Chapter 1 : Always Have, Always Will
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Got to breath there.
It's just one of those things.
--Meg and Dia, 'Just One of Those Things'
These are the days that I have become to dread, yet learnt to live. Nothing can stop the aching pains; though the wounds are healed, the flesh around them remains tender. I can feel every pulse, every heartbeat that pumps the blood around my body. No matter how I lie, it hurts; hurts somewhere else. I can survive. No matter what the protests in my head are, I can survive. I always have and always will.
I don’t complain. I swallow the potions and the medication; I shake my head when they ask if it hurts. It’s what they want to know. But it hurts; it hurts all over. They try to talk in low voices, sometimes I think they forget my senses are heightened, and I can hear them from my bed.
“I don’t know how many more she’s going to pull through from,” the nurse’s voice is one I know, well, almost better than my own mums’. I close my eyes so all I can see is the red-black darkness.
“She’s strong to have survived so far,” the voices carry on; one endless swirl of words and letters that sometimes make no sense. I concentrate on my breathing. In and out slowly, letting the air whistle through my teeth. I breathe in deeply and hold it, counting out numbers in my head.
“Dom?” an anxious voice sounds from above me. I open my eyes and let the breath out steadily. Teddy Lupin’s face relaxes into a tight smile; I smile weakly in return and close my eyes again. “How do you feel?”
“Like crap,” I rasp out, wincing slightly as the words scrape the inside of my throat painfully. “I’ll find out one day how you recover so quickly,” I smile thinly. He chuckles, though it's more forced than usual. I open my eyes to see him shaking his head.
“All in good time, all in good time,” he grins.
“I might not have much more time left.” The smile slips off his face and he frowns at me, his eyes suddenly angry and unforgiving. I stare back at him unflinchingly; I’d been scrutinized by his gaze too many times to be scared now.
“You have all the time you want,” his voice was gruff, his scowl prominent.
“No,” I shake my head and regret it instantly, wincing as a sharp twinge of pain shoots up through my shoulder. I close my eyes again, not opening them until the dizziness went away. “Each time gets harder, each healing time is longer. I’m barely holding my head out of the water, really, I don’t know how long it will be until I finally slip under and drown.”
“I can swim; I’ll dive in and drag you out.”
“The pier’s too far away, you won’t reach me in time,” I smile at him, tilt my head to one side. “I’m too far out, no one can reach me now.”
I close my eyes again, concentrating once more on my breathing until he was finally gone. The hospital wing was silent for a moment, and then his voice breaks through the tranquillity.
“She knows,” is all he says.
My mother’s anguished sob echoes through the room like a tear in paper, ripping my heart in half. The hollow footsteps of my family as they left were the last things I hear before I'm pulled down into the dark abyss of sleep.
Watching robe clad players soar around the pitch isn’t the best of views to pull my spirits back up. Hufflepuff against Slytherin, the match was bound to end soon. It had started over two hours ago and the crowd was growing louder, seemingly drawn from their quiet stupor during the lull mid-match.
It was as a particularly loud roar from the crowd that made my bedside curtains twitch. They pulled open to reveal the school nurse, Madam Everett. She had that mothering sort of look about her; slightly round and quite short with short brown hair. Her face was usually bright and cheerful, a smattering of freckles spread across her nose and cheeks. It took some effort to dislike her; to me she’d become some sort of second mum during the days I’d spent alone in the hospital wing.
“The match is nearly over now, sweetie,” she smiles gently at me, her kindness almost overbearing. “You’re fine to go now, just a short walk to get some fresh air then come back up for your potions and all that jazz,” she was nattering on as usual, fluffing my pillows unnecessarily. Already I was peeling back the covers, swinging my legs out and standing up steadily, using the bed for support as I tried to stretch out the stiffness.
“Yup,” I offer her a hesitant smile, fighting down a wince as a flash of pain darted up my right side.
“Half an hour, no longer,” Madam Everett hands me a thick outdoor cloak. Blue velvet, I notice as I pull it on. No doubt a gift from my grandma, or my parents. “Here,” with a flick of her wand she summoned my wand and a hairbrush which she proceeds to pull through my hair. She patted my head, much like a owner would do to a dog, and then ushers me out of the door. I duck my head and walk, my hair creating a curtain from anyone who happened to walk past. My face was pale enough to attract unnecessary attention; the beads of sweat that didn’t seem to go no matter how many times I swatted at them on my forehead didn’t help either.
Still, I somehow escape out of the school unnoticed, swinging open the front doors with a force that seems to drain all my energy in a moment. The air hits me suddenly; I'm nearly bowled over by the force.
It takes three strides before my breath is ragged; another twenty before my lungs were burning as if someone had literally set them on fire. It was steely determination on its own that sent me staggering on, somehow I make it to the lake and drop down on the bank, closing my eyes and concentrating on my breath. The ten minutes I lay there feels like an hour.
There were shouts from behind me that made me twist round and shade my eyes from the sun. Four figures were moving about, illuminated into silhouettes by the sun slowly creeping down. Some disk was darting between them. Their laughter sparked some red hot jealousy in my veins, a reaction that made me frown. Didn't stop me squinting to peer at them more closely. Three girls, so it seemed, and one boy. I wondered why they hadn’t been at the match, but not for too long.
I stay another five minutes, crossing my legs and pulling the cloak around me as I looked across the lake. The water sparkled like minute jewels on the surface, occasionally rippling as the Giant Squid surfaced. I twist my watch around and glance at the golden face. I have five minutes to get back up to the hospital wing. Oh, great.
With one last glance at the lake, I heave myself up. My muscles scream at me to stop; I winced and rub the back of my legs.
“Watch out!” a voice cries out from behind me. Too late, though. Something slammed into the back of my head with the force of a sledge hammer. The ground rushes towards me at an alarming speed, sun baked, hard and unforgiving. My shoulder connects first and then my head, a pound that sends stars spinning inside the blackness of my closed eyes.
“Ooof!” The wind is knocked out of me, setting everything alight in one fiery blaze, clawing at my throat and limbs, my body. My mind blazing, burning, my breath rasping against my throat. My face screwed up in pain just as something whistled over the top of me. I opened my eyes to slits, to see the Frisbee the four had been playing with soar out from above the lake. A shadow fell over me, the boy was looming above me, his blonde hair tousled, seemingly worried at the fact that I had stopped breathing. No doubt my lips had turned blue, a blue that could rival the lakes water. Now he's going to ask me if I was okay, a question that I heard more than enough. His face was twisting into some sort of strange expression as he offered one hand out to me.
“Are you stupid enough to let me help you up?”
I twist my lips into something of a smile (though probably looking more like a grimace) and raise one hand to take his offered help. He yanks me up so suddenly I lose my balance and trip, falling yet again until his hands caught my upper arms and steady me, his puzzled chuckle reaching me as my hair fell over my flushed face. No doubt the red showed up more prominently now there was no colour left.
"Hey, are you alright?" his concern seems genuine. I glance up, my hair falling away from my face in the movement, my forehead slick with sweat, my hands shaking and his hands fitting round my arms easily, the fingers overlapping around the flesh that clung to the bone.
"Yeah," I murmur as he surveys my face, the lost hope in the eyes, the blue shadows underneath them, the puckered line beneath one ear and sweeping the line of my throat where it stops suddenly. I knew it carried on, but that was all covered. That and the canine scars on my wrist. "Thank you," I murmur and pull my arms gently free. Yet he still stares, his face twisted into concern and some curiosity, and then he relaxes into some knowing smile.
“Fever?” he asks, and he looked apologetic.
“Something like that, yeah.”
“Get well soon,” one hand touches my clothed arm and I flinch back almost automatically, yet passed it off as re-adjusting the thick blue cloak. He frowns and then shakes his head as if shaking the thought away.
“Nurse’s orders,” I gesture at the cloak and pull my lips into the same grimace-smile.
“Well, I’ll see you around...” he winked before he took off, bounding in long strides back to the others, one who’d grabbed the Frisbee from the lake. I stand there for a moment, casting one last look out across the lake I'd never touched (and probably never would). Then I start the long hike back to the castle, shivering inside the cloak, oblivious of the scorching sun burning my back. As I walk past the group, one of them nudges the boy and another wolf-whistles.
“There’s your girlfriend, Finn!” one whoops, until he clips her round the ear and sent the snarling Frisbee spinning into another one of them. She just laughs and jumped up, plucking it out of the air and sending it straight back effortlessly, blonde hair falling neatly down her back. She sends me a look as I stare, brow creasing, until I offer an apologetic smile and turn away, placing one foot in front of the other, concentrating on not stoking the dying embers of the fire in my sides as I walk.