Chapter 16 : Swimming With Regret
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I heard him call my name. I did. I just didn’t register it, didn’t understand. It’s one thing entirely to see someone’s mouth moving, to hear the words coming out.
But sometimes it’s another thing to really understand.
Something lurched in my throat. My stomach. What was it doing all the way up there?
Nothing seemed to be in the right places; my stomach was leaping in my throat and my heart was throbbing painfully in my gut. The only body parts that seemed to have the right idea were my legs, propelling me swiftly away; out of the common room into the corridor, powering into a sprint towards the corner where I skidded with momentum.
Looking back, I didn’t remember running. I remembered nothing after the shattering of the bottles. Logically I shouldn’t have made it as far as I did, I had no conscious control over my body – I was too numb.
My first coherent thought came when my Quidditch robes – I hadn’t put them down all evening – caught for the fifth time on the rough stone corners I was taking at a sprint. They were slowing me down.
Shall I drop them, and leave a trail to show which way I’ve gone, or struggle on with them?
That was when it registered that I was running. From Sirius.
That thing I’d been so good at, the thing he hated, the thing he made me promise not to do again.
Just goes to show that you can’t trust anyone.
I reached the ground floor and slowed. Still running, but slowed. If I kept going I’d end up leaving the castle. Where did I want to go? I had nowhere in mind – just away from everything. Everyone.
The Entrance Hall was at the far end of the corridor. From there I’d have to go outside. They’d know that. They’d see me.
Instead I darted into an empty classroom, the door of which had been left ajar. I slammed the door behind me and leant up against it – catching my breath, letting my reeling head settle.
It didn’t help. The momentum had kept me numb – now being at a sudden standstill left me nauseous, a choking ball of bile in the back of my throat.
I shouldn’t have slammed the door. They were – he was – closer behind me than I realised.
I heard his pounding footsteps before I could do anything about it. Before I could so much as scan the classroom for a better hiding place. The only thing I had time to do was spin around and back up, stumbling against the closest desk.
The door burst open and the figure stood in the opening was a stranger. A monster. Not my hero, not my saviour. Who the hell was he? He was supposed to be the one to rescue me – the one to make me feel safe. Heroes didn’t do this sort of thing. He stared at me and I stared right back, frozen.
He shut the door and leant back against it, exactly as I had. His chest was heaving from running all the way here. Mine probably was too. Was that why it felt so hard to breathe? Or was it just because I felt so disgusting, so sick?
“What did you hear?” He asked.
I almost laughed in disbelief. He was asking that, of all things? What was he going to do, try and get out of it? I almost laughed.
“I can explain. I promise.”
Explain. How can you explain the inexplicable?
“Please. You don’t understand.”
I didn’t understand? I thought I understood pretty damn fine. And, in any case, he wasn’t trying all that hard to make me understand. Considering all his ‘You don’t understand’ and his ‘I can explain’, he wasn’t clarifying a thing.
I didn’t hear the extra sets of footsteps approaching until it was too late. These ones weren’t thundering down the corridor; it wasn’t as noticeable. One pair was heavy and striding, the other quick and light. They must have seen Sirius’ shape in the glass segment in the top of the door, because the next time he tried to make another pathetic comment it was interrupted.
The force with which the door was hammered threw him forward but he stopped himself and jumped back up against it, preventing it being opened. Probably because he knew why the hammering was so deafening – he knew that the two punches he’d received tonight were nothing compared to what he’d get if Freddie got through that door.
“Are you listening?” He carried on talking, ignoring the racket. The shouting had started now. The yelling, the threatening, the cursing from Freddie; the screaming, crying and pleading from Marlene. “Will you listen to me, Dee?”
You’re not making any sense, I thought, You’re not even saying anything for me to listen to.
The hammering continued, getting louder and more insistent. Sirius was having to throw his whole weight back onto the door to keep it shut.
And I doubt I could hear anything even if I wanted to.
“I know how it sounds. It’s bad. But it’s not as -” He was having to raise his voice to shout above the racket from outside.
Soon even he realised that it was impossible, so he shut up.
Took a breath.
Stepped away from the door.
Was he crazy?
I spoke for the first time, “No, wait. What are you -”
In a havoc of stamping, shouting, swearing and swinging fists, Freddie lurched into the room.
Sirius was just standing there.
With a fresh roar, Freddie rounded on Sirius, trying to tear away from Marlene who was clinging, sobbing, to one of his fists. Without thinking I threw myself at my brother and latched onto the other fist, leaving Freddie considerably encumbered.
Still Sirius just stood there.
It wasn’t until I registered the completely pained, defeated expression on Sirius’ face that I questioned why I was stopping Freddie beating the crap out of him.
But it didn’t make me let go.
Was it because a part of me was still madly hoping that I’d heard wrong; that I was right about him; that Sirius wouldn’t do that?
Or was it because I could see in his stance – his lifeless, crushed stance – that he was going to make no effort to defend himself? Freddie would pulverise him.
Or was it because seeing that face, already so broken and bruised, hurt anymore would tear open a new wound in me?
Maybe. Maybe all of that. Maybe none. I couldn’t think.
Freddie shouting, smashing glass still ringing in my ears, it was all I could do to keep Freddie’s fist clutched in mine.
“Stop it, just stop it, STOP IT!” It wasn’t just me that was finding it all too much. Marlene silenced Freddie’s threats with a shrill, sob-ridden command.
All it took was a second’s hesitation from him for Marles to whip out her wand and throw everyone apart with a brisk Shield charm. The sudden force snapped my head back on my neck and I stumbled back a few paces no longer having Freddie’s hand to hold me up. For the first time since Freddie had entered the room Sirius’ face showed something other than surrender; he jerked into life and was at my side in an instant, a hand under my elbow and a murderous growl in Marlene’s direction.
I flinched away from that hand. I didn’t know that hand; it wasn’t my Sirius’ hand. It belonged to this imposter; this Sirius who would sleep with my brothers’ girlfriend and then conveniently forget it.
At the same time Freddie snarled back, almost indecipherably, “Don’t touch her.” He lunged again towards Sirius, taking advantage now that Marlene had let go of him, but he met an invisible, impenetrable wall. She hadn’t dropped the Shield.
A wall. Freddie and Marlene one side, Sirius and me the other. Ironic, really.
“Everyone just needs to calm down.” Marles cried again, her voice steady and strong with authority.
It worked in an instant. Freddie’s shoulders dropped and he backed up half a step. Sirius had let go of me the second I cringed away, and now he stood motionless, staring at me. I was staring off into the mid-distance.
I had never realised that Marlene’s ‘Head Girl’ voice worked even better than Lily’s ‘Prefect’ voice. It struck me as odd that she could be so distraught that her voice was thick with sobs one minute, then so calm and commanding the next. Hell, I hadn’t had the state of mind to think of a Shield charm rather than dangling myself from Freddie’s wrist. At that point in time I probably couldn’t have told you what a wand was, let alone made it do something useful.
Maybe she wasn’t so distressed as she was making out.
It took a long few minutes for anyone to speak. I knew I wasn’t about to open my mouth. I was stuck in one of those entrancing stares that are impossible to disrupt. Try as I might I could not tear my eyes away from the half-cleaned blackboard, and right then I didn’t particularly wish to. There wasn’t a person in the room that I could face looking at right then without vomiting. I suspected Freddie felt the same, and was doing his usual silence to calm himself down, nicely working everyone else’s nerves into a frenzy at the same time. And Sirius and Marlene… maybe they could tell that their excuses were going to meet deaf ears.
“So.” Freddie said slowly, after what felt like a lifetime of awkward silence, “This scumbag’s telling me he’s in love with my sister. But refrains from telling me he’s shagging my girlfriend -”
“I wasn’t shagging her.” Sirius said, looking at me for some reason. I could feel his eyes on me even in my blackboard stare. “Dee, I promise you, I wasn’t. It happened once -”
Once is enough, I meant to say, but my throat was paralysed.
“Once is enough, you complete fucking bastard.” Freddie growled for me.
“I know it is.” Sirius still didn’t take his eyes from the side of my head, “I know it is and that’s why I wish to hell that it never happened.”
“But it did.”
“But it did.” Sirius nodded. “But it’s not like you’re thinking, I don’t even like Marlene -”
Marlene made a sniffy, disbelieving noise. Almost a snort but too girly. Of course, she could never manage anything so unattractive. So less than perfect.
Perfect Marlene, Little Miss Sunshine, the one everyone likes…wants… but can’t have.
Of course, boundaries never meant anything to Sirius.
“Oh, like that’s such a huge surprise to you,” He answered her sniff scathingly, “I never kept it a secret that I thought you were a lying, manipulative bitch -”
“Shut up.” Freddie stepped up to the invisible wall. Sirius stood still.
Why is he defending her? I wondered, still watching the scene unfold from just the corner of my eye as I stared away, She’s as much to blame as him, but Freddie would never turn on her. Why is it all Sirius’ fault?
I knew I wanted to blame her. I’d disliked her intensely before, and now I hated every perfect sodding hair on her perfect sodding head. And it seemed like Freddie felt the same way about Sirius.
But I still had the capacity to feel ultimately betrayed by Sirius, and we hadn’t even been together at the time. Freddie didn’t seem to at all. Marlene was Freddie’s girlfriend. And she’d cheated on him. Why didn’t he at least partly blame her? Was he so blinded that he thought Sirius must have corrupted her?
Maybe he did, half my brain supplied, sneakily, it is the sort of thing he did. Time and time again…
No, the other half argued, he would have told me. He would have regretted it so much that –
It hit me at once.
He did tell me.
Or tried to. Before chickening out. But he tried.
It was late September, pouring with rain.
“I don’t know why I did it. I’m so stupid. Why? Why the fuck would I do that?”
“I didn’t mean to do it, Dee, I swear. This is the stupidest thing I’ve done in my life…”
“I can’t tell you.”
“I want to tell you Dee. I want you to yell at me and tell me it’s all my own fault and hate me. But I really can’t tell you.”
He never did tell me. But it was her.
The one thing he’d never been able to tell me, the one thing I hadn’t been able to help him with.
“It was her.” I said.
The sound of my voice was enough to surprise them all into looking at me. I didn’t like that. The sudden attack of three pairs of eyes on me startled me out of my stare. I dragged my eyes to Sirius’. “The one you couldn’t tell me about. It was her.”
Eyes swimming with regret, he nodded. “Can I please explain?”
“I don’t want to hear it.” I said, honestly. I didn’t. I couldn’t hear it. I couldn’t listen to anything to do with whatever filth the two of them got up to. I just couldn’t.
“I’ll hear it.” Freddie growled mutinously.
Sirius ignored him. “Please. I won’t try and change your mind about me if you’ve already made it up. But I can’t just let you… not without trying… not without you hearing the truth.”
I wordlessly folded my arms. Sirius took this as an affirmative.
“This should be good.” Marlene muttered, perching herself on the edge of a desk.
How could she be like that? I wondered, how could she be so catty and cocky when her relationship is about as irreparable as Sirius and mine?
But I knew the answer. Their relationship wasn’t beyond repair. Freddie was a fool for Marlene – I could see that. His face held not an ounce of blame for her. His murderous eyes were on Sirius alone. But me, I shared the blame. They were both as vile as each other in my opinion. Sirius knew that. Our relationship had been formed on the basis that I could trust him. He’d told me – begged me, even. And now…
“Ok.” Sirius said. He looked at me and I accidentally made eye contact. It made me jump, instantly switching my gaze away from him as if it would hurt just to catch his eye. “Well, you know when it was.”
Sure. Late September, pouring with rain. Well, that was when he told me. I assumed that it was then. Sirius had been prone to running straight to me after he got himself into these situations, so that’s what I thought had happened at the time. I remembered his sodden shirt, buttons done up wrong in their haste; his tie hanging limp and untied around his neck. Definitely indicated that he’d come straight to me.
“So we’re eating lunch…” Sirius continued.
Hang about. That’s no how I remember it. It was evening. I’d been at Quidditch practice. What the hell happened at lunch? They’d been at it that sodding long?
“… at your table for once, Dee. Remember?”
I had no idea what this had to do with him screwing my brothers’ girlfriend. I barely even remembered them sitting at the Ravenclaw table. Admittedly it was a rare occurrence – if I was going to sit with Sirius, James and Lily it just made sense for me to sit with them at the Gryffindor table, I mean there were three of them and one of me. But apparently that day they’d sat at our table. I didn’t even remember.
I nodded anyway.
“The only reason we sat there was because you went to talk to… your brother,” He seemed incapable of saying Freddie’s name, “So we just joined you there. Then the rest of your team came along. First thing that happened was that you just completely blanked us the whole of lunch and sat pissing about with them -”
Definitely had no idea what this had to do with it all.
“Is this relevant?” Freddie enquired in a slightly hostile tone.
Sirius carried on regardless. “So there I was left sat next to you with Ignorant Couple of the Year – Prongs and Evans – on one side and you and your team on the other. Then you start chatting on about the Quidditch practice you have that night – the one you’ve forgotten to tell me about even though you’d promised me we’d -”
“Go for a fly.” I remembered. For the whole of fifth year Sirius and I had gone for a weekly evening fly together. Nothing serious, nothing deep, mostly just a complete shambles where we’d race, chase, challenge and generally provoke each other. It would more often than not end up with someone getting almost-severely injured. All in good fun, of course. But then since sixth year had started we hadn’t done it. It had been three weeks and we’d missed it each time, so I’d promised.
“Wait, that hasn’t got anything to do with it. Surely you’re not trying to blame this on me?” I asked incredulously, “Are you kidding?”
“No! No, no, I’m not. I’m just telling you how it was. That includes my frame of mind. Which was caught between considerably pissed off and just about ready to give up on even hoping that you’d ever pay me any attention of your own volition.”
“Um, what? For missing one little…” One little what? Date? It was hardly a date. This was way back before meddlesome, non-platonic feelings came along and interfered.
“Sure, it was just one little fly to you. But you don’t understand how I felt – that was the only time it was just me and you. That and when you were… you know, getting me out of bad situations…” He said, quite uncomfortably. He was probably very aware that he was relying on Marlene, the ‘manipulative bitch’, to keep a sturdy shield between he and Freddie. “Other than that I could never make priority over anyone else. You and Lily were more often than not inseparable. Then if you weren’t with your best mate it was your brother. If it wasn’t your brother it was your team -”
“It wasn’t like that at all!” I disagreed, most shrilly, “It was always the four of us – me, you, James and Lily. You know that -”
“Yeah, but you’ve got the order wrong. It was always you and Lily, me and James. Then if Lily was elsewhere then it was you, then me and James. Mostly acting like absolute prats. Not exactly the kind of attention I wanted -”
“What kind of attention did you want?”
“The kind of attention you give me now! Or… well, before. But not before, like…” He struggled, “You know what I mean. It’s totally selfish I know, but that’s how it was. How it is.”
I stared at him for a few seconds. “So you didn’t get this attention, therefore you slept with my brothers girlfriend. And that’s my fault. Right.” Not at all thick on the sarcasm there.
“You slept with her, Sirius.” Another rush of bile threatening to force its way up my throat as I said those words. Sirius and Marlene. Together. Touching her, whispering things… Things he probably repeated to me…
“No, I -”
“Did you, or did you not…”
“I didn’t sleep with her.” His rushed words filled me with hope and I hated myself for it. I knew it had happened. He’d admitted it already. “There was nothing remotely ‘sleep-like’ about it. That indicates some feeling, some emotion or whatever. Does it more justice than it was worth. It was a quick thing, over and done with there and then and it didn’t make me feel any better about anything.”
I couldn’t say anything. The only thing I could think of to say was ‘it still happened’. And that sounded mulish and childish even in my head.
“Disgusting as that would be anyway,” Freddie began, still in his dangerous tone of voice, “You’re forgetting that it wasn’t a random girl, it was my girlfriend. Who wouldn’t willingly sleep with any guy that offers it on a plate…”
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that -” Sirius muttered. Stupidly. Doing his usual of coming back with a flippant comment with absolutely no consideration for the situation he was in.
With another growl Freddie stepped forward again, nose-to-nose with Marles’ shield charm.
“Freddie!” I was so sick of this. I was so sick, full-stop.
Freddie turned to me, his murderous gaze softening in an instant, but that instant was still enough to make me cold.
“Please, just stop.” I said, stress and nausea leaving me exhausted.
“Stop?” He repeated, incredulously. “You can’t be on his side, Deb… look what he’s done, look what -”
“I know. It makes me sick -” I didn’t have to look at Sirius, I could see his face crumple out of the corner of my eye. “- but it takes two.”
Freddie shook his head abruptly, as if he wasn’t even going to consider it. That motion made me so angry that something seemed to shoot through my veins tensing my arms, my hands, my fingers until they shook.
“Listen to me!” I raised me voice and saw the three of them jump. Maybe you didn’t have to be prefect or Head Girl to pull that one off. Maybe you just had to get that annoyed. “Why aren’t you blaming her, Freddie? Look what she’s done. So Sirius shagged your girlfriend – you knew he was a twat anyway. But you girlfriend cheated on you! Do you not get that?”
Freddie shook his head again, dumbly. It was Marlene who interrupted my wrath.
“You’re blaming me?” She said, aghast.
“Yes, I’m fucking blaming you.” I growled. I was capable of a growl. That was new. “You have no excuse for what you did to my brother. I think you’re disgusting.” I quickly spun my head to Sirius, mid-rant, “- Not that this means I blame you any less -” He didn’t respond, and I flicked my head back, “You’re greedy, Marlene. Greedy and selfish and you don’t deserve someone like Freddie. Not even close.”
Tears sprung to her delicate lashes. “That’s not fair, Debbie.”
I almost choked. “Fair? And this is all fair is it?” Tears blossomed in my own eyes, panicking me as they grew too much to blink away. I wouldn’t cry in front of them. I wouldn’t. “Thank you. Thanks, Marlene for making me detest you even more. Thanks for making me disgusted with him,” I couldn’t bring myself to say his name. “Thanks for making me disgusted with my brother for his pathetic blindness to who you really are. Thanks for making me disgusted with myself.”
The tension, mixed with an overwhelming sense of exhaustion made my decision to leave before my mind consciously did. Before I could think about it, before they could stop me, my hand was on the door. They probably would have made a move to stop me, Freddie and Marlene, but her own Shield Charm hindered them. The only one who could have stopped me was Sirius. And he was no longer even looking at me.
I was out of the door, with my hand still on the handle, before I hesitated. Thought about what I was doing.
“Freddie.” I said.
He looked up.
“I asked you not to hurt him, before.”
He didn’t say anything. Sirius still wasn’t looking. I couldn’t even see his expression, because his hair and the shadows were hiding his eyes.
“That still stands.”
Then I left.
In a perfect world – a dramatic world – that would have been it. I would have left that night with my pride, no one would question what happened next. It would be assumed that I spend a few miserable days, weeks, months, moping with dignity in my dorm, never having to speak to the culprit again, never having to face her again, never being stuck in a room with the three of them again.
But, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This is me. Life doesn’t happen the way you want it to.
In reality, I still had to endure being in the same castle as them for five more days. I don’t know if I thought I could avoid them. I don’t know if I wanted to. But I didn’t last a day.
I made it back to the dormitory on my own. The party was long over. The girls were fast asleep. I was glad. I’d managed to hold out on the tears for the whole time I’d been in that classroom but I knew I didn’t have much time left. All I could do was throw myself onto my bed and let it all pour out.
In the morning Londy didn’t ask any questions. For once in her life she had tact. She took one look at my face, which probably vaguely looked like I was on something what with my red-rimmed eyes, pallid complexion and lips bitten to shreds, and just gave me a hug. Nothing more. No nagging questions, no snide comments, nothing. Of course that set me off even worse because it was so uncharacteristically nice, so it took us hours to make it down to breakfast.
I hadn’t gotten through the door into the Great Hall before he made his first attempt. I should have expected it, I suppose. No consideration for boundaries.
He stepped right in front of us and blocked our path. Londy looked from him to me, anxiously. Probably noting the dark circles under his eyes, similar to how mine had been. Although I was thankful that she’d taken it upon herself to sort out my face this morning so that it wasn’t apparent to everyone that I’d spent the night sobbing and snotting everywhere.
“Dee.” He said, very quickly and under his breath. “Listen, I need to talk to you -”
“She doesn’t want to hear it, Black.” Londy answered for me, scathingly. I was grateful. But at the same time dismayed.
No. I didn’t want to talk to him.
But maybe I did…
Londy marched me firmly past him. I didn’t see his face, just his feet shuffling out of the way. I couldn’t look up. This makeup may have hidden my gross complexion but it wouldn’t stop me blubbering.
“I feel disgusting.” He raised his voice a little as we walked away. “You were right. I’m disgusting.”
“I’ve regretted it every second since -”
“You shouldn’t have done it.” I whispered, my voice croaky from lack of use.
“I know. Tell me what I can do -”
“You shouldn’t have done it.” My voice sounded dangerous again.
He didn’t try again that day.
But the next day, McGonagall took it upon herself to make matters exponentially worse for me.
“Miss McKinnon.” She announced, as I came into Transfiguration with Lily. Lily, like Londy, hadn’t asked any questions. I didn’t doubt that she knew. She wasn’t thick, and she was a hundred times more perceptive than Londy, who’d clocked what was happening. She would have demanded to know from Sirius what was happening, and Sirius would have told her and James. He had no reason to keep it a secret anymore, I guess.
I looked up in acknowledgement. I really wasn’t using my voice a lot these days.
“Your detention will be tomorrow evening, in the Owlery. You will be sweeping the floors without magic. You will be there at eight o’clock on the dot. Is that understood?”
I couldn’t answer. Not because I was just in a habit of not using my voice, but because her words had seemed to smack me in the stomach and left me reeling.
“Miss McKinnon? Is that clear?”
I gripped the back of the chair in front of me and nodded.
“Excellent. Now, Mr Black -” She bustled towards the back of the classroom where I knew Sirius would be sitting with James. I didn’t know this because I’d seen him when I came in, I knew it because I’d memorised where he sat so that I wouldn’t have to look at him. It hurt. It hurt to even hear McGonagall say his name, let alone look at him knowing what he’d done. Let alone seeing the dead expression on his face. That made everything worse.
I numbly sat down in my place next to Lily. She rubbed my back comfortingly.
“Are you ok?” She asked, “I didn’t know you had detention, what happened?”
“It’s with him.” I answered, hoarsely.
“It’s with…” Lily echoed, working it out, “Oh God. It’s with Sirius?”
Another pang went through me at her saying his name. I nodded.
“Oh, sweetie. That’s awful. Why don’t you ask -”
I shook my head. I wasn’t about to explain the situation to McGonagall.
“But if you just… It’ll be horrible, but just keep your head down and get through it. It’s only sweeping, it shouldn’t take too long -”
“It’s not just him.” I said, quietly, “It’s him and Freddie and her.”
“Oh God.” Lily gripped my arm. “You all got detention… what…. When? What did you do?”
“It was just before.” I said, miserably. “He punched some Slytherins. Said some stuff to Freddie. Freddie punched him.”
“But why have you -”
“Wrong place at the wrong time.” I said. My stomach was churning. I stared dead ahead at the blackboard.
Lily’s cool, comforting hand on my shoulder didn’t ease the nausea.
Wrong place at the wrong time.
That was what was wrong with everything.
Wrong place at the wrong time.
If I hadn’t been in the wrong place at the wrong time I wouldn’t have overheard Marlene. Everything would be good again.
No matter whether I knew about it or not, he still did it.
Wrong place at the wrong time.
I was repeating that in my head all day. In classes, at dinner, and up each and every step to the owlery.
I got there at eight-oh-one.
“Late, Miss McKinnon.” Professor McGonagall scolded.
“Sorry Professor.” I glanced around the small, stone room, unnaturally cold for the time of year. But a surge of heat welled up in me when I realised who was there. Or, to be more correct, who wasn’t there.
“The two of you will be sweeping the floor with no magic,” McGonagall carried on, “I will check on you in one hour, and if the floors are to my satisfaction you may leave.”
She turned to leave and I debated whether to voice the question in my head or to keep up my talking as little a possible.
“Professor,” My voice rang out, echoing from the walls, “Where are -”
“Misters Black and McKinnon are mopping the floors of the trophy room.”
I swallowed. “Oh.”
“Begin at once, please.”
I picked up a broom without meeting the eyes of my company. I didn’t want to look at her. She disgusted me. But at the same time I couldn’t help it.
Our eyes met. It was awkward. I looked back down at the floor. Started sweeping.
For a few peaceful minutes I concentrated on the regular motions, the rustling and scratching of the old wooden broomstick on the bare floor. It helped me stay calm to count the strokes. I got to sixty before I looked up again, against my will.
She sensed it and again our eyes met. This time she spoke, and it was in the superior, tinkling voice that made my skin crawl. “If you’re going to apologise just get it over with,”
I actually stumbled. “What?”
“I’ll accept your apology,” She said, still in the same irritating voice, “I want us to get along, you know -”
“My apology?” I repeated, “My apology?”
“Yes. Your comments the other night -”
“Marlene I do not owe you an apology. Not in the slightest.” I shook my head in disbelief, “How can you even say that? If anybody owes anybody else apologies it’s you owing my fool of a brother, though he’s enough of a mug not to even blame you in the slightest -”
“He finished with me.”
I did a double-take. “He…”
“He broke up with me.” She said, more slowly.
I really had been out of it the last couple of days. I blinked as I processed the information. Marlene seemed to be awaiting a response. I didn’t have one. The only acceptable response in this situation was something along the lines of ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘you’re so much better than him anyway’.
Neither of these were true.
“And?” I said, admittedly perhaps a little harsh.
“I was just telling you.” Her pale blue eyes flashed a little, “Seeing as it was because of you.”
“Because of…” I seemed to be in a habit of just repeating her phrases. I couldn’t be blamed when they were so ludicrous as this.
“Got what you wanted then, haven’t you?” She said, bitterly, “As usual.”
“What are you talking about?” I demanded, “What I wanted was my brother to be happy. This hasn’t made him happy. He loved you – why, I couldn’t tell you – and you cheated on him. Just how is that anything to do with me?”
“You turned him against me!” Marlene’s voice rose to match the pitch of my own. Some owls were getting flustered and fluttered up to higher rafters. “We were happy and you didn’t like it. Didn’t like it that Freddie could be happy with someone other than you -”
“He’s my brother!” I pointed out, repulsed.
“And don’t I know it! Do you know how many times I was shoved out of the picture because he needed to be with you? You’ve always been the most important person in his life, so important that there’s no room for anyone else. All I wanted was to be put first for once -”
“He always puts you first! You turned him into an absolute sap, he’s always with you -”
“That doesn’t mean he’s putting me first. All you’ve ever had to do is twitch your little finger and he’d come running. It’s all so easy for you.” The bitterness in her voice was almost cutting.
“You still cheated on him, Marlene.”
“It’s your fault.”
“Pardon?” If I hadn’t abandoned my broom I’d have probably stumbled over it again.
Marlene folded her arms across her chest. “He only came to me because he wanted to talk about you.”
She hadn’t directly said, but we both knew who this ‘he’ was. And it wasn’t my brother. It sent another pang of pain through my abdomen and I had to clench my fists to stop them from shaking.
“I don’t want to hear it.” My voice was surprisingly calm.
“You need to. He came to me because he knew I’d know how it feels to be second best. He could tell as much as I could that no one would ever be more important in yours and Freddie’s lives than each other. We were in the same boat.”
“Oh that’s alright then.” Why did sarcasm come so easily to me in these situations? “As long as you were in the same boat I have no right to hate you for hurting my brother and -”
“He told me he loved you.”
My stomach tightened again. “No.”
“What do you mean, no? You weren’t there. That’s what he said.”
“He didn’t mean it. You can’t love someone and then…” I didn’t want to say it. “You just can’t. Love’s bigger than that. He doesn’t love me. I don’t love him. The only person in the world I love is -”
“Freddie.” She said, wearily.
I nodded, firmly.
“Whatever. You see love as this big thing that you don’t dare trust anyone with, he sees it as how he feels about you. It’s all subjective.”
“Don’t start analysing me or whatever it is you -”
“I’m not. I’m just saying – that’s what he said. And that’s why I did it.”
“That’s why. Another person was putting you up on a pedestal. Another person to put you as the most important person in the world, falling head over heels in love with you and I still had nothing.”
“So you thought you’d ruin it for me.”
“No, it wasn’t that, I -”
“Yes it was.” It all fell into place. “You heard that he loved me… liked me… whatever. You heard that and you probably had enough sense to see that someday there might be a time when we could possibly get together. And you thought you’d ruin it.”
“No! I didn’t! We were just in the same situation, I was upset and -”
“Yes you did, Marlene.” I felt so sick at her that the room seemed to close in even smaller than it was. I just wanted to get out. “Why else would you sleep with the one guy that mattered? Putting my brothers feelings on the line and everything. Why else would you talk about it so openly, where you knew we were both in the common room and that it was likely that we’d overhear. You wanted to ruin it. And when just shagging him wasn’t enough you had to make sure I knew about it.”
She’d stopped protesting. I stared at her for a moment from the doorway.
“Well, great. Well done, Marles, you’ve finally got what you wanted. You’ve ruined everything. For me, for him, for Freddie and for yourself. I hope it’s worth it. ”
A.N. Oh god. I'm so sorry. I barely even dared post this at all... It's been a lifetime and I'm sorry. I won't even bother making excuses because they're crap, but please don't hate me. You may well hate the chapter thought, I know I do. I'm not quite happy with it but for once I had a spare moment so I thought I'd get it out there, that's if I still have any readers... Oh god. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry again.
Anyway, please let me know what you think, preferably not about my crappy updating skills though...
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