Belinda arrived in London at the end of August, telling her parents it was just for a fun trip abroad before college started. She knew there would be others heading to King’s Cross on September 1st. It had become a pilgrimage of sorts for fans – and this year was special. This year was the “Nineteen years later” date J.K. Rowling had written about. She knew when she showed up, there would be people she knew there, if not by face, then by screen name.
She wasn’t even the biggest fan, it had been William who drove her crazy with Potter facts and showing her what he’d found online everyday, it was William who brought her into this online community. William who wouldn’t be with her.
They had been messing around in the backyard when he fell. Somehow this was the catalyst for all that came after it. She’d egged him on, taunting him to climb to the very top of the tree, then he tumbled, fell and landed in a heap on the ground. If only she hadn’t done it, if only she had made him keep his feet on the ground. She lived it over and over, thinking that if she had just stopped him that day, then nothing that came after it would have happened.
But that was wrong, and she knew it. The broken arm had nothing to do with what they found. The doctors kept saying how lucky it was that he’d broken it in the first place, because it helped them catch it early. It felt like one moment they were climbing trees in the backyard, the next she was watching her mother shave off the last of his thin wisps of hair. Chemo sucked away all his energy; he didn’t play volleyball or go for runs anymore. That’s when he rediscovered reading. All seven Harry Potter books in a month. He devoured them, then forced Belinda to read them to so they could talk about it. She was a fan, but nowhere near as obsessed as her twin.
He found friends online sharing his interests and they all talked about meeting. He was so confident he would be well by then. September the first, 2017. That would be the day he would go to King’s Cross.
Now here she was, alone in London, meeting up with William’s friends – ones he’d only known through a screen. She put on a red and yellow scarf and a striped pin and headed to the station. There was already a small crowd gathering around the platform – years ago there had been a statue of sorts erected, a half-cart seeming to be going through the wall. Several girls were taking a photo of themselves pretending to push it.
William had loved that part. He always said it was what got him hooked on the series – the idea that there was this wall he could go through. He would touch every brick wall he came near and Belinda could tell he was testing just in case it happened to be a gateway to another world. His hospital room had a window facing a brick wall and he kept looking at it in those last days, focusing intently on its redness.
Belinda walked towards the group, forcing herself to smile. One of the girls came up to her, smiling broadly. They exchanged screen names and talked about the site they both frequented, then she introduced her to the others in her group. Then came the questions. All they knew was that William had been their friend and Belinda’s brother, but then, six months ago, he’d disappeared from the site. Belinda sighed heavily and told them what had happened. They cried, they hugged her and told her how sorry they were. He had never confided in them that he was sick; his online life was the magical escape from the slow deterioration in his body. This group of friends just saw him as another fan. After watching the clock strike 11am, they decided to all go get a bite to eat together.
Belinda lingered behind, she pressed her cheek against the stone barrier between platforms 9 and 10, willing it to give way, trying to hear the voices on the other side. Tears streamed down her face as she finally pulled away. It was time to go.