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Chapter 6: The Rabbit Hole Interlude
The Rabbit Hole Interlude
Death was dark and felt like falling. Down, down, down an endless chasm. It was neither scary nor serene. It wasn't anything, really. Just falling. Numb. No sign of stopping.
Melody's thoughts flickered like an agitated flame, always going back to the same thing: Remus. They went back to the way his honey-colored eyes had brightened when she had called him by his nickname, the way his lips had felt so soft against hers, the way his voice changed oh-so subtly whenever he spoke to her. Leaving him was the only thing that made her sad about dying. In the not-too-distant future he would lose all his friends in an instant and be left all alone. It was so wrong. He didn't deserve it and Melody wished she could have stayed with him long enough to tell him things would get better, that he would find happiness and love someday. She had not really gotten to know him as well as she would have liked and envied those who would.
Her voice, calling to him, echoed around her.
This was a transitory state. She was in neither heaven nor hell. Yet. However, she could not remember how it had happened. She could not remember the precise moment of death only what came before it and after—where she was now.
Before the darkness there had been saying goodbye to Remus, and shoving her way throw the crowd on the platform with Mary and Neil. Caroline Ryder, from Arithmancy, had been shoved into James near the barrier and had blushed even after he had assured her there had been no harm done. But she had also been anxious about something...something Melody could not remember in the darkness. That was as far as her memory went. That was where it ended.
And there was no time in the darkness. There was no way of guessing how long she had been falling only that after an eternity of nothingness came a sudden flurry of color. It was like being trapped inside a kaleidoscope. There was no more falling. Melody was in water now, deep below the surface, breathing as easily as if she were on land. The colors blurred together like runny pain, even seeming to posses the rigid texture of acrylics against canvas.
Slowly, the colors began to take shape. Their edges became more pronounced and Melody could see they formed solid objects though her mind struggled to identify them. She hadn't seen anything in so long it was hard to remember. Her body was rising toward them or, rather, into them. She feared she would crash when it all stopped.
Melody's body had been flipped over and her face was hovering inches above the pavement. There was an arm wrapped securely around her waist and a chest pressed against her back breathing heavily in an opposite rhythm to her own. She could feel the extreme heat radiating from his body—she was certain it was a "he"—which felt heavenly compared to the crisp morning air that bit at her skin.
"Steady there." Melody stiffened at the immediately familiar voice, as soft and gravelly as the last time she had heard it.
It seemed like so long since then though it had really been no more than a couple of days. It seemed like ages since she had been in the presence of another person. The dream was over—yes, she thought, it had only been a dream—and she was home.
It smelled of home, it sounded like home, and when her eyes finally adjusted to the brightness she saw the familiar group of buildings across the street that made up her high school.
Home sweet home.
Melody almost wanted to cry at the sight of it, not having realized until that very moment just how much she had missed this world. Every bit of it. Even if it meant being friendless and invisible it was where she truly belonged.
"Thanks," she said softly, having been eased onto her feet by her savior. "That would have been a nasty fall if you hadn't caught me."
Dusting herself off, she found it odd that she was wearing heels and a skirt since she never did so, and that her hair was ironed straight which she was normally too lazy to do. She vaguely remembered having been wearing a simple jeans and t-shirt ensemble before...dying? Was she in heaven? And if so, were skirts part of the dress code or could she negotiate?
But if she was dead then why was Ward here too? The party couldn't have been that intense, not enough to kill them, anyway.
"That's what I'm here for."
His hair was messy and moist as if he had just gotten out of the shower and he wore a Joy Division t-shirt beneath an olive green jacket. He was not all that different from what Melody remembered though for some reason she had thought he would be. She thought everything would be different after the unbelievable week she'd had.
"Saving the vertically challenged from breaking their faces?"
"Among other things," he chuckled, adjusting the strap of his backpack as they crossed the street. "I'm Ward, by the way. Milo Ward."
Melody took the hand he offered though it left her feeling confused. After their whole exchange at the party she hardly felt an introduction was necessary unless—
"Flew in at the crack of dawn."
"And you decided to come to school?" Melody gaped at him. "Aren't you jet-lagged?"
"Not a bit," he said smugly. They were in the office and Melody had asked Ms. Scholtz, the woman at the attendance desk, for Ward's schedule, taking it upon herself to be his welcoming committee now.
With Ward being new and the number of kids Melody had seen walking around in costumes she realized it must have been Halloween. She herself was dressed up, wearing the Japanese schoolgirl uniform she had made for Comic-Con that summer. This meant that although she had gone back to the real world she had not gone back to the right time. It was Wednesday, but not the right Wednesday. Not that she had any control of where or when she ended up. She still didn't understand how she was able to do this.
"You look nice," said Ward, regarding her costume, which made Melody blush.
She had to admit he wasn't wrong. When she had caught her reflection in the mirror in the office she had been pleasantly surprised to find that she looked quite pretty. She was also pleased that she didn't look trashy—a definite possibility when trying to pull off the sailor suit. Most girls, though, they went for trashy with their poofy short skirts and indecent amount of cleavage which would have been against the rules on any other day of the year. The only reason Melody went to school like this was because, as a member of student government, she had to.
It was she who was getting the stares that morning not the tarts who were dressed as fairies and princesses and mermaids. Being in the company of a new kid, and an attractive one at that, tended to garner attention, especially when Melody was the only focus of his attention. She liked to stay beneath the radar but was enjoying Wards company too much to scurry away and fade back into lonely obscurity. Even though the conversation was mostly about school matters Melody found it was really easy talking to him, almost as if they had known each other for years. She offered him advice about his teachers and were to sit at lunch, told him the best routes to each of his classes and helped him find his locker.
"You've got Calculus with me and my brother," said Melody as the bell rang, "so I guess we'll see you then."
It came as a surprise and a relief how easy she fell back into her everyday routine. She understood assignments again—not just because she had already done them—and felt confident about her responses wherever her teachers called on her. She didn't have to worry about moving staircases or vanishing steps, and definitely not about exploding experiments since her Chemistry class mostly consisted of note-taking.
Fourth period Calculus came before Melody knew it and despite her burning hatred of the subject she was really looking forward to it. Neil would be there and Ward, too, of course. She and her brother were the only Juniors in the class. It was the only class that was completely free of Raquel and her minions.
Neil had saved her a seat, as per usual, and was wearing a costume to match his sister (he was class president so he had to, too). It wasn't that big of a surprise; they had done the matching thing since they were in preschool. The only difference was that his uniform was splattered with copious amounts of fake blood a la Battle Royale. The red on Melody's was from the sports drink Raquel had "accidentally" spilled on her in the hall but she didn't say anything about it even after Neil shot her a questioning glance. She stayed silent because in this world he was still dating that demon poor-excuse-for-an-ex-best-friend bimbo.
"Get the homework done, twin?" asked Neil when he realized Melody wasn't going to say anything about why she was red, sticky and smelled of fruit punch.
"I don't know. Did I?"
With an eye roll, Neil pulled out two sets of homework, handing the one with the smaller writing to his sister. It didn't really bother him to cheat for her since Melody was only taking the class instead of easy Statistics because he had asked her to. It was also why he studied with her every second of free time he had so that she would not fail the class. He knew that Melody was good at it but that her nervousness around numbers impeded her from being as successful as he was with math.
"Have you at least been going over the step-by-step notes I gave you?"
"Of course. They were a huge help," said Melody, looking over the sheets of paper in sheer amazement. "It's scary how well you can do my handwriting."
Neil shrugged, his attention turned to the boy who had taken a seat in front of him. "Hey, Ward," he greeted. "Getting on all right?"
"Surviving." Ward grinned at Melody and added, "You were a huge help."
Melody's eyes darted from one boy to the other as they fell into effortless conversation as if they saw each other every day. Confused and feeling excluded, she asked, "Am I missing something here? How can you two possibly know each other already?"
"We're old friends, him and me," said Neil, patting Ward's shoulder, his lips twitching as he tried to suppress a smile. "You could say I'm the reason he's where he is today."
Her brother's response hadn't cleared anything up but Melody chose to leave it at that. Neil, being who he was, had probably become friends with Ward online. He had tons of friends from all over the world, most of which were fans of his freakishly popular music blog, and Ward definitely seemed like he shared in the Corden's taste.
"Don't worry about it," said Ward.
And that was when the weirdness began. Melody's vision would suddenly go fuzzy and there would be instances where their surrounding looked more like the other place than home. Odder still, was the fact that Ward sometimes looked like Sirius and at other times like Remus, for a second he even looked like James. She began to feel dizzy and the sounds she was hearing did not match what was going on in the classroom. She screwed her eyes shut.
The smell of smoke and alcohol was suddenly thick in the air, and Melody herself begun to feel as if she were under its influence. Light and giddy and free with the urge to do something crazy like kiss Ward. No sooner did the thought come when she felt lips brushing against her own, moving in a sweet, gentle rhythm that turned her legs to jelly. Her mouth was bitter with the taste of cheap beer but when Ward's tongue coaxed its way in the bitterness was overtaken by the taste of burnt sugar. She had not opened her eyes but knew, as if by instinct, that it was Ward she was kissing, Ward who had her scooped protectively in his arms, who's chest rose and fell in time with hers when they finally pulled apart for air.
The music from the party shook the wall Melody was pinned to and she could feel the pounding beat reverberating through her. A pair of dark eyes which were at that moment more pupil than iris looked down at her intensely. She had never felt so wanted. Not just wanted—there was something else deeply profound in them. It wasn't quite worship but close. For a second, Melody almost mistook it for love.
"You," he said in a growl, his voice low with warning, "are playing a very dangerous game."
"Am I?" Melody smirked and his eyes twinkled mischievously. It was almost like a drug, knowing she had such a powerful effect on a guy who so many girls were shamelessly pining after. Out of all of them he had chosen her. It was like a dream. "I intend to win it."
"That would be incredibly unwise."
Melody smirked, tugging him closer to her by his tie. "Yet you still want me to," she breathed, her lips ghosting over his.
He had grabbed both her wrists in one hand, pulling her arms over her head and was kissing her hard. There was no sweetness to this kiss just primal desire and desperation. It felt like a confession, like he was trying to tell her something without words. They were so close and yet it still didn't feel like enough. Apparently his thoughts had been the same for with his free hand Ward had hitched up Melody's leg to his hip. She reveled in the feel as the rough skin of his palm ran over her thigh, stopping right before in went to high and then starting over again. It was agonizingly delicious.
"Do you know what you do to me, Melody?" he rasped, releasing his hold on her. "I've wanted this—you—for so long now. I never thought it would be possible..."
Now free, Melody eagerly fumbled with the buttons of his Oxford shirt, planting soft kisses along his blistering hot skin as she went. Though she knew she was drunk she knew she would not regret this. It didn't feel wrong although they hardly knew each other. In fact, if felt like she had been split up into a number of different Melodys. As if part of her was at the party, another back in Calculus, and another still at Hogwarts though all were aware of what was happening there and were encouraging her. She had been back at the party no more than a couple of minutes but had fallen into the action far more seamlessly than she had before. This was what she had been trying to remember all week.
Ward pulled her back up when she reached the last two and began ministrations. His hands were at her hips, propping her up onto the counter beside the bathroom sink, and he began kissing her along her jaw, down her neck, nipping and licking every so often. It made her shiver. I made her ache. She felt the warmth growing in the pit of her stomach.
"I'm sorry," murmured Ward against her collarbone.
"Don't be," she gasped out, clutching hard onto the edge of the counter to keep from slipping. "Please."
At her words he pulled away abruptly. Leaning against the opposite wall he stared at her horrorstricken though his eyes were still dark and intense. He was trembling, and Melody was too though not from fear but from the tears that were now flowing freely down her face. After all that, he was rejecting her. How could she have been so stupid to believe he would be any different from the others? Hadn't this happened to her enough times for her to have known better?
"I should have been so careless," he said after he had taken a moment to compose myself. "I didn't mean to hurt you, I just needed to do it before—"
"Cut the shit, will you?" she snapped bitterly. "If all you wanted was a quick one then you should have just asked! Haven't you heard? I'm the biggest slut in Ocean Beach; I'll give any bloke that smiles at me whatever he wants! Or did someone put you up to this? Did Raquel tell you she'd let you have a go if you got to me first?"
Ward looked both tormented and offended. In two long strides he was back in front of Melody and made to wipe her tears but thought better of it, knowing Melody would only push him away. He searched her face, urging her to look at him and when she did said, "How can you even begin to think that about me? I thought you would know me better than to think I was that sort of man. I want you, Me—"
"So why did you pull away?" Melody demanded.
"I want you," he repeated patiently, "but I care to much about you to do this while you're drunk."
"I am not drunk!"
Ignoring this Ward continued, "I don't want it to be a quick mindless shag. When I finally make love to you, I want you to remember it down to the smallest detail. I want you not only to know how profoundly I care for you but feel it, to have that feeling infused into your very being. It all sounds very melodramatic, I know, but I can't help it around you."
Melody had come off the counter and smoothed out her clothes. She was wiping her face roughly with the back of her hand. "You don't even know me," she said morosely.
"But I do and better than anyone else does." His eyes were pleading now as he reached out for her hand. "Melody, please. I'm n—"
She pulled away from him. The tears just wouldn't stop. "Don't. I'm not—I can't do this right now."
"Just stop, Ward." she whispered. "Let me go."
With that she left the bathroom but on the other side there was nothing. Darkness, again. Falling, again. Spiraling. Hurling. It was not peaceful as it had been before. The air whipped around her, burning her skin. Below her was a circle of light which grew larger as she approached it; an opening. It grew brighter until it was too much and Melody had no choice but to close her eyes.
There was no one to catch her that time, she knew it when she felt the pain of her collision. Something was broken which was lucky considering the fall should have killed her. She could see blood and shattered glass decorating the cobblestones around her.
She moved in an attempt to stand and winced. Yes, something was definitely broken. It was just her left arm, though, so she was able to get up. It hurt to move, it hurt to breathe, and the sight of her arm twisted at an unnatural angle, hanging useless at her side, made her sick but the nearby screams told her to ignore all that and run.
She tried but her body had not yet acclimated to the transition. The world twisted and spun, her head throbbed, and her stomach released whatever little contents it had all over her beat-up trainers. It was not only the screams but the light and the smell and the overall feel of the place that told her she was back in the dream.
Dream, she snorted. Nightmare's more like it.
The screams drew nearer, so did the sounds of explosions. Jets of light wizzed through the air like ominous fireworks and Melody felt around for her wand finding it in a special pocket on the inside of her jacket. It was mostly for show and she knew it, but it was worth a shot. Her mind had gone blank of all defensive information from this world and her own. She was an easy target for anyone, especially a Death Eater, and that was exactly what the figures which approached her were.
She urged her brain and body to go back to normal, to let the epinephrine kick in and help her get out of this. She wanted to survive and yet she was stuck, absolutely rooted to the spot. She stood out alone in the middle of the street. An easy target.
"I'm not afraid of you," she said, her trembling voice giving her away.
What was she going to do? She was alone and scared and confused and they would not hesitate...
She was sent flying into one of the buildings behind her, falling into a crumpled heap. Her wand fell not to far from her and she stretched toward it, crying out in pain as the Death Eater at the front of the group stomped on her hand. He summoned her wand to him, stashing it within his robes.
"It's the Corden girl," said one, Yanking her up by her t-shirt. "What should we do with her? I could certainly think of a couple of things. She is such a pretty thing."
Without thinking Melody spat at him. The Death Eater shoved her back to the ground, kicking her side. "You'd do well to obey me, little blood traitor."
"Kill her," one said eagerly.
"She a pureblood," another argued, kneeling before her. "Let's just have a little fun and get back to the mission, yes?"
Melody flinched and whimpered as the one who had spoken brushed his knuckles along her cheek. All the men laughed. Her survival instincts had finally kicked in and she called back the memory of all those self-defense lessons her uncle Gerard had attempted to give her. The man fell back, curled up in pain when her foot connected with his groin. She could have kicked him harder—Gerard always said she kicked like a mule—but without the support of both arms she had not been able to muster up her full strength.
Melody didn't know what was happening only that it was drawing her focus away from the matter at hand which was significantly more pressing. Her face stung but she didn't know what had happened. She was pinned to the ground by one of the Death Eater's heavy boots against her chest.
"No. I came here looking for a girl," Ward replied sheepishly.
"What? They all out of them back in Stretford?" she teased.
That was the end of the voices, Melody felt them coming to a stop. But there she was wandless, motionless, surrounded by a group of evil men who only had one of two things on their mind; neither particularly good or pleasant.
"Such a waste," the one she had kicked sneered.
Her mouth felt bone dry as she croaked, "Please."
"Begging. How sweet." They all laughed again. "Let's make her scream now, shall we?"
The pain shot through her with such a force it was blinding. She couldn't even begin to process the fact that they were using the torture curse on her. Her mind only focusing on the pain which was to great to even begin to explain. She imagined it was what begin slowly ripped apart would feel like. It was too much for her to handle. Never before had she sprained or even broken any part of her body before that day. Pain had always been something foreign which she had feared not from experience. Everything was happening all at once. She so badly wanted it to stop but knew it wouldn't, not until she was dead or close enough to it.
This is it, Melody though as the pain began to recede. I am going to die here today.
She heard him, the Death Eater who seemed to be the leader of the little pack begin to say the curse.
A/N: Aaaaaand that's how I'm ending it for now. I know, I know, I'm a jerk, right? How could I possibly leave you hanging there? I do love keeping you all wondering. Feel free to share your theories on what comes next with me in the review box, or yell at me for the cliffhanger, or rant about how confusing this chapter was. It is intentionally confusing and gave me a hell of a headache writing it which is why it took me so long to get it out to you guys. No one ever said time-and-inter-dimensional travel was easy, Melody just happens to be learning this in a very extreme, dangerous and maddening way. The next chapter pretty much mapped out so I hope it doesn't take me as long to update as it did with tis one.
Until then my lovely readers,
*chapter image added: 19 October 2013*