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The Art of Breathing. by AC_rules
Chapter 44: Burn out.
A/N - so I really don't know what to say, but I'm definately going to say it all up here. It's been one hell of a journey, this story. And now it's finished. Well, this isn't the last chapter, there's one more - but I've actually finished writing it all now (in time for my new years resolution to be perfectly valid, if you were wondering) and thus... we come to the almost ending.
Sequel: I have started it. It will be very very much different, very very much shorter, and very very much about James/Lily. But, there we go. It's formed itself in my mind, so... I guess it will be written. But before that's updated, cause I went to write a lot of it first, you could check out my other new stories? :)
I want to thank you all so much for all the reviews last chapter - most yet! If you wanted, you could all review again, this is going to sound greedy... but I'd really like to get to 100 on one chapter. Is that me being a little optimistic? Welll.. maybe for the last chapter? (hint, hint).
Anyway, your all fabulous, and your reviews are so amazing... and, ah, come talk to me on meet the author page too! It's been pretty neglected, and, despite being behidn on review replying - I'll always always reply to that! Anyway, enough of me, this is about Mary.
For too long I had felt too much –I had been a ball of bitterness, hate and self pity. I had hated myself. I had hated my situation. I had hated my world which had been so much worse for me than all those who were living in it. I had also loved passionately in ways I’d never realised – I tried to protect those around me and I let their inconsequential trials seem like the worst ones. I had laughed. I had laughed a lot; I had cried a lot, I had yelled a lot. Maybe I should have smiled more but I was smiling now to make up for it.
I was tired now. All the bitterness and anger which had been flooding through me was slowly ebbing away. I wasn’t happy, but happy was such a weak flat emotion which was too hard to come by to be worth it. I felt, as the hours crept by me and turned into my own personal history that happiness was creeping ever closer towards me.
The truth was it was all those emotions that had kept me going. The pungent taste of fury and the rigid feeling of loathing that had ran through my veins and forced me to move onwards in my last few months. Now that I was confined to my bed the pointlessness of it all was causing those old, young, emotions to slip away and it took my life with it. Minute by minute. Second by second.
That was what we were: burning expanses of emotions. Spluttering, spitting, and exploding throughout our whole lives. Just emotions. And now, I’m just burning out.
In the end it didn’t matter if they were negative or positive – the definitions of which were twisting and confusing themselves in my brain which was too tired to sort it out – it just mattered that they’d filled me up, consumed me, and made me what I was – alive.
I have come to accept that I will never be old. I am not particularly saddened by that fact – I could convince myself that it is because I cannot imagine the weariness that comes with age, the constant pain, and the terrifying glimpse of how life works would be worth those extra years but I think those are qualities which come to those who know their fate – that they are going to die. I have come to accept now, months too late, that the world does not turn in my favour, and will continue to spin when I die, which I will, soon.
Nate says that I have seven more days to live, but he doesn’t understand. Lying here, in this hospital bed, isn’t living. This is just my time to accept, reflect and maybe even pass on a little wisdom. My life is over and now inconsequential. I am ready and am here only until the others, gathered around my bedside, are ready too. This is not living.
Living was throwing a tantrum. Living was the sharp pain of grief. Living was the curiosity which drove me forward. Living was watching my father fall in love again. Living was gossiping to Lily about who’d gotten hot over the never ending summer. Living was my arms wrapped around Sirius’s body tight – pulling him towards me. Living was watching that baby bloom in Karen’s stomach. Living was tumbling down those stairs in a rush of limbs and shock.
This was not living. This was dying. But that was okay.
My brain’s resistance against the idea had dropped. All those years of denying this fact, and pushing back my fears about the situation I was now faced with had dissolved leaving me with nothing but a casual acceptance. I was almost glad.
I wasn’t me anymore. I was a shell of a person. Parts of me had already died and I was ready to go with them. I wouldn’t want to be here, with my skin cracked, voice croaking and useless legs, for any longer than seven days. Seven days was plenty of time to do everything I had to do. Seven days left time surplus. Seven days was more than I could have wished for.
Seven days was a life time, for me anyway.
On that first day of seven, I felt like a little more of my body had passed through my control. On that first day of the ending, I woke without really waking and bit down on my lip until it bled so I could feel something. In those twenty four hours, I slept for no less than 18 of them, and I was still tired. In that period of time, I ate nothing but half a bowl of cereal that I forced down my throat and three cubes of honeydukes chocolate from a huge bar that Rachel had brought for me.
I also talked to Rachel, on that first day.
“Mary.” She said sinking down onto the seat next to my bedside. “You look -”
“Like death?” I suggested a small trace of a smile on my face.
“A little.” Charlotte said and she was standing behind Rachel and staring at me with the same emotionless expression as she always regarded me with – I liked that.
I smiled a little more and used all the strength the cereal had given me to pull myself up and look at them both. I had slept in the same room as them for six years, and shared most of my classes with them but I was under no delusions that I knew anything more about them than their sleeping habits. I was surprised that they had visited me.
They were both more beautiful than I remembered them to be – they looked more like distant angels than the girls I had known since I was eleven. I was startled by the heart shape of Rachel’s lips and Charlotte’s striking cheek bones – why hadn’t I noticed? Because I had never looked.
“You should hear some of the things they’re saying about you,” Rachel said, her voice soft quiet and silky. “I heard one girl say that you were just pretending.”
“If they saw you they’d know you weren’t.”Charlotte said, eyeing me. “When was the last time you put make-up on?” Rachel hissed some words of warning.
I tried to laugh at that but it came out chesty and weak. “You should give me a make-over.” I suggested. Rachel, who’d been avoiding my eyes, looked up at me – startled.
“You...you’re not insulted?”
“Why would I waste my energy with that?” I asked and my voice sounded even fainter than before. My frailness made them uncomfortable. I regretted that.
“I’ll get my make up,” Charlotte said, grinning wickedly. Rachel was torn between running away with Charlotte, and staying beside me. “Coming?” Charlotte asked.
“In a minute.”Rachel looked at me. Her long eyelashes blinked away uncried tears as she started death in the face. “I brought you this.”She said pushing the bar of Honeydukes chocolate into my hands. “Mary,” She said solemnly, woefully. “I’m...I’m sorry that it had to be you.”
She owed nothing to me. I’d affected her life no more than a very distant cousin, who she’d talked to on occasion and sat next to for Christmas dinner once a decade but she still felt she owed me an apology – recognition that perhaps I didn’t deserve this. She was a better person than I’d given her credit for.
I smiled at her. “Don’t be.” I said reaching my hand out to touch her own, which were clasped tightly on her lap. “Just be glad that it wasn’t you.”
She blinked again and disappeared after Charlotte. I hadn’t expected them to come back, but they had. They’d laughed as they smeared my face with foundation and covered my lips in a thick coat of red. I had blue eye shadow up to my eyebrows (which had been ‘defined’ which sounded ominous enough without the hysterical giggling which accompanied it) and my hair had been separated into a thousand different clips and bobbles.
“Much better.” Rachel said, giggling and looking bright again. “You don’t look ill at all.”
“Well,” Charlotte shrugged. “Just mentally.”
We all laughed at that – it hurt my chest. I ate three cubes of chocolate before I was too tired, and then I fell asleep.
“She’s sleeping,” Nate said countless hours later. “She’s tired.”
I heard Sirius’s grunt of a response and the creaking of the chair as he sat down.
“I am so fucking scared that you’re going to die.” Sirius said, his hand clutching at my unmoving fingers. I didn’t have the energy to tell him it was all going to be okay, and I wasn’t sure if I’d be completely telling the truth.
“You’re tried today.” Lily said tucking and untucking my blankets.
“You’d be a good nurse.” I told her. She sat down on one of the vacated seats next to my bed. “Where is everyone today?”
“Feeling unloved?” She asked. “They’ve all been here, you’ve just been asleep.” She said. “How are you feeling?” She tucked my blankets in as she talked, looking at me for brief periods of time before dragging her eyes back to the bedcovers.
“Great.” I answered and she smiled wryly. I coughed, the noise echoing around the hospital wing. She untucked my blankets. “I think you should marry James.”
“I’ll tell Nate you’re having hallucinations now shall I?” She asked smoothing her hands over the surface of her the covers.
“Why can’t you just go one date with him?”
“I did. He messed up.”
“And you haven’t?” I asked. She sucked in a breath tightly and busied herself by tucking in my blankets. “Lily, come on. Live a little.”
“You can’t really talk about living.” I laughed at that.
“You should listen to me.” I told her. “I’ve gained wisdom you can only dream of.”
“And you’re directing this wisdom to my love life?”Lily sighed, relinquishing her hold on my blankets and sitting down on the seat looking exhausted. “I would Mary, I’d do it just because you asked me to if I could, but I’m too much of a mess. I’ve been falling apart at the seams for too long, I need to take care of myself first.”
“And you will? Take care of yourself?”
“I’ll try.” She said, before calling Nate and the others back to my bedside with the news that I was awake.
They settled all around me in what were fast becoming their usual spots. Gathered around me like they were made me truly feel that I was loved.
“What the hell is on your face?” Marlene asked.
“Rachel and Charlotte stopped by to give me a make-over.”
“How come they got to talk to you today?” Sirius asked his voice gruff and angry.
“Sirius,” I said, gently but before I could say anything more he interrupted me with a loud ‘No’ before he kicked over a chair – although I only heard the clatter of metal on the hospital wing floor – and left. I sighed, closing my eyes briefly in exhaustion.
“What’s wrong?” Johnny asked.
“I’m just... tired.”
“You’ve been asleep all day.” He complained. I apologised and he hugged me tightly. I fell asleep in his arms and couldn’t help think that this was all wrong, that my little brother shouldn’t have to have me slowly dying, in his arms.
On that second day of seven I noted that seven was the most powerful magical number. On that second day of the ending everything hurt. In those twenty four hours, I realised that I could no longer laugh and had to make do with a smile instead. In that period of time I ate two make-shift meals which were packed full of carbohydrates and which I couldn’t stomach that much of. That day was the day when I began to comprehend how wonderful it was to be loved.
My sleep was lighter today, which I thought was a good thing, but it did mean that I kept slipping in and out of consciousness in the middle of conversations.
I watched the sunrise in an explosion of colours and light and I tried to remember other sunrises I had watched but drew a blank. It hardly mattered though.
I was thinking instead of sunsets when I felt the brush of a hand against my forehead. I could feel the fingers stroke my skin ever so softly and the palm press against my forehead to see if I was the right temperature. It occurred to me that I couldn’t tell whose hand it was: it could have been my dad’s fatherly touch, or Nate’s brotherly one; Sirius loving caress or Remus’s friendly caring hand which had touched my forehead.
It didn’t matter what type of love it was that remained, but the fact that I had been loved made the world of difference. Dad. Mum. Johnny. Becky. Karen. Ria. Nate. Lily. Sirius. Remus. Alice. Marlene. Grandparents. Aunties. Uncles. Those who’d I’d just been a figure among many – Rachel, Charlotte, Jeremy, Amanda, James, Daniel McKinnon...names and faces. Love. Love. Shinning, glittering.
It was all the same and at the same time startlingly different. Refreshing. Unique. And the refreshing taste of that realisation that shook me –I was loved, and I would be missed.
A couple of hours after dawn on the second day Sirius appeared at my bedside with his eyes red and shrouded in tiredness and exhaustion. “I’m sorry.” He said the words washing around my half conscious brain. “No,” I said as he slipped into the hospital bed beside me and wrapped his strong arms around me tightly. His chest was moving up and down heavily as I used it for my pillow and I assumed that he was crying. “No, Sirius. I’m sorry, for doing this to you.”
He kissed my forehead and ran his fingers through my dry, uneven hair. He kissed my eyelids, my cheeks, and my nose.
“I should have let you save yourself, when it was too late for me.”
“No.”He said and I could taste his tears as he kissed my dry, chapped lips. “I should have -”
“You were perfect, Sirius.” I said burying my face in his neck. “The world wasn’t.” then he was silent. My own tears mixed with his and dropped onto the fabric of the hospital wing sheets. If I watched I would have seen the way the material absorbed the liquid and the way it dried, evaporating away with another part of my soul. If I watched I would see how it was all slipping through my fingers now, but I didn’t.
Instead I watched Sirius’s breathing even out into a steady rhythm. I watched him, finally, after days and days without it fall into a deep sleep. Then I pressed my head against his chest and listened to the beat of his heart, which would continue long after mine seized to function and decided that it would still sound the same when it was completely broken.
So with the promise that Sirius was alive and well resounding in my ear I let myself fall again. Not into love this time, not into trouble or into a routine, just into sleep. Sleep.
I dreamt of water, so it surprised me that when I woke my muscles were on fire. My breath hitched in my throat and I coughed. It thundered through my weak chest and took my strength away.
“Mary, are you all right?” Karen asked from somewhere near my feet.
“I – yes.” I spluttered through the pain.
“As well as can be expected, at any rate.” Becky said from my left hand.
“Which is hardly peachy.” Lily said from my right hand side.
“Should I get Nate?” Kate said, also from my feet. Her face swam into view as she bent over me and felt my forehead. “You’re burning up. Becky, can you help her sit up please?”
“We’re painting your nails.” Lily supplied, her thin arms snaking under my back and pulling me up right. Becky rearranged the pillows under me and I was sat up again, but it still hurt. Like crazy.
I winced and that was enough to send Kate, who was beginning to look quite pregnant, off to find Nate.
“Do you like it?” Lily asked now I was positioned in a way that I could see my nails. They were all painted a vivid blue and were now being covered in tiny little gems and silver swirls.
“Of course she likes it; they’re practically works of art.” Becky said, beginning extra work on my hand.
“Inspired by the ring.” Lily said. “With the silver swirls, but we used your lucky blue nail varnish rather than red.”
“Why?” I asked as Nate came back into the room and began taking my temperature and bustling around.
“Well,” Becky said. “I was thinking about you being buried and all that, and I was wondering whether finger nails rotted and I figured that they didn’t so... I thought that if someone ever dug up your remains they’d find your awesome finger nails and just think wow, this girl was cool, and build some statue in your name.”
“I just thought it would be nice to see if your lucky nail-varnish works.”
“It doesn’t.” I said but it hurt to talk so I kept my lips shut.
“Are you in pain Mary?” Nate asked, swimming into my consciousness.
“No.” I said through a grimace. He gave me a look. “Yes.” I admitted and he nodded.
“I can... I can give you some pain killing potions but... the does required might put you under sedation.”
“For how long?”
“Infinitely. Until your brain shuts down.”There was a ringing silence. “Or, I could give you a little dosage which would take the edge of the pain off.”
“That sounds like a good option, let’s do that!” Lily said, urgently, desperately.
“The pain is only going to get worse. I’d have to up the dosage tomorrow, and the next day...”
“Fine.” I said as I felt the sharp crippling ache in my muscles. “Just give me something.”
He fixed up a something that resembled a muggle drip and connected it up to my arm.
“Aren’t you going to thank us for your gorgeous nails?” Karen asked and I think she was trying to distract me from the green colour potion that was being threaded up into the bag...
“Thank you, so much.” I breathed squeezing my eyes shut to block out the pain.
“It’s only nail varnish, Mary.” Karen said in a shaky voice. “It’s nothing.”
“That’s not what I meant.” I said, my voice croaking. “I just meant, thank you.”
“Mary.” Lily said clutching at my hand and pressing her head against shoulder. “Thank you.” She said seriously and with great meaning. I tried to laugh and found that I couldn’t.
“What for?” I asked. “I haven’t done anything,” but I was asleep before I could hear her reply.
“What does it feel like now?” Johnny asked his eyes wide and popping out at me. “Dying?” He prompted. He was kneeling on his chair and his face was hovering over mine
“Like I’m losing myself, bit by bit.”
“Like I’m disintegrating, dissolving.”
“Is it still like you said it was before?”
“Yeah. I still feel like I’m going to be whole again soon.” I answered. This feeling of absence from my body wasn’t permanent. The loss of Johnny felt much more lasting than the loss of my legs. I was glad – Johnny was going to live.
“Well, if there is a heaven...” The last bit was such a quite whisper that it made me smile. “Tell mum I say hi.”
I smiled. “Anything else you want me to pass on?”
“That I love her.” I smiled warmly at him and tightened my hold round his wrist. I looked at his face that shared the same cursed genetics as my own. I thought of how he was going to be cured. I thought of him years on, with all those experiences and life written across his face. He’d grow up to be very handsome, I was sure. He’d have a beautiful wholesome girlfriend and sometimes he’d talk about me, his sister, and she’d listen and smile. Maybe they’d have a child and name her after me. I liked the idea of that. His eyes, which were as blue as mine and as blue as my mothers, sparkled in the light of the hospital wing and I had an image of me, in my sixteen year old body, greeting him after years of absence. He was old and greying. He embraced me, and right behind my left shoulder was our mother.
“She knows.” I said wishing there was a way I could convey to him the beauty of his life and paint the picture of his bright future in a way that he would understand. I wanted him to sit and fest on his life. Every moment. Every second.
I was in pain, but it was quenched by the fact that everywhere I looked were the faces of people I loved. There was no one around me that I would not miss with my whole heart. If things had been different, if I had been the one sitting and watching the girl in the hospital wing I wondered how I would feel. I doubted they understood how much I loved them all, given I’d barely understood it myself.
They’d all been the daily furniture in my life and upon moving house I’d realised how much I’d missed that tattered sofa I’d never given much thought too, or that coffee table I’d always said I’d hated. Then there was that bed I’d always loved and wanted to take with me, the photo hanging above the fire which I wanted to treasure forever and the fire place which had always provided me with so much warmth that I wanted to stay and sit with the heat from its flames caressing my face.
Despite getting lost in all this nostalgia I was ready to stand up and walk away from my house and instead walk into the unknown, alone. Now I was standing in the doorway, glancing back and taking in my beloved furniture for one last time. The last look before I said goodbye forever.
I looked around at all their flushed faces and wondered if they understood how alive they were, compared to me. Compared to the way I was drifting away and evaporating by the minute, I wondered if they knew. I wondered if they could see that it was nearly time for me to go, and thought that they must.
As I fell back into my slumber, I thought I saw the recognition in their eyes, that time was running out.
On that third day of seven, I noticed the way the time was ticking by. On that third day of the ending, I thought I was still asleep when I was awake. In those twenty four hours, I slept for longer than ever before and I ate less than ever before. In that period of time I realised that I would rather dwell on old memories than try to make new ones.
I woke up confused and disorientated because one second I was lying in the hospital wing on my own, and the next I was surrounded by everyone. Yesterday being surrounded by so much love had felt liberating and made me feel special. Today the air was so thick with it that it was difficult to breath and it was utterly suffocating. There was so much pressure on me to stay alive for another four days that it was sickening. If I wanted to just go to sleep and not wake up, why couldn’t I just do that? I’d rather sleep and remember then be awake and be forced to talk, smile, react when it took up so much of my energy.
“Mary,” Alice said and I realised I’d barely talked to her in the past couple of days.
“Hi.” I croaked and my voice sounded far away. I was far away. I still felt too sleepy to talk to anyone. I wanted to say farewell and have done.
“Nate wants to know if you’re in pain today.”
“No,” I said. “I’m just tired.”
“What do you want to do?” Someone asked.
“I want to sleep,” I said before I did just that.
There was a moment, after I had woken, when I was convinced I had died. Lily was sitting next to my bedside with a small smile on her face, her legs stretched out, and her hair waving down her back. She didn’t feel far away and distant like everyone else seemed too – I almost felt like I’d got part of myself back.
“Lily?” I questioned. She turned her emerald green eyes on me and I saw that old familiar glitter.
“Mary,” She breathed. “Sorry,” She said running her fingers over my blankets.
“What... what are you thinking about?” I croaked focusing on the dream-like quality her eyes seemed to hold which obviously – to me anyway – marked her reminiscing.
“I was just remembering...” She said trailing off and smiling to herself. Her lips were heart shaped and looked so much more beautiful when they twisted into a little smile. “Do you remember that time when we played that trick on Professor Green?” She asked.
“Remind me,” I said, smiling a little myself.
“Well,” She said stretching her legs out in front of her and splaying her fingers over my bedcovers. “It was third year and our first lesson with Professor Green – Gosh she was awful, honestly. Scared of us, I think, and we were only the third years – I would have loved to see her with the sevenths. Sorry, Mary,” She said realising her tangent.
“Its fine,” I said although it took considerable amounts of effort. “I like to hear you talk. Would you mind, Lily, if I closed my eyes and listened – don’t stop. I’m listening, I promise.”
“Course,” Lily said running her fingers over my forehead gently, and brushing away a stray piece of hair from my face. “Anyway, Professor Green – the Marauder’s had planned to dye her hair green, but you said that was a rubbish practical joke. They didn’t hear you – you were such a shy thing – but you decided to take matters into your own hands. So, you put on your old ‘concentrating face’ and wrote a note on a scrap piece of parchment and doubled it – you wouldn’t let me read it, you said I’d tell and you might have been right...” She paused for a second and I could feel her gaze on me. “So,” She said in a softer voice this time. “You sent round this note, and finally you showed it to me. I don’t know what I’d been expecting – but it wasn’t a set of instructions. They were very exact and precise, although I can’t remember exactly what they said, but at the exact time specified everyone did exactly what you said. It was amazing; everyone swaying forwards and backwards in unison with complete straight faces. The whole class, even me, kept it up for forty five minutes without laughing even though Professor Green was sweating at the front and yelling at us all to stop it! ‘Stop what’ James asked innocently – she thought she’d gone insane, just like you said she would, and I really think Mary that it was the best prank ever. All you needed was a bit of parchment – didn’t even use magic, that’s skill. Plus, Green quit the same day and tried to put herself in St Mungo’s.... I think you should cross it off your list,” Lily said.
Her words were beginning to twist themselves into dreams.
“Or there was that other time when your produced your own copy of the school paper...” She began and I found myself fading into sleep again.
“Hello, sleeping beauty,” Sirius’s voice said the second my eyelids fluttered open. “Nate says you need to eat this,” He said holding out a little bowl of noodle-soup. Sirius helped me sit up and slid into the bed beside me.
“I love you Sirius,” I croaked through my tight throat. I honestly did. All I could think of when I looked at Sirius’s features was that I loved him, and that I wanted to cook him dinners, dote on him and make sure he never wanted for anything.
Sirius kissed a spot on my jaw line in response and presented me with a spoon. I ate a few mouthfuls – okay, three – before I put the spoon down and turned to Sirius. “You’re... cheerful today,” I said struggling to breathe.
“Well,” Sirius said. “James has been knocking some sense into me,”
“I’d like to know how that went,” I said.
“Well, last night he says ‘you know, Sirius Mate – when she’s living it up in Heaven, or being the badest emotional bitch, in hell she’s going to think, Gee that Sirius is a miserable sod – as if I wasted my precious earth time with such a depressing looser’ and I decided that he might be right.” I smiled, although it hurt, and studied his features for a very long time.
I felt much further away from him than I did from Lily.
“I’ll be watching,” I told him. I wanted to lift a hand up and run it over the roughness of his unshaved cheek but I didn’t have the energy.
“Because that’s not creepy, or anything.” Sirius muttered. I forced another mouthful off the food down and rested my head on Sirius’s chest.
“Sirius,” I said. “Can I tell you something?” I asked and he nodded slowly. “I don’t regret anything.”
“No,” I said and he swallowed these words and looked at me for several long seconds. “What about... kissing Jeremy?”
“Nope,” I said. “If I hadn’t done that, you might not have been in the trophy room and then, everything would have been different.”
“Maybe,” Sirius said, “It would have been better.”
“Maybe, but that doesn’t mean I regret it.”
“What about not telling me?” I shook my head.
“Dying?” He asked after a long pause. I thought about it – really thought it about it – for a long time.
“No, I don’t.”
“So you want to die?” Sirius asked standing up and clenching his fists.
“That’s not what I said,” I told him. “I don’t want to die, but I’m ready to. Like... with exams. It’s not like want to do them, but you’re ready and you know you have too.”
“I don’t understand.” Sirius said. “How can you not regret things? Not regret dying?”
“I didn’t expect you too.”
“Then why are you telling me?” Sirius snapped.
“Because, I hope one day that you’ll understand. That you’ll be old, wrinkly and ready to die. Then, Sirius, you’ll think of me, and you’ll get it and then you won’t be scared anymore.”
“Scared?” Sirius scoffed.
“Why would I be scared of dying?” Sirius demanded. “You’re not going to stop existing, if that’s what it is.” Sirius said sitting back down and looking at me with such an intensely passionate glare that it drained me to keep my own eyes looking straight back. “You’ll be there, somewhere.”
I decided, after a few seconds of consideration, that it would be best just to agree and to believe.
“Mary?” Dad’s voice said, floating into my brain with a wash of familiarity. I smiled. My lips were stubborn and cracked, and they would not move properly into the curve I wanted. Instead they twitched slightly, but I think they understood. “Karen wants to talk you, is that? Is that all right?”
“Yes,” I said, my eyes flickering open.
“Would you like a drink?” Karen asked, and I jerked my head slightly in response. I could no longer drink by myself. She lifted the glass up to my lips. My throat felt strange. “Look,” She said, “I was wondering... the baby, if it’s a girl... would you like, would you like her to be named after you?”
“Too soon,” I whispered. “Thank you,” I added, “But it would just upset Dad, you should name her after mum,” I said thinking of the list, and the goodbye to my mother.
“Sandra,” Karen said. “Maybe a variation of that.” She said, unsurely. I didn’t blame her for it was obvious to me now that Dad still loved my mother, and that must be hard for Karen. “Sandy or...”
“Sadie,” I said. “It goes with Ria,”
Karen smiled at me, and a tear dropped down her face. She tucked a piece of my hair back from my face, and I fell back into the depths of my sleep.
The forth day was better. I ate quite a lot, and I smiled, and I stayed awake for just under half of the day. I played card games with my family, and Sirius helped me get out of bed – and look outside properly.
The card game was happy families, and it almost felt as we sat around the little table that we were about to go on holiday, and were waiting patiently for the train to come, passing time. Johnny was winning. For once, nobody was crying, and we were all there – all of us, together.
Ria sat on Becky’s lap to my left, and Dad was on my right, Karen and Johnny were opposite.
“Do you have any Bakers?” I asked, smiling at Johnny as he reluctantly handed Master and Mistress Baker.
We were playing happy families, pretending everything was all right as we waited, waited, for things to get inevitably worse and for me to die. But it was nice, and I felt as though I was waiting to go away and that any moment the train would pull into the station, the cards would be thrown haphazardly into someone’s bag and I would board, turning around and waving one last time before the view moved and blurred out of focus, and into something new.
“You look much brighter,” Lily smiled and there was hope there, as if this might mean that they’d be many more days stretching ahead, waiting to be filled with conversation and laughter. There wasn’t, but that was okay.
“Yeah,” James agreed. “Little miss sunshine.”
“It’s unlike you,” Remus said, and I smiled.
Nate hovered in the corner of the hospital wing, making sure that I wasn’t overwhelmed by the company. But I wasn’t, not today.
“I’m sorry, Mr Lupin, it won’t happen again,” I assured him. Sirius’s arm tightened around my shoulders, and I leant back and allowed him to hold me up.
“I prefer Sir Lupin,” Remus informed me, and I wanted to laugh, but I couldn’t anymore.
“I wish you’d all stop walking around like this was a morgue,” I said. “Someone amuse me or something.”
And they rose spectacularly to the challenge, James, Lily and Remus performing to the best of their abilities as Sirius smiled along with his arm safely holding me up.
Lily transfigured the chair James was sat on into a goat, and James retaliated by sending a flock of tiny birds in her direction which did nothing but buzz around her annoyingly. Remus added to the drama with a well aimed tripping jinx, which sent him flying in Lily’s direction. Lily caught him. James batted his eyelashes and simpered “my hero,” and soon they were all laughing, and Lily’s eyes were glinting, and James was smiling and Remus Lupin was filled with a new found confidence, and a startling sense of freedom.
It was a shame that it couldn’t last.
My eyes stuck together, and I had to wrench them open by force. Sirius was still there, his breath tickling my forehead, and his fingers tracing those circles on my hands. “Hello sleeping beauty,” he whispered in a swoon-worthy voice that no longer seemed to affect me. “Anything I can do for you madam,”
I smiled and breathed in his scent.
His brushed a hand over my hair and I felt deliciously safe.
“No thanks,” I replied. “I’ve got everything I need, right here.”
“You can’t be tired again,” Sirius said, looking very much like he was about to pout. “Well,” He said when I didn’t relent. “I’d be tired if I spent the whole day in bed, stuck inside... you need some fresh air,” Sirius said.
“That’s not possible,” I deadpanned.
“Like hell it’s not,” Sirius muttered, and then he scooped me up into his arms.
“Put me down, Sirius,” I ordered half heartedly. My energy from before was dissipating, and the desire to sleep was overwhelming.
“Or what,” He grinned, and he sounded like himself again. “What are you going to do to stop me?” I smiled and buried my face in his shoulder. It did feel good to escape my sheets, and I doubted Sirius would be allowed to take me very far. Nate would come running in any second...
He took me to the window, and he opened it is wide as it could go. The breeze rushed in and caressed my face. It was wonderfully cool, and I found myself smiling.
“You can see the Quidditch pitch, look,” Sirius said. “And the lake, and the forest, and... Hagrids hut.”
“I know Sirius,” I said. “I can see, it’s walking that’s the difficulty.” He laughed and I looked at the sky. I could see it better now I was not bed-ridden, and it was bigger and more majestic than it had been from the view in my bed.The wind blew my hair away from my face, and Sirius’s eyes glinted and I looked at the sky. And I took in every detail, as the sky grew darker, until Nate came in and told Sirius, in a soft voice, that I could probably do with some sleep now.
The fifth day was worse than ever.
I ached, I hurt, I slept and I did not eat.
Death was written all over my face, and no one thought I would last another two days. They stayed around my bedside in near-silence, and my hand was passed from person to person, but I could barely feel it. Occasionally I was aware of who’s hand clutched mine, but most of the time it was simply a little warmth and a little pressure.
My heart pounded loudly in my chest. I could not smile. My muscles and limbs were as useless as my legs, and I was paralysed and stuck, unmoving on my death bed.
I hurt and I wished to die. And for a few moments I wished I had never been born, because it was such a horrible and inexplicable feeling. I was helpless to my fate – powerless over my body, unable to do anything but lie and think.
I stared at the ceiling for a very long time, and concentrated on old memories to push my way past the pain, and the weary tiredness, and the frustration of not being able to move, or speak, but still being aware and conscious
I tried to speak three times. The first, my attempt at the word ‘water’ was eventually understood. The second attempt came out as a strangled gargle that I was both humiliated by, and horrified by. Sirius urged me on, and Nate told me to blink once for yes, twice for no, and I tried... but my eyes flickered shut and stayed shut, and I fell asleep. And I stayed there in the blissful unconscious for an unknown amount of time.
On the third attempt my throat constricted and I could hardly breathe, and I gave up. I had wanted to tell them all that I loved them.
I held on to the hope that someone had understood, and would pass on the message.
On the sixth day I could not feel. I was gloriously numb and I could not open my eyes. Instead I was a living corpse, lying in the hospital wing with no signs of life. But I was just alive, and I could still think. And I could still hear.
And I still answered, even though my words would remain in my head.
“Mary,” Johnny whispered. “I really hope you’re right, and that there is a heaven,” And I told him that there definitely was, and that I believed in all of it – in God, in heaven and in fate. His voice grew quieter, and I knew he was bent over my bed so that no one else could hear or know what those last words he chose were. “And you’ve been the best sister ever,” he told me... and for a brief second I thought I felt his breath on my face, and the brief pressure of his lips touching my cheek.
Alice whispered a prayer over my body, and I repeated all the words in my head. “Jesus,” She whispered, “Keep Mary safe, and help her,” and she stopped to take in a deep breath. “And help us all know what to do... without her, and, and God, help me know what to do,”
And I said Amen. And I said bless Alice. And bless my family. And bless Lily Evans.
And bless Sirius Black.
“I love you Maz,” Nate whispered, and then he was gone. I love you too, Nate, and you’ll always be like a big brother to me.
And Dad whispered the same ‘I love you Mary,” into my ear, and then “I’m sorry” and I didn’t mind that it was unoriginal and cliché, because there was no other way to sum it up, and no other way that conveyed such meaning. I’ll talk to mum for you, I told Dad. And I love you. And I’m so glad you raised me – I can’t imagine my life without you. And I hoped he’d remember that.
And Becky said “You’ve saved my life,” and she said “I could never try and kill myself now, it would be an insult to you,” And I told her that I was so proud of her, that my whole soul was overwhelmed with it. And I hugged her in my mind, and I embraced the fact that she was my sister, and always would be. Whether I was dead or alive.
Lily sniffed, and cried, and said ‘you’ve changed me so much Mary,” and then she couldn’t speak anymore, but I knew she meant just the same as all of the others – that she loved me. And I returned her sentiment, and I reassured her that she’d be okay, and maybe I’d see her sooner than either of us would like.
And they all spoke me to me, all these words, and they all stuck with me, but it was Sirius who spoke last, most reluctant to truly say goodbye. And I had no recollection of time, or place. And I was stuck inside my own brain.
“You can go,” Sirius told me, “You can go now, and I’ll...I’ll manage.”
And Sirius let me go. And Sirius loved me, and he let me go.
The seventh day was the day of rest.
There was so much I could have done. So much that could have happened. This huge waving conditional life that had taunted me and persuaded me that it was what I wanted. It is very rare for people to get what they want. I have wanted many things in my sixteen years of life, and some of them I did get, and some of them I didn’t – it is a sad truth that we tend to focus on those things we didn’t get, rather than those that we did.
It’s human nature to get the perspective wrong. They think success is in the big things – those colossal life changing moments – but it’s those moments when you’re full of emotions, or those subtle moments which are so precious and startling that you didn’t even notice them. There were things I should have done, and things I shouldn’t have, but in the end life came down to sarcastic smiles, jokes that weren’t funny, knees brushing against each other underneath the stone desks and tiny bubbles of regret.
Parties you should never have gone too. Things you shouldn’t have said and the way you felt when they’d left your lips. Being alive. Feeling. Moving. Living.
Small talk. Undervalued, brushed under the carpet as a necessity. That was what made the world go round – those well rehearsed questions we could all remember. Questions about the weather, conversations about mildly ill relatives, and talking about how you’re doing at school – all of it.
Each life is different, building itself up in insignificant moments, emotions, presence and mistakes. Everyone one is different, and you could never understand – unless you lived every single moment with them, by them, as them and take the weight of the world off their shoulders. Life moves on. Changes. I’ll never know.
I choose to separate myself now. I choose to take up my suitcase and leave. I’ve left stuff behind. Soon it will be forgotten. Maybe I’ll be remembered. Maybe I’ll become a distant figure and an unimportant character in a colossal story whilst lives are pieced together by moments.
Moments upon moments.
Twisting, swirling and glittering against the huge expanse of the universe. Stars burn thousands upon thousands of miles away, just out of sight. We look up, and we think that they’re ours – those silver dots in the huge blackness of sky – forever upwards.
The colours dance in a tantalising pallet of vibrancy – pulsating purple, rich red, brilliant blue, dazzling darkness and white.
The weight of the world presses down on my chest as my heart beats, beats, beats. A weight. Heaviness. Pushing downward from my chest. Down, deeper, beating. Beat. Beat. Beat.
My chest explodes into heat and passion – so strong that I could move mountains as my heart thumps in my aching chest. My heart screams with incomprehensible heat. It burns. The whole world’s on fire.
Still. A hand is clutching mine tightly. I can feel the familiar lines and curves of the hand and I recognise the skin under mine. As sensations leave I feel those circles. Round and round they go as my heard b-b-beats.
A drop of water in the ocean. A leaf falling in a forest. A cloud floats across the sky as all the moments and memories combine – moments upon moments in a twirling floating life. Glittering time and destiny. God. They all burn to ash and blister. Engulfing everything as it’s dissolved into nothing but weariness and brightness. Juxtaposition. Changes.
And everything’s going to be all right.
Flashes of white soar through the vision and my head swims through the ocean upon waves. The salt water cracks my lips and tastes of home. The tenses all blur and fade into meaninglessness: the past the present and the future – they’re all burning and decaying into a mass of dead cells which renew themselves into something else – new and alive.
I want to scream until my voice flies out of my throat and I can feel my heart swelling inside of me. It’s too big for my chest which expands, expands, and expands upwards. Out. Floating. Hovering. Buoyant.
And breath catches in my chest and my insides cool to levels of icy grief and it soothes and numbs, extinguishing the all-consuming fire that left me this way. Good bye, my brain says to them with gratification – you did good, kid, you did good.
A baby cries in a far off house – newborn and innocent – wise and naive – life.
Then nothing; nothing. A clear sky...A blank piece of paper...a stretch of canvas...Water...Whiteness.
Moments and memories and feelings all building up like the drums of my heart. It’s pulsating through me and shaking the whole world. The whole world is shaking and the water droplets fall and scatter. Ba-dum. Ba-dum. Ba-dum.
Then everything stops.
And it ends.