Love Lies Bleeding 1 of 6
I was three months old when Death Eaters killed my parents. Sent to live with Squib relatives, I lived a rather odd life, a hybrid magical/Muggle life where we were aware of the wizarding world, lived on the periphery of it, but yet the simplest everyday chores were accomplished the Muggle way.
It was a strange way to grow up, but it was all I knew. Well, that, and the anger. I was a very angry girl. I recall many instances of fisting my hands until my fingernails cut bloody half-moons into my palms. “Susan,” they’d say, “You need to be more happy.” Or more friendly. Or more helpful. Or more something… they were always finding fault with me somehow. Nothing was ever as it should be.
I was six years old when I created a box in my mind, where I would stuff all the bad things about me—my anger, my unkind thoughts, my impatience. As the years went by, and the faults mounted, the box became fuller and fuller, until its sides were bulging and its seams were near to bursting.
The idea of letting all those flaws roam free was a source of both delight and dread to me. I loved to think of opening the box, of extracting one fault from it—perhaps selfishness—and putting it rights like a newly purchased doll. You take it from its packaging, smooth its hair and wee lovely frock, then pose it this way and that, seeing which angle displays it the best.
But I also feared what would happen if I let it out. I’d once seen a photograph of gazelles on the boundless African savannah and been stricken with how free, how illimitable they were. I wanted that. But gazelles, like all prey, are not destined for old age, but for a lion’s supper. Fear of what would doubtless happen to me if I were to release all those faults, let them run free as a gazelle, kept me firmly closing and locking the box.
I was eleven when I went to Hogwarts, and it came as no surprise whatsoever when the Sorting Hat’s first words were extremely reminiscent of those my aunt and uncle had been saying to me the whole of my life.
“Whatever shall we do with you, child?” it said when McGonagall dropped it on my head. “Not ambitious enough for Slytherin, not smart enough for Ravenclaw, not brave enough for Gryffindor.” It heaved a mighty sigh (without lungs; most odd, I feel) and gave a twitch, like a shrug. “ I suppose it’ll have to be HUFFLEPUFF.”
It was my turn to sigh, then. I would be the first Hufflepuff Bones in three hundred years. My uncle, as a squib, never attended Hogwarts but nevertheless would be mightily displeased. My own mother and father, he had told me, had been a Gryffindor and Ravenclaw respectively, and with the exception of mad Great-Uncle Helibert who’d been sorted to Slytherin back in ’28, those two houses had produced the entirety of our clanspeople.
Chalk up another failure, I muttered to myself, and stuffed that one into the box as well.
I was fourteen years old when the Triwizard Competition was held at Hogwarts, and the goblet of fire was tricked into declaring Harry Potter as well as Hufflepuff’s own Cedric Diggory as a champion for the cup. I wasn’t a fraction as excited as the rest of our house to have one of our own be represented—it all seemed so bloody pointless to me.
Hufflepuff practicality had been pounded into my head from day one, you see, and it simply didn’t seem reasonable to me to spend so much effort, time, and anxiety on such a thing. But as usual, I crammed my skepticism into the box and waved my little gold and black banner. Hufflepuffs don’t blaze trails, after all, and if everyone else thought it was a big deal, so would I. It was how I lived my life, chanting that mantra.
And then Cedric died.
I hadn’t known him well; he’d been a nice enough bloke, but he was a seventh year, and I was a fourth year, and hardly the twain ever met. No, it wasn’t Cedric that made a difference in my life. Could have been anyone, really. The thing that did it was the shock that he’d been the perfect Hufflepuff, a paean to the qualities so beloved of the house of the badger: loyalty, hard work, common sense, and he was still dead. None of those esteemed traits had saved him.
He was dead.
My whole world was turned on its ear. For years, the party line of my peers was that if you do thus-and-so, life would be beautiful. And it was not true. Over the course of that following summer, I found myself examining not only Hufflepuffia, but also my entire existence up to that point. And found it severely, brutally lacking.
My aunt and uncle had raised me to live by ideals that had served my family in seemingly good stead for centuries. And yet, they were squibs. My parents were dead. How, then, had those ideals served them? Not so bloody well, it seemed to me. Realizing this gave me the strength I’d lacked my whole life to stop trusting other people and begin trusting myself.