly is dead, and no one can bring her back.
“But you said... the man said she’d live for five years and it’s been...” Clive frowns, feeling like his head is full of cotton wool, “...not five years!” His heart hurts and he can’t quite stop himself from stamping his foot, even though he knows he’s supposed to be a big boy. He doesn’t care. They lied to him. It’s not fair.
“That’s true,” Drake says calmly, coming to sit next to Harry on the bottom step and running a long, pale finger along Kelly’s back. He and Harry swap a look that Clive knows they think he doesn’t see. They do that a lot. For a second, Drake’s hand grazes Harry’s knee and then it’s wrapping around the opposite arm as he looks at Clive. “But sometimes animals... and people... get ill and they die before they’re supposed to. I know it’s not fair,” he adds quietly, and Clive wonders if Drake can read his mind.
He hopes not. It would be sort of cool, in a way, but his thoughts are for him, aren’t they?
“What happened?” Harry asks at last.
“She was sleepy and then she went all floppy in my hand,” Clive whispers around the lump in his throat. The crackling in his chest is slipping away and he suddenly feels heavy. He leans against the wall and picks at his cuffs.
“I’m sure she didn’t suffer, then,” Drake says uncertainly. “Harry, you’re the Healer—what do you think?”
Harry swallows and looks up. “No, I think it was probably just like going to sleep. I don’t think she was in pain.”
Clive sniffs. “Really?”
“Really. That’s my professional medical opinion,” Harry says, sitting up a bit straighter and trying to smile. Drake really does touch him now, uncrossing his arms so he can twist his fingers through Harry’s. Clive watches them, watches them glance at Kelly, at him, at each other, and remembers that Mrs Mafloy once said they were a strange pair. Clive thinks they look like they belong together.
The thought that Kelly didn’t suffer makes it just a bit easier to breathe, and even though there’s still a knotted lead weight in his stomach, when Harry holds out an arm to him, he goes to them, climbing into Drake’s lap and trying to hug them both at once. Drake smells lemony and Harry’s chin is prickly against his forehead. He reaches out a hand and strokes Kelly’s fur one more time. She feels cold.
When they step out of the fireplace at the Manor a few minutes later, Mrs Mafloy is standing there waiting for them. It’s like she knows something is wrong, and Clive isn’t sure how she does that, but her forehead is creased and she reaches out for him, pulling him toward her while Zeus patters around his ankles and whiffles at his clothes. Usually he likes the soft little noises and the tickly feeling on his skin, but now he thinks about Kelly and how still and sad she’d looked, curled in the wooden box Harry had found for her, ‘just for now’, and he doesn’t want Zeus.
Harry and Drake are talking to Mrs Mafloy but he doesn’t hear the words, and her hand is cool on his shoulder. He sneaks a glance up at her and tears sting his eyes. She hates Kelly, anyway. Hated her.
“... thought it was best for him to come home,” someone says, and Clive takes a ragged breath.
He pushes Zeus away, ducks out from under Mrs Mafloy’s hand and runs. Runs and runs, clattering across the entrance hall and into the first corridor he sees.
“Leave him be,” Mrs Mafloy says, or at least he thinks she does. Either way, no one follows him.
The house still feels big to him even though he’s lived here a long time now, but it doesn’t take him too long to reach the shiny wooden doors leading to Foundations. He likes it here. The people here always treat him like a grown up, and they have brilliant stories to tell and games to play. He doesn’t much feel like playing games today, but somehow it feels like the right place to be, and he once again scrubs his sore eyes with his robe sleeve before he pushes the door open with all of his weight and slips into the room.
It’s empty. He lets out his breath, disappointed, and walks slowly across the room, trailing his fingers along the smooth wooden table as he goes.
“Good morning, sunshine!” calls a warm voice from not far away, and Clive frowns, confused, until he rounds the end of the table and finds Annette on the floor, sitting cross-legged against the wall and sorting through piles of coloured parchments.
“Where is everyone?” he asks, looking down at her. She’s smiling and her eyes are crinkled at the corners.
“Eating.” She gestures for him to sit down, but he hesitates. “Breakfast is later at the weekends, remember? Goodness, what’s the matter?” Her smile fades and Clive feels suddenly small and silly as he slides down the wall to sit beside her with his knees pulled up to his chest.
“My rat died,” he whispers. “Everyone dies.”
Annette sighs and sets her handful of rainbow-coloured parchments on the floor. “Oh dear. I’m sorry to hear that, little pea. It’s always sad when someone we love leaves us.”
Clive sniffs and says nothing, looking at Annette’s earrings; they’re always in the shape of animals, and these ones are silver badgers. When they leave us, he thinks, letting the words echo inside his head. Drake and Mrs Mafloy always talk about the stars, but it occurs to Clive that different people may just believe different things. Harry’s always telling him that everybody is different, after all.
“Where do you think people... and rats... go when they die?” he asks, curiosity dulling the ache in his chest for a moment.
Annette looks surprised, but she gives him a little smile. “Well... alright. Did I ever tell you about my daddy?”
Clive shakes his head.
“Well, I’m Muggleborn, you know, and my daddy is a vicar.”
“’S’that?” Clive mumbles around the thumb he’s gnawing on.
“His job is to talk to God, and tell everyone else all about God, too. And when I was a little girl, my daddy told me that when you die, you go up to heaven to live forever with anyone else in your family who has passed away. And God has a son called Jesus, who looks after everyone,” Annette explains. “So, I think your rat will be in heaven... running around and eating lots of lovely things.”
Clive chews his lip and looks at his shoes. He’s not quite sure he got all that, but it sounds interesting.
“How will Jesus have time to look after everyone?” he asks at last. Lots of people and animals die... it must be very, very crowded up there.
“Well, he’s magic.”
Startled, Clive meets her eyes. “He’s a wizard?”
Annette rubs at the knees of her jeans, which are covered in paint like they always are. “Not really,” she says, though she sounds unsure. “He’s a different kind of magic.”
“Oh,” Clive says softly, pretending he understands, even though he doesn’t. “I see. Do you really think that’s what happens?”
“I really do.” Annette smiles again and pulls a pretty silver chain out of her t-shirt—it has a silver cross on the end of it. “That’s why I wear this.”
“It’s nice,” Clive says, and she doesn’t say anything when he brushes his fingertips over the cold metal. “What does the cross mean?”
Annette frowns and lets the cross go so that it dangles against her blue t-shirt. “It’s a bit of a long story, actually. Maybe I could tell you another day.” She pauses, seeming to sense his disappointment. “Maybe it would help to draw a picture of her?”
“Of Kelly? Do you think it would?”
“I don’t know. Drawing always makes me feel better,” Annette says, flicking her wand so that a packet of coloured pencil crayons flies through the air and into her hand. “Come on, let’s draw one together.”
Clive hesitates for a moment, pictures the still and silent Kelly in her box and takes a purple pencil crayon with a nod. “Let’s draw her running about.”
Clive spends much of the morning sitting on the hearth rug and listening to the residents talking and laughing. It seems strange that they have so much to laugh about when someone is dead, but it’s alright, because he has a lot to think about, anyway, and it feels safe here. He almost doesn’t notice the tall, dark figure striding past, but when he catches sight of it, he scrambles to his feet and follows it out of the room and into a bright closet that smells of inks and wood and parchment.
The tall man crouches on the floor and rifles through boxes; Clive watches in silence. Marley is a strange man but Clive likes him. His accent sounds nice and his hair is shiny and black like Clive’s mum’s. Drake and Harry laugh at him quite a bit, but Clive doesn’t always understand what they find so funny. As he watches Marley and listens to him swearing under his breath and flicking his hair out of his face, he has a strange feeling that if he asks the same question he asked Annette, he’ll get a very different answer.
“Marley?” he speaks up at last.
“Didn’t I just tell you to... oh,” he falters, spinning around and noticing Clive. His face softens. “How are you doing, then? Annie told me what happened. It’s a shame, it is.”
Clive nods. He wraps his fingers around the doorframe and swallows hard. “Where do you think she is?”
“That’s a big question,” Marley says, dark eyes serious. It’s strange to see him not smiling, but Clive is glad he’s not. “Why don’t you ask Mrs Malfoy about it?”
Clive screws his eyes up, feeling as though he’s been kicked in the stomach. “She doesn’t understand.”
Marley frowns. Picks a bit of fluff from the sleeve of his robe. “I’m sure she does. She understood well enough about your ma, didn’t she?”
“It’s not the same,” Clive whispers, and it sounds wobbly. It’s not that he doesn’t miss his mum—he misses her every day—but sometimes it feels like she left such a long time ago, when he was so small. He’s big now, and this hurts a lot, but Mrs Mafloy and rats do not mix. “Anyway,” he adds stubbornly, “I know what she thinks. I want to know what you think!”
“Alright then, since you insist,” Marley sighs, one black eyebrow in the air. “I think it’s all a big cycle.”
“Everything.” Marley holds his arms out to the sides and waves them around. “Nature. The world. The universe. When you die, your body becomes part of the earth, and then—” he drops his hands and brings one up, bending and twisting his wrist and fingers like a shoot, “—new life grows from the earth.”
Clive watches him, entranced, and then shakes himself, tilting his head back to meet Marley’s eyes. “So we turn into grass? Kelly will turn into grass?”
Marley gives him an odd little smile. “Her body will. But her spirit, her soul, will be free to go somewhere else... to live inside a different animal. Do you understand?”
“Sort of. What about God?”
“I’m not the person to be asking about God, I’m afraid,” Marley says with a soft laugh. “But put it this way—no one’s ever completely gone. She’s somewhere, and she’ll remember being your rat. I promise.”
Clive looks away from him and wipes the dust from a bottle of green ink with his finger. He swallows hard and nods. Marley shuffles his feet on the floor for a moment or two, as though he’s not sure what to do next. Then he collects a few things from the shelves and turns back to Clive.
“I’m going to play a trick on Annie. Want to help?” He flashes a grin and Clive notices that his arms are full of rubber bands, boxes of pins and tubes of glue. “Come on, it’ll do you good.”
Clive pauses for a moment, thinking about Kelly and Annette and Drake and Harry and exactly what Mrs Mafloy would think about what Marley is going to do. Whatever he’s going to do.
“Okay. What’s the glue for?”
There is still glue in Clive’s hair when he sits down for dinner that evening. Mrs Mafloy had said nothing when he returned from Foundations in sticky, ruined robes and Clive decides not to tell her that Annette had looked a lot worse. No, she had simply cleaned him up and sent him to change, and now they’re sitting at the dining table in silence.
She’s trying, but it feels all wrong. She tells him that Harry and Drake are coming over later, and she tells him what she and Zeus have been doing during the day, and her voice is softer than usual. Eventually, she stops saying anything besides: “Eat your broccoli, sweetheart” and a careful “I am here if you would like to talk to me, Clive.”
Clive thinks he would not.
He doesn’t eat much of his dinner, nor does he give it to Zeus, who is still sitting hopefully under the table at his feet.
“I don’t want you,” he says, folding his arms and turning around on his chair. When he turns around again, Zeus is lying very flat on the carpet, ears down and tail flicking gently. He looks sad, and Clive’s heart hurts, but he can’t stop himself from feeling hot and angry. He’s not Kelly, because Kelly is dead, and it’s not fair, and he doesn’t even know where she is.
Is Annette right, and she’s up in the sky with one poor man having to look after everyone? Is Marley right, and she’s now a shiny snake or a fierce lion? Or is she in the stars with his mum, like Drake and Mrs Mafloy told him? He’s not sure what to think—surely everyone can’t be right.
By the time Harry and Drake arrive, bringing some of the cold, dark night in with them from their walk up the drive, it’s getting late and Clive’s head is starting to hurt.
“Mother,” Drake says, exchanging a look with Mrs Mafloy as she hangs back by the staircase, watching them. Clive thinks maybe she looks sad, but it’s hard to tell with her.
Harry ruffles his hair, frowning when his fingers get stuck. For a second, Clive wants to laugh.
“We thought you should decide what to do with her,” he says, crouching down and taking the wooden box from under his cloak. The one with Kelly inside.
Clive stares at Harry, at his big green eyes and the ink smudge on his bottom lip. He turns and looks up at Drake, who gives him a little nod and fiddles with the belt buckle on his long coat.
What to do with her.
Clive’s heart hammers. It’s all up to him. To do it right. For Kelly.
“If you want, we can...” Harry starts, but Clive interrupts.
“I want her to be with my mum,” he says before he knows what he’s doing, and his voice seems to echo all around the entrance hall.
“Right,” Harry says quietly.
“You want to bury her with your mother,” Drake says, nearly in a whisper, behind him.
Clive nods so hard that his head hurts. Yes. “Yes, because she needs to go back to the ground, and her spirit... my mum can look after her. Not Jesus.”
“Not Jesus?” Harry repeats faintly.
“No. He hasn’t got time.”
As Drake turns and heads for the door again, it looks like he’s trying not to smile.
The night is cold and fresh in his nostrils as they creep across the silent graveyard, crunching on leaves and hidden under Harry’s special cloak. It’s not really big enough for all three of them, and Harry and Drake are too tall, but it’s exciting. Harry says the cloak used to belong to his dad and that he always thinks about him when he uses it.
“See,” he whispers, face lit by his wand tip, “people never really leave us, even when they die.”
Clive thinks he has heard those words before, and not long ago. Harry seems to really believe them.
Harry also says that they aren’t supposed to be doing this, really; the graveyard is only for people.
“Is it naughty?” Clive asks, tripping over a stone in the grass and grabbing for Drake’s hand. He hangs onto it, and Drake says nothing. Quite a lot of the time he says nothing when most people would say something, but Clive likes that. Some people talk too much.
“A little bit, yeah,” Harry says, but he shrugs and ruffles Clive’s hair, this time avoiding the gluey bit.
Clive isn’t quite sure but he really does want Kelly to be with his mum—he’s almost certain that this is the right thing to do—and if Harry says it’s okay then it probably is.
“Here we are,” Harry says, pointing. Clive looks and his heart bangs in his chest as he sees his mother’s grave, with the fresh flowers he knows Mrs Mafloy puts there for him, and the headstone shiny in the moonlight.
“Hi, Mummy,” he says under his breath, and he aches. “I miss you.”
Harry looks around and then whips away the cloak. The wind is biting cold on Clive’s face but he concentrates on the wooden box that has been handed to him. He feels Drake’s hand, warm and firm, on his shoulder, and they both watch Harry kneel on the ground. He pulls out a little silver trowel and bends, hair blowing around his face, to dig a hole in the earth without magic, right next to his mum’s headstone.
“You can put the box in now,” Harry says, turning to look up at Clive. Drake squeezes his shoulder and then lets him go.
Eyes burning, Clive opens the box and strokes Kelly’s head, runs his hand over her black and purple fur. “It’s okay. My mummy will look after you now.”
Carefully, he closes the lid. He bites his lip hard as he crouches down and places the box into the hole. “What do we do now?”
“Say goodbye,” Drake says, and to Clive’s surprise, he kneels down by the little grave too. “ Goodbye, Kelly,” he says, grey eyes soft and serious. “Somnus per pacis in orbis terrarum. Vos erant diligo. Vos ero diligo.”
The words are pretty, and even though Clive doesn’t understand what they mean, it doesn’t matter. As he speaks, Drake sweeps the earth back into the hole, covering the box, and Clive watches him, entranced. He doesn’t think he’s ever seen Drake get his hands dirty before, but here he is, flattening the soil and grass under his fingers, breathing in long white clouds.
“Goodbye, Kelly,” Harry says, helping Drake to pat down the last bit of earth. Clive reaches out a hand, feeling somehow that it’s important for him to help, even if it’s just a little bit.
“Bye, Kelly,” he whispers. “Wherever you are, Mummy, she likes toast and Shrivelfig seeds, and... it’s alright if she sneezes. If she’s still a rat,” he adds, frowning. He’s still a bit confused about all that, but his mum will know what to do.
“You okay, mate?” Harry asks, getting to his feet and holding out a hand to Drake. They don’t let go straight away.
“I don’t know,” Clive says, looking at the muddy stains on his knees. “Can we go home, please?”
Even as they start to trudge back across the grass, his eyes and heart are heavy. Harry picks him up, and he doesn’t argue, even though he’s too big. He doesn’t feel big tonight.
Mrs Mafloy closes the dragon book and places it on the edge of the bed next to her. Clive loves the dragon book—it’s his favourite and sometimes he reads little bits of it to her—but tonight he’s not really listening. He’s still thinking about the graveyard and Drake’s words as he’d buried Kelly. He always seems to know what to say.
Suddenly there’s a cold nose against his hand as Zeus jumps onto the bed and curls up at his feet on top of the covers. His eyes are shiny and sad in the dim light and Clive’s insides wriggle uncomfortably, but he still doesn’t want to let Zeus sleep on his bed tonight.
Mrs Mafloy sighs. “It’s not his fault, sweetheart. He doesn’t understand why you’re angry with him, does he?”
“I’m not angry with him,” Clive mumbles, even though he is. He feels like he’s been caught out somehow—like Mrs Mafloy, too, always knows what he’s thinking.
“I will not be far away,” she says, stroking his hair. Her sleeve grazes his face, soft and sweet-smelling. “Sleep well.”
He watches her walk to the door and darken the room with her wand.
She turns around, hand on the doorknob. “Yes, sweetheart?”
“Drake said something... when we went to... to my mummy’s grave. He said...” Clive screws his nose up, trying to remember. “He said somnus purpa... or something. And dil... something. Never mind,” he sighs, seeing that Mrs Mafloy’s face looks confused.
“Somnus per pacis in orbis terrarium?” she says at last. “Did it begin like that?”
Clive nods and pulls the blankets right up to his nose.
“I have not heard those words for a long time,” she says, and her smile is all wrong. Sad. “Roughly translated, it means, ‘sleep with peace in the earth. You were loved. You will be loved’.”
“Oh,” Clive whispers into the blanket. His breath feels hot against the fabric. “Thanks.”
She hesitates for a moment, then nods and closes the door behind her with a click. Zeus snuffles at Clive’s legs and his tail thumps against the mattress. Clive turns away from him to sleep, but lets him stay.
The next morning, he and Mrs Mafloy and Zeus walk over to Foundations straight after breakfast, because they have jobs to do—Drake said so. Tomorrow is when Foundations has been open for two whole years, and Drake has invited lots of important people to have food and drinks and look around. It’s funny, Clive thinks, because it was Drake’s idea in the first place, and he seems very unhappy about it.
By lunchtime, he hasn’t spoken to Drake yet, because all he seems to be doing is running backwards and forwards frowning and shaking his head and waving his arms around and using some very bad words indeed. Clive looks up from the floor where he’s making name badges to where Mrs Mafloy is sitting at the table, taking them and sticking pins to them with her wand. Her eyebrows are in the air, and she looks at Clive in a way that means she doesn’t need to say that she doesn’t want to hear that sort of language from him, thank you very much. He nods.
When she gets up to talk to Drake, Clive chews his lip and climbs onto her chair to watch. Drake, apparently, is not too old to be told off, and he forgets all about Kelly and Zeus and the little knot in his belly for a while. He’s surprised by the scraping sound and looks around to see Hermione sitting down next to him at the table. She looks very smart and pretty, and Clive never really knows what to say to her, but he answers her when she says hello to him.
“I just came to check in on the preparations... everybody looks very hard at work, don’t they?”
Clive nods, feeling hot and a bit embarrassed.
“They certainly are, if they know what’s good for them,” Ginny says, jumping onto the table at his other side with a red clipboard and ruffling Clive’s hair.
Hermione laughs, and then turns serious. “I heard about what happened,” she says. “Harry told me.”
It takes him a moment, but soon the knot is back. The knot that reminds him that Kelly is gone.
He doesn’t say anything, but Hermione doesn’t seem to need him to. She wraps her arms around her big handbag and tells him about her cat and what happened when it died. She frowns and looks like she is picking her words very carefully. Then she says she’s very sorry, and now Clive frowns, because it isn’t Hermione’s fault.
“You didn’t do it,” he says, and she bites her lip.
“I know. I mean that I’m sorry that you’re sad. It’s a bit of a silly thing to say, I suppose.” Hermione sighs and rummages in her bag until she finds a Chocolate Frog.
Clive doesn’t feel very hungry but he thanks her and takes it anyway because she’s a nice lady and he can put it in his drawer for later. Zeus likes Chocolate Frogs, too, doesn’t he? His skin feels funny, like it doesn’t belong to him, and he looks down at the Crup on the floor, where he’s chewing on one of Clive’s half-finished name badges and looking pleased with himself. Clive frowns.
“This schedule is such a load of... erm, rubbish,” Ginny says, coughing and throwing her clipboard on the table. “It’s horrible when your pet dies. Well, it’s horrible when anyone dies, but when it’s your pet, you looked after it and you were responsible for its life.” She pauses, pulling her feet up onto the table and playing with her shoelaces. “But she’s alright, you know?”
Clive thinks he does know now. “Yeah. She’s with my mum,” he whispers.
“Of course, what you want to do is get yourself another one,” says someone else, and Clive turns around to see Fyzal sitting at the other end of the table, listening to their conversation while one of the residents writes furiously on a form next to him.
“Fyz!” Hermione gives him a hard look.
“Ignore him, Clive,” Ginny says. “He doesn’t understand the meaning of the word tact.”
Clive frowns, puzzled, but Fyz jumps in again, looking hurt. “What? That’s the best thing to do when something kicks the bucket—you get another one as soon as you can.”
“Fyz!” Hermione repeats, looking cross.
Fyz lets out a big sigh and shrugs at Clive. Clive, unsure what else to do, shrugs back. He’s a nice man but sometimes he says some very strange things.
“I don’t want another one,” he whispers. “I want Kelly.”
“Give it a while,” Fyz says, folding his arms on the table and glancing at Zeus. “And don’t forget about your dog.”
“He’s not a dog,” Clive says without thinking. Fyzal, Ginny, and even Hermione laugh, and he’s not sure why.
“Such a Malfoy,” Ginny mumbles, and Hermione seems to find this even funnier. Girls are very weird sometimes.
“Well, alright. But my point is, don’t forget about him because you’re sad,” Fyz says, and he, like Marley, looks far more serious than Clive is used to.
Clive looks at Zeus, who is still looking up at him with black button eyes, head resting on his front paws and white fur almost concealing the chewed up name tag beneath him. His heart twists and suddenly he feels like crying, but he won’t. Not here and not in front of all these grown ups.
“He’s just going to die, like everyone else,” he manages at last, throat tight, turning away from Fyz and looking at his feet. Ginny rubs his shoulder and for a moment, no one says anything.
“Well... yes, everyone will die in the end,” Fyz says from behind him. “But the point is to love them while they’re alive, isn’t it?”
Clive bites his lip, hoping the stingy feeling will go away before it overflows. He nods and looks across to where Mrs Mafloy is making her graceful way back to the table, leaving a flushed, glaring Drake behind her. He thinks he hears Ginny saying ‘Are you feeling alright, Caruso?’ but he can’t be sure.
“’S’right that is,” says the resident next to Fyz, and Clive looks around, surprised. “Gotta make the most of the time you ’ave with folks. Ask your mum, bet she knows all about it.” She’s pointing at Mrs Mafloy with a skinny hand with lots of rings on it. “That your mum?”
“No, she’s... well, sort of. She’s my... Mrs Mafloy.” He shrugs. “But she won’t understand.”
“You’d be surprised. If my little girl were upset, it wouldn’t matter why. I’d still want to make it better.”
Clive bites his thumbnail and stares at her. “You’re a mummy?”
“Yep. Little girl, about your age, I reckon. She’s about as stubborn as you, as well,” she says, and smiles.
“Oh,” Clive whispers, and flicks glances at the back of Mrs Mafloy’s blonde head. The little knot loosens itself, just a bit, and he breathes deeply, pushing away the stingy feelings.
“Get on with your assessment form, Callanne,” Fyz says, and the woman’s pen starts scratching again.
By the time Clive leaves Foundations, eats his supper and gets into the bathroom, he’s sleepy and heavy but in a much nicer way than the previous night. He stands in front of the bathroom mirror in pyjamas that fit and brushes his teeth slowly. He’s still thinking about all those words—Hermione’s and Ginny’s and Harry’s and Draco’s and Fyzal’s and Callanne’s—as he pushes open the door to his bedroom and sees Mrs Mafloy sitting there on the bed.
“I found this under the bed when I was tidying up,” she says softly, and holds up a piece of coloured parchment. It’s the picture of Kelly that he and Annette had drawn, and it feels strange to see her holding it. “It’s a lovely picture,” she adds and hands it to him.
“Me and Annette did it,” he says, looking at it for a moment and then hiding it behind his back. “Annette and I,” he corrects, before she does, and his mouth still feels minty and foamy from the toothpaste.
“I see.” She stops, looks down, and folds her hands in her lap. When she looks up, her eyes are big and seem to pin him to the spot. “Do you really think I don’t understand that you’re sad about Kelly?” she asks.
Clive shuffles his feet on the thick carpet. “You hated her.”
Mrs Mafloy sighs. “I didn’t hate her. I didn’t know her. I am going to be completely honest with you now, Clive—I am frightened of rats. I am afraid of them. I know it’s silly, but everyone has something they are afraid of. I’m sorry if I made you think I didn’t care. I do.”
“You’re... you were scared of Kelly?” Clive asks, frowning in disbelief. It’s so strange to imagine Mrs Mafloy being frightened of anything, especially a little rat.
“Yes. But it’s upsetting when any life ends, and, more importantly, I care that you are upset.”
Clive swallows hard. “I didn’t really think of that,” he admits, and Mrs Mafloy gives him an odd little smile.
She holds out her arms and he runs to her, burying his face in her soft hair and wrapping his arms around her, clutching the piece of parchment to her back. He breathes her sweet, herbal scent in deeply and tries not to sniffle on her silk robes as she squeezes him tightly and whispers to him. She’s not his mum, but she’s his Mrs Mafloy and he loves her, and Zeus, padding around their feet and waving his forked tail, is not Kelly, but that’s alright.
“Come on,” Mrs Mafloy says and pulls away. Her hair is a bit messy and her eyes are a bit shiny but she’s smiling and getting to her feet.
Clive follows her out into her sunroom. It’s warm and the light from the sunset is golden and beautiful and makes him feel like everything should be all right with the world.
“Why don’t you give me that picture?”
“Why?” Clive mumbles, hanging onto the drawing behind his back, still just a little uncertain.
Mrs Mafloy looks at him as though it’s obvious, and then retrieves a big heavy book from the shelf. “So we can put her into the album.”
“Why?” Clive repeats, bringing out the picture from behind his back and looking at it, puzzled.
“Because she was a Malfoy,” she says with that funny little smile on her face.
Slowly, Clive smiles back until it becomes a grin that stretches his face. “Kelly Mafloy.”
“Okay.” Clive kneels up on his favourite cushion as Mrs Mafloy sits in her favourite chair with the forgiven Zeus sprawled between them, snoozing lazily. Together, they place the drawing into the Mafloy family album. Clive watches as Mrs Mafloy smoothes down the shiny cover over the picture and then both of them sit back to admire it.
“Nearly time for bed,” Mrs Mafloy says a little later, when the last of the sun is warm on his back and Zeus is resting his head on Clive’s lap, enjoying all the strokes he has been missing.
“Not tired,” he lies in a mumble as he tries to cover up a yawn.
“I’m afraid I don’t believe you,” she says, gently closing the book and replacing it on the shelf. “It is time for boys and Crups to go to sleep.”
Clive stumbles down the corridor with Mrs Mafloy behind him and Zeus in front of him, attempting to trip him up in his enthusiasm, crawls into bed and says goodnight. When Mrs Mafloy kisses him, dims the lights and leaves, Clive wraps his arms around Zeus and snuggles into his warm white fur. A tickly wet tongue lashes across his ear and the little knot inside him slips undone.
Wherever—and whatever—they are, he hopes they’re looking after each other.