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The Art of Breathing. by AC_rules
Chapter 21 : Pain.
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 62


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A/N - Hello guys, it's been a while - longer than I'd realised! This update should have been a few days earlier but I've beeen soooo sooo busy! THank you all for reviewing, and I promise I will respond to every signle review (even if it takes me a few days). Hope you all enjoy, and don't kill me too much!

Border line,
Dead inside.
I don't mind,
Falling to pieces.
-Breaking benjamin Unkown soilder



From my experience I’ve always found that there are two types of hospitals: either a grubby white designed to make them look clean and sterile or they’re painted in bright colours to make them seem more cheerful and welcoming. Neither is particularly comforting, and this hospital was no different. I hadn’t been here before and looking around the corridor I could see it was so incredibly muggle. I was so used to the magical walls and presence in Hogwarts that I hadn’t remembered how much weaker I felt in the muggle world. At Hogwarts there was a presence that made me a little stronger – all that magical air that I was breathing in flooding through my veins and to my muscles. Here though, the oxygen was flat and dizzyingly weak, even though I was just sitting down. Or maybe that was the panic resting on my brain.

 Dumbledore had cast some charm so that I was now in muggle clothes before we left, and they clung to my skin frustratingly, the different fabrics feeling too heavy and unnatural. It made me feel uneasy as I gripped the bottom of the plastic seat in the corridor.

I wanted to cry so much it was unreal but my eyes remained completely dry. I wanted to let all the pain out, instead of having it stuffed up inside me, twisting all my organs into a tight ball of pain and anger. Maybe if I cried it wouldn’t hurt so much, but now when I really needed tears they wouldn’t come, and all I could do was stare at the wall opposite.

My fists were clenched tightly at my sides and my shoulders were so tense that it hurt. There was a sharp pain in my back and I still felt as exhausted as I had this morning.

 I couldn’t go in and see her, I knew that for sure. I couldn’t bear to see her body broken and battered in the hospital bed; I’d walked in and taken one look before bolting back out into the corridor, no one followed me. I knew that if I cried I’d feel so much better, but now when I really needed them there were no tears to cry.

Becky.

My brain was whizzing with the fear of what could have happened if she’d chosen to do this any other day – if today hadn’t been  Mum’s  birthday and dad hadn’t thought to check up on her she’d still be lying in the bath. That would be that. Bye bye Becky. She would have been gone forever.

She could still be gone forever.

I gripped the edge of the seat harder and concentrated hard on the ground – it seemed the safest place to look due to the stupid notices that plastered the walls: depression is normal, do you feel S.A.D.? Hygiene is essential! Are you qualified for a flu jab?  They hardly helped the sombre mood. I really wanted to storm up to whoever decorated this hospital and tell them they’d done it all wrong, and yell at them until I couldn’t speak anymore.

I watched as a family of four walked past me, down the corridor. There was a child of around six, with pink trainers that flashed when she walked, who hung off her big sister’s arm, laughing and giggling. The big sister was trying her hardest to be morose, but kept laughing at the little one’s antics. Their father looked to be in a state, and barely noticed the other two. His son, around nine, clung on to his hand looking terrified. I hoped they’d be okay. They looked like a nice family.

My thoughts returned to my own family just behind that wall, and I knew I wasn’t strong enough to step back into the room.

 I knew I often over-thought everything that came my way until tiny little details began to take on incredible significance, but it wasn’t something I had much control over; my brain still kept screaming all these “what if’s” at me, and there was nothing I could do to stop them.

What if she spent so long out of university that she had to drop out? How would she ever get a decent job? Would she start all over again as all her friends moved out and away?

What if she got sacked from her job? Like last time when they sacked her for being unstable, and the time before where the told her they couldn’t afford to keep her on board – she hadn’t even been in a relapse then! Employers don’t want crazy, mood-swingy, depressed employees! Can you blame them?

What if next time she succeeds?

Then the guilt set in like a knife to the stomach – why hadn’t I thought of any of this before?

The fact was I’d been too engrossed in my own life to remember Becky, broken and away from home, Dad, Karen and Johnny just trying to pretend like everything was normal – god, Johnny. He’d only been a baby last time and I knew this must have been screwing him up, finally understanding what all those snippets of memories actually meant.

Why hadn’t I wrote to her and asked her if she was okay? Sent her an owl at least.

Instead I’d been so distracted by Sirius, Lily, Alice and stupid little problems like that – my sister could have died and I was too caught up in my own little dramas to care. I’d forgotten all about them after that first week of worrying, I’d let it all drop to the back of my mind and now look...

I stood up, not wanting to be sat down any longer and paced along the side of the wall, wondering if any of them were ever going to come out and join me.  I doubted it, and I couldn’t blame them – if it was helping them to stare at her crumpled form then they were free to do it. I just couldn’t, I couldn’t.

****************

I forced myself into the room, feeling bile rise in my throat as I saw all the wires and tubes connecting her up to the machines. She looked so peaceful, despite her skin being stretched even further over her bones so she looked more like a skeleton than my sister. Her make-up, which would normally be quite gothic, looked minimal matched with the pure paleness of her skin, and her hair fanned out behind her face made her look a lot more innocent than I knew her to be. I knew full well that she had numerous piercings and tattoo’s marking her skin and hidden from view by the white hospital gown. She was always doing and saying stupid, stupid things – I remember once she took her sleeping pills rather than her anti-depressants one morning, and how she’d told me about her and her boyfriend having sex in an effort to cheer me up.

She was tactless, she was frustrating, but she was what made being at home just that little bit better: with her none too subtle descriptions and the knack of making everything dodgy. I couldn’t lose her now. I simply couldn’t!

Johnny grabbed my hand tightly next to me, and I saw how his eyes were fixed on her like he’d seen her for the very first time. I squeezed his hand as tightly as I could in return. I wanted him to know completely that I was there, and I wasn’t going to let go anytime soon. He leant against my side and I felt another stab of guilt as I realised just how much I’d been neglecting them. I hadn’t realised how incomplete the family felt with someone missing, and it reminded me painfully of my impending fate. I gripped Johnny’s hand tighter and tried to memorise the feeling of his hand resting in mine and thought about how much I was going to miss out. His first girlfriend, his first job, when he got engaged, his wedding, and when he became a father. I felt helpless. I wanted to mother him, I wanted to hold him tight and rock him in my arms, like mum had never been able to. He needed Becky just as much as I did, he needed Becky when I was gone and he began to forget about me and mum.  He’d be desperate to hold onto it, but things would fade away and he needed Becky there. He couldn’t lose anyone else.

Dad needed her. Dad needed Becky to remind him of what life had been like. He needed Becky to be there when he lost me, and he needed Becky to be there at Christmas dinner – scornful and sarcastic about every present – but making us all laugh at the unfortunate shape of the balloons, or how what Grandpa said could be so misinterpreted.

I needed Becky, despite how much I talked about hating her. I needed her as much as I needed all of them. There was no point trying to detach myself from them the way I did, they were irreplaceable in my life.

And I’d forgotten them.

I forced myself to look at Becky until I knew the image would be etched on the back of my eyelids.

Never would I ever forget about my family again.

Not ever.

****************

I bounced Ria on my knee in the hospital cafe, regretting leaving Johnny in the ward, and sipped on my hot chocolate. Ria had started crying, and I offered to take her as I knew Karen didn’t want to leave Dad’s side, and there was no way Dad was going to leave Becky. He hadn’t said a word till I’d got here, and Johnny had told me in an audible whisper that they’d been here for at least an hour before hand, instead Dad had spent the whole time clutching Becky’s hand with tears falling down his face. Karen had stood looking at him, her eyes bright red but uncrying.

I’d felt more sympathy for Karen than I’d ever done before, because I knew she felt just the same as I did, distant and unconnected from all of it, just hoping that everything would be okay again.

I pulled Ria tight towards me and whispered in her soft ear the only words of comfort I could think of, the same ones as my mother had whispered to me all those years ago. “The whole world’s waiting for you – you’re going to have everything,” I whispered, again and again into her ear. “The world’s waiting for you little baby Ria, you’re going to have everything you could ever want. I hope you don’t miss me, I hope you don’t even remember I existed,” I said, meaning them for the first time in my entire life.

There were too many people who’d lost people; she didn’t need to remember losing me too.

****************

Ria was asleep. She looked immensely peaceful, and I knew she understood nothing of what was going on. I was glad. Right now Ria’s life should be perfect. I sighed, brushing the top of her head with my fingers, and wished again that I could cry and let it all out. My eyes had other ideas. I put my hands in my unfamiliar pockets and buried my hands as far as they go. I wanted to bury myself far away, in the warmth of a blanket, or in someone’s arms. I longed to be a baby again, tucked up safe in my mother’s arms; I wished she was still whispering to me those same words as she had so long ago, even though they’d always been lies.

The world’s waiting for you – you’re going to have everything.

I tried counting my blessings on my fingers inside my pockets, but I didn’t want to think about it. I wished I had everything. Everything is a lot to have.

A sharp pain shot through my finger, and I pulled it out of my pocket instantly. A drop of blood ran down from my middle finger, and I watched it, transfixed as it ran down my palm before wiping the blood away: a paper cut.

I put my left hand back in my pocket and pulled out a selection of pieces of parchment, turning them over in my hands.

The letters from my family, and from Daniel McKinnon.

Before I could think about it, his letter was unfolded in front of me, and I began to read.

Mary,

I trust Marlene has talked to you by now, and I want you to know that it’s not completely how she makes it to be. I need to tell you in person for you to really understand.

Instead I’m writing this because I’ve found something of interest to you, and to ensure Marlene explains the situation to you in her own words as I doubt she would tell you otherwise, and you needed to know.

 I’ve been working with the research team, as you should know, and found out a lot of information about your mother.

I don’t know if you know this, but your mother’s death occurred due to fault in a potion designed to make Ephaiyadaic’s lives longer, and to help keep them strong. I collected this information about her life, because I thought you might want to know.

Your mother – Sandra McDonald, previously Sandra Mullet – grew up in a three bedroom, two bathroom house as an only child. She lived near the border between Scotland and England, where she met your father – Andrew McDonald – and his family. When she was younger she had blonde hair, bright blue eyes and very pale skin. She was a daddy’s girl and helped him out with his work. Her father, who made broomsticks, and her mother, who worked at the department of law enforcement at the ministry of magic, were trying for another baby when her father died of Ephaiyadaphia when she was fifteen years old. Sandra was desperately upset, dyed her hair black and got a tattoo running away all the way up her back in rebellion against her mother, with whom the relationship had been strained. Sandra settled down with the arrival of her first long term boyfriend – Edward Griffin who was also in Gryffindor. They dated for three years but broke up when she left Hogwarts and moved to a different part of the country. Here Sandra embarked on her culinary career, which she had decided was her only other passion other than Quidditch (she had given up after the death of her father).

She met Andrew McDonald while he was in a relationship with a muggle girl who lived near by; they fell instantly in love and got married several years later. They moved away to Norfolk, a town called Caister-on-sea, after a tour around England when Sandra fell in love with the place. She got a job as a chef at a local restaurant and they were very happy until she was told about the nature of the disease that killed her father.

I believe you know the rest and I hope that you’ve found this helpful. I also have your mother’s diary from Hogwarts, which I naturally haven’t opened, and I will give this to you in person as soon as I can.

Daniel

I felt like my heart stopped as I re-read the letter, trying to image my mother’s face coming alive from the parchment as her story danced around in my head. She didn’t seem half so average when her story was written like this – but then she seemed even more average at the same time.  I didn’t know what I was supposed to think or feel about her anymore, but for once I felt her presence. I’d wanted her to wrap me in her arms, and she had, she was wrapping her story around me and I found that it did bring more comfort than I’d expected it to.

I wondered how someone might write my life down, and who would want to read it.

I read the words a third time through, and they washed over me like water, and I found myself feeling even more detached from reality than I had before.

I looked up from the end of his letter with my hands shaking slightly. I blinked twice and reached for the hot chocolate in front of me, needing something to do to connect me back to the world I was in. The hot chocolate was vile – hospital cafes normally are rubbish but this one was taking things to a new extreme – and I placed down the hot chocolate down on the table after taking in the repulsive smell. I looked down at the letter in my hands and ran my fingers over the words.

“Hey,” a voice said, and Daniel McKinnon sat down opposite me.

His appearance didn’t even surprise me, I think I probably expected him to turn up the second I opened the letter. It was the absence of reality that the letter had brought that made me feel like anything was possible.

“Hot chocolate?” I asked, pushing it towards him. He shook his head, his expression serious although I could see the hint of a smile in his eyes. He was very different from Sirius I thought, and I instantly felt guilty for comparing them when really there was no comparison: Sirius was mood-swingy, arrogant, slutty, wanted, hot and well... funny; Daniel was creepy, stalkerish, amazing clever, not unattractive, serious, intense and rather weird. Yet I couldn’t bring myself to feel disturbed by his presence – I almost needed him to be here, and he knew that, and he was here.

He had sat down without invitation and looked at me with a gaze so powerful and intense that I just wanted to move backwards, but was sucked in all the same. “I’m sorry,” he said, and I nodded weakly, now at a complete loss for what to say. Now I knew more of his background he seemed like a completely different person, he seemed so much more intense and full of something so awe inspiring and fascinating. “Sorry I’m late,” he added, as if this had been a mutual arrangement.

“It’s quite all right,” I said, utterly perplexed by him in a way that I hadn’t been before. I still felt weak from everything that had happened, and his presence made me want to cry even more, but my eyes didn’t even well up as I studied his face carefully.

“Hot chocolate,” he said, placing a cup of the stuff onto the table and pushing it towards me. “I didn’t buy it from here,” he added once he saw my face. “I thought you might need something else,” he said, still looking right at me like he could see through my soul. I didn’t like it, it made me uncomfortable.

“You’re a life saver,” I said, my voice coming out overly cheerful and too high as I pulled the cup towards me and drank. The heat flooded through me deliciously and its frothy, chocolaty taste erased the taste of the hospital hot chocolate completely.  The world seemed to right itself a little more, and the hospital cafe became a little clearer.

“It’s okay,” he said, standing up again. “I wanted to talk to you, but now’s not the time. You have mail to read,” he said. “I’ll come and talk to you another time,” he said, pulling out a black book from his coat pocket. “Your mother’s diary.”

He moved away and disappeared completely into the crowd.

 I looked away, unsure of what I was suppose to do with myself. I looked back down at my hands and the other pieces of parchment in my fingers, and the one on the top – the letter from Becky.

Dad told me I had to write to you. I don’t know why. To be frank I don’t care if Mum’s dead or not. I don’t care that it’s her birthday today. For the first time it doesn’t even bother me. I don’t care about any of it anymore. I don’t care you’re dying. I don’t care about the baby. I don’t care about Pete. I can’t care about any of it because it hurts too much. I’m done with it. Done with it all. This is it Mary, no one’s going to stop me this time. I’m finishing it. It’s all going to end. I’m sorry, but there’s nothing else I can do. I can’t live like this. I can’t live. I’m not brave like you.

I’m through.

My heart stopped.

****************

How could I have been so bloody selfish? How could I have stopped reading the note? If she died this was going to be all my fault! They could have got to her sooner. She could be fine right now. She could be awake and conscious.

She’d be screaming at us, screaming at me, screaming at the doctors to let her die. To let her take the pills, to let her slit her wrists, to let her drown in the bath, that she had the right to die.

She’d scream about how lucky I was, how lucky I was that my life would be ending soon anyway, she be telling us we’d be happier dead, that we should let ourselves die, and how none of us would be selfless enough to let her die her way.

“They told me you were here Mary,” Nate’s voice said as he sat down opposite me. He looked as tired as I felt and his face was full of sympathy.

I thrust the letter into his hands.

“She sent me that. And I didn’t read it,” I said through gritted teeth. I wanted to dig my nails into my skin until it bled. I wanted to punch the metal of the table until my knuckles were swollen and bruised. I wanted to throw myself against the wall again and again until my brain went numb.

Instead I sat there as Nate read the letter and pulled me into a hug. I rested on his chest, listening to the regularity of his heart beat, and being so glad that I had Nate on my side no matter what.

***************

“I did magic this morning,” I told Nate, as we walked back to the ward where Becky lay, still unconscious and dead to the world. “This oil was on fire, and I stopped them putting water on it. Wordlessly.”

Nate nodded and considered the matter slowly.

“What does it mean?” I asked when my patience evaporated and I got tired of watching him think about it. “Am I getting better?” I asked, in the hope that there might be something good about the day.

“I think that maybe you never lost your magical ability completely and that you just needed a moment of panic and urgency to bring it out again.”

“So I’m not getting better,” I stated, sighing and feeling very young and helpless again. I ran my fingers over the black bindings of my mother’s diary, which made me feel slightly better.

“No,” Nate confirmed sadly. “But I don’t think you’re going down at quite the same rate,” he added. “I’ll look after her,” Nate said, turning to me seriously. “Dumbledore said I could have a week or two off. I’m going to do as much as I can to help her, even if it means casting spells on her when no one’s looking and force feeding her potions. She’s going to wake up. I haven’t been here for you recently Maz, and I’m sorry, because I can’t even begin to imagine what it might feel like to have the ground pulled from beneath you and everything falling downwards. Everything spiralling downwards to one point, and feeling so lost and not knowing what to do with the rest of your life. I’m sorry Mary,” he said, looking more earnest and truthful than I’d seen him before.

“Kate’s been talking sense into me. I haven’t really taken on board what this must be like for you, and I’m trying to now. I swore to myself that I’d get that cure ready for you, and I’m not sure if I can manage it anymore – but I’m going to bloody well try! And I swear now that Becky is going to be just fine!” he said, and my heart swelled with gratitude. “Now, what you’re going to do is this. You’re going to go and talk to your family, and then you’re going to go back to Hogwarts where your friends are and you’re not going to worry. You’re going to just carry on like everything is normal. I’ll be here checking everything’s all right, and I’ll contact you when I have any news – good or bad. You can come and visit them on Sunday,” he said, his voice so reassuring and confident that I almost believed him.

***************

The walls of Hogwarts hadn’t changed in that day I’d been at home. I’d almost expected to come back to find everything different and bewildering to me, now I’d really seen the fragility of life. Somehow I thought Hogwarts would have become more mundane and suffocating, but in actual fact it only appeared to be more welcoming than before. Anything to get away from the whiteness of hospitals and my family’s faces, haunting me everywhere I looked, even when I closed my eyes.

Nate was right – it was best to be back here.

I tightened my fists at my sides and braced myself for what was to come. It didn’t really feel right to be going back to lessons when life had nearly stopped completely, but it felt more right than sitting in a cafe sipping on yet another foul hot chocolate, gradually becoming more and more used to the taste.  I needed to do something a little more productive and something that would take my mind off things – it was best if I was in lessons, but those didn’t start until tomorrow morning and this evening now seemed to stretch out in front of me, until it seemed like weeks and years before tomorrow, instead of a few hours.

 I needed to stop thinking about things and get a grip on myself, and I couldn’t do that at the hospital. I needed to sit down and feel the full ferocity of my grief before I could turn the corner and begin to accept that I had nearly lost my sister.

I walked slowly, not being altogether sure that I could move any faster if I tried, as I wrestled under the weight on my shoulders.

I sighed, pulling myself together and deciding that if I was going to last any length of time here at all I needed to sort myself out. I ran my fingers through my hair and forced myself to smile. The action made me want to cry, but I forced the expression to remain on my face.

Then I saw them walking down the corridor, and my resolve collapsed.

Alice was the shortest of them all, and stood a good few inches below them all, her brown hair framing her face as they walked towards me. Lily’s red hair was wilder and more out of control than normal, probably down to James, due to the look her face. Rachel and Charlotte were there too, slightly behind the others and gossiping to each other rather than talking to the others. James also looked a little disgruntled, but his expression changed completely when he saw me. Remus was expressionless as he looked at me, standing between James and Lily as if he’d been keeping them apart. Peter stood to the left of James, and it looked as if he was trying to engage them in conversation. Sirius was standing on the end, slightly detached from the others, with lines of worry engraved on his face. I vaguely registered that for once Anita and Mike weren’t present, and I realised how strange and distant those trivial problems now.

It took them a moment to react to my presence and reach me.

“God!” James exclaimed, and I realised that I must look awful and broken. Someone else spoke, but I didn’t see any of them, I only saw Sirius.

One minute I was standing, weakly, on my legs expecting them to collapse from underneath me and the next Sirius had pulled me up into his arms, as everything crashed back down on me again. My whole body was shaking, but I didn’t cry as I felt the full force of everything weighing on my shoulders. Sirius’s arms were wrapped tight around me, and I wasn’t altogether sure if my feet were resting on the ground again.

My whole body was exhausted and weak, and I wasn’t sure if I could speak anymore, let alone move. The others had gone silent, or maybe I just couldn’t hear them anymore, and my head was spinning in circles of what ifs, guilt and pain. I gripped tight on to Sirius’s arms and I could feel the material of his shirt on my skin.

 “Come on,” Sirius’s voice said in my ear as I closed my eyes, not wanting to see anything at all.

***************

Sirius was tracing circles on the back of my hand again, only this time I was lying back on his chest and trembling with the grief I’d been holding back. I hadn’t even known that I was holding it back before, but obviously I couldn’t let it all lose while trying to hold the remnants of my family together just a little bit. So now I was, to put it plainly, in a complete state and an utter mess. My hands were in tight fists at my sides, only loosened by his fingers brushing the back of them, and soothing me enough to prevent myself from screaming or inflicting bodily harm in my aguish.

Sirius didn’t say anything and just held me.

I liked the feeling of his strong arms around me, and leaning back on his chest as it spread warmth through me that blocked out at least some of the feelings I didn’t want to feel. Despite all the pent up emotion and stress that my body was holding in, I felt safer than I had before, and his breath on the back of my neck was soft and comforting. I didn’t want him to talk, I knew if he talked I wouldn’t have anything to say, and I didn’t want to have to think about anything. Instead I concentrated all my attention on the circles he was drawing on the back of my hand, and wondering how close they were to perfect circles and how they might look if he drew them in ink. I thought back to the letter in my pocket and wondered what my mother’s tattoos might have looked like. I considered how my hand would look with a dark, black circle tattooed on to the surface.

I squeezed my fist tighter in anger at myself, cursing myself for not knowing my mother that well, and  not knowing as much about Becky’s life as I now so desperately wanted to.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, and suddenly my thoughts all shifted. “What happened?”

My head was still spinning with thoughts and memories and stupid little insignificant details. I wanted to tell him. But my mouth wasn’t working and the guilt was building up on me again. I just wanted to be able to tell him exactly what I was thinking, or stop thinking all together and have a few moments of painless freedom.  I shook my head at him sadly, and he nodded.

For some reason I knew he understood that I couldn’t talk about it right now.

I just wanted to sleep forever – cease to think.

Stop thinking.

My thoughts were racing and my head was spinning.

When was the last time I was so blissfully unaware of everything that had happened? When was the last time I hadn’t had to think at all? When had I last had a completely clear brain of all negative thoughts and memories?

Thursday.

 Thursday evening – God I hated to admit it – Thursday evening.

I turned to look at Sirius properly, wondering whether I had the guts and the desperation to do the one thing that was absolutely sure to stop me thinking completely.

I blinked twice and decided it was the only thing I could do. That I was desperate enough to do something I normally never would have considered.

I surveyed Sirius carefully, wondering what he’d do but not really being sure. I knew if I over-thought that matter I’d think myself out of it. I turned my body around to look at him carefully, and moved myself closer him to see his reaction. He looked down at me, and I could tell he was worried about me, but wasn’t going to say anything more until I did. A part of my brain decided that I had to, so I pulled myself even closer and kissed him roughly.

He was kissing me back instantly without thinking, and I found my brain going blissfully numb, concentrating only on what my body was doing. It felt the same as last time, only this time I was the driving force behind it, and Sirius was reacting just a second behind me.

I pushed my body further forwards and wrapped my arms around him. Sirius’s hand were wrapped around my waist as he pulled me closer towards him, and kissed me with more intensity than before, so that my brain was utterly silent (except for following what exactly was going on). He moved his lips away from mine and touched my nose with his lightly, like he had when I was doing that dare, before moving back to my lips. Then my hands were in his hair, his lips were trailing along my cheek, and he was somehow pushing me backwards until I could feel the cool pressure of the table on my back. His hands were on my lower back, slipped underneath my shirt slightly so that he was touching my bare skin, and his lips were still on my own...and then I was pushed off him and left looking up at him in surprise.

Sirius was running his hands through his hair and pacing the length of the classroom.

I didn’t know what to say, feeling stupid and the rawness of the rejection, so I pulled my arms around me and tried to look as pathetic as I could in the hope that I could invoke some sympathy in him.

He turned to look at me and sighed, his teeth gritted. “Don’t use me Mary,” he said, his voice cracking painfully as he spoke.

“I didn’t -” I began defensively.

“If I asked you out, what would you say?” he snapped.

No. My lips wouldn’t form the word as I looked down at the table. Sirius gave me a look to say that he knew exactly what my silence meant.

“I’m not going to,” he added. “Just don’t use me,” he said in his most dangerous and low voice.

“I -”

“I don’t know what’s wrong, and you can tell me if you want, but don’t use me. I hate it,” he said, and for a moment I thought he was going to start crying, but he didn’t go quite that far. Still, he looked more emotional than I’d ever seen him, and I felt horrible. I had used him and he knew this fact just as well as I did.

“You’ve been used before?” I asked before I could stop myself.

“You thought you were the only one?” he asked, the anger still evident in his eyes. He looked at me intensely – questioning me as to whether I was going talk to him or not. The intensity of his gaze made me drop my head downwards, in shame and guilt. I couldn’t do it.

The door shut behind him with a thud, as he left me with even more on my mind than I’d had before.

***************

I felt shaky on my feet as I walked from the room in the opposite direction to the Gryffindor Common room. I didn’t want to see Sirius right now because I felt stupid, embarrassed, guilty and kind of pissed at the same time, and I really didn’t want to see that hurt look in his eyes again this evening. Instead I was wandering around the corridor, my brain flooding with Becky, Johnny, Daniel, Dad, Sirius...

I blinked twice, trying to block all these things from my brain, but finding that I couldn’t do it and instead just resigned myself to thinking. Nate would still be at the hospital, seeing if he could do any magic when no one was looking, to see if he could help in any way.

Dad would be at home now. She had been moved off intensive care while I was there, which meant the visiting hours had shrunk to three hours a day. Johnny would be in his room doing his homework, hopefully holding himself together enough. Karen would be sat at her office, looking down at her pregnant stomach and hoping that her child won’t ever be as screwed up...

I stopped as I turned a corner, and shielded my eyes. A couple were snogging against the wall to my left and I didn’t really want to invade on their private business, but I didn’t manage to look away before I realised that one of the two was Marlene McKinnon. I paused, wanting to warn her that anyone could see them there, and if she didn’t want everyone to know about her and Regulus she should probably pick less obvious places, but not really knowing how I should go about interrupting them...

Then I realised the other person definitely wasn’t Regulus Black.

My gaze snapped back to them and I saw that it was one of the last people I would have expected to find there – Jason Boot. Her Ravenclaw Quidditch mate.

My lips formed an O of surprise as a rush of sympathy for Regulus Black coursed through me for the first time, and I realised just how little I knew about Marlene McKinnon.

The diary fell from my pocket, and I bent down quickly to pick it up, but the noise had been enough to attract the attention of the two off them.

“Fuck,” Marlene said, seeing me for the first time and pushing Jason Boot off her.

“Don’t mind me,” I said sarcastically, but my voice sounded unnatural and harsher than I’d intended. My head was spinning and I wasn’t sure what else I could do with this new found information.

“Jason – go. I need to talk to Mary,” Marlene said, her voice hurried with an edge of panic. I didn’t think I’d ever head her say so few words.

“No you bloody well don’t!” I scowled, and considered how I could get away from her as fast as possible. I didn’t need to talk to her right now. I couldn’t talk to her right now. There was no way I could have another confrontation this evening without my head exploding. She sent me an exasperated look before grabbing my arm and pulling me through a door into what seemed to be a broom closet.

She slammed the door behind us, which plunged us both into darkness, and cast a silencing charm around the room before trying to explain.

“It’s not what it looks like,” Marlene said, shaking her head.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Did he lose his tongue and ask for your assistance in retrieving it?”

“No!” she snapped in return.

“Did you accidently fall onto his lips?” I spat angrily.

“You don’t understand!”

“Yes I do. I understand that you’re a stupid cheater who -”

“For once in your life, shut the hell up!” Marlene exclaimed, and I backed away from her, narrowly avoiding a broom.

“You can talk.”

“I could if you just shut up and listen to me,” she said, throwing her hands in the air in exasperation. “You don’t know what its like for me – don’t talk! – Because you don’t! You don’t know the half of it! He’s a death eater!” she exclaimed, in a hushed whisper. “He’s a murderer. He kills people like me – how do you think I’m supposed to deal with that? If anyone finds out, I’m dead. That’s it! Goner!”

“So you solve that by cheating on him?” I commented scathingly.

“NO!” she said, shaking her head. “The others were asking questions about why I haven’t dated anyone in years.”

“Does Regulus know about this?”

“No.” She shook her head. “He wouldn’t like it.”

“Shocker.”

“Mary! I have no choice! The others were talking and-”

“You should have ignored them! Told them you were in love with someone unattainable. Anything! Whatever!”

“This was the easiest way!”

“No it wasn’t. How can the easiest way be CHEATING on your boyfriend?”

“You don’t understand! There is so much about me that you can only begin to imagine!” she said, and I realised that I’d done something I never thought I’d manage to do – I was under Marlene McKinnon’s skin.

“Like what? Your brother’s dying? So what!?” I exclaimed angrily. “They’ll probably have the cure by then anyway! Your Dad died? Big deal -!”

“No wonder you’re not in Ravenclaw!” Marlene hissed.

“And what’s that’s supposed to mean? That I’m thick?” I asked, feeling angrier with every second. It was easier to feel the anger than any of the other emotions that were almost exploding from my chest. So I’d somehow gripped onto it as my defence mechanism, and it stopped me from shaking with grief or guilt.

“It means that you don’t put things together! It means that you don’t remember things and take them in – not really. If your friends were in Ravenclaw, every single one of them would know that you’re dying. But they don’t put things together and match things up, you don’t either,” she said, shaking her head. “Your mind just doesn’t work right.”

“Gee thanks,” I retorted angrily, my eyes slowly adjusting in the dark so that I could see the expression on her face.

“Why don’t you let me go through this slowly? Hmm?” she asked patronisingly, before continuing immediately. “So I assume you have bothered to find out the basics of the condition which is killing you?” she said, her voice cutting into me. “Well, you may recall the fact that the reason your brother doesn’t have Ephaiyadaphia is because he has no magical ability and that the chances of not getting Ephaiyadaphia, if a parent has it are 5% - highly unlikely... Somewhere in that empty space in your head should be the knowledge that there are two confirmed cases, and two potential cases. Have you worked it out yet?”

“You’re a potential case?”

“Just about,” she sighed. “Some of my blood samples are coming up with very low levels of abnormalities.”

“You could help with the cure!” I exclaimed. “With new people to test on they could get it ready in time! You could save lives!”

“I could save your life,” she corrected. “The cure will be ready in time for Daniel, and you’re the only other person suffering from it.”

“There could be others,” I said, my voice becoming desperate. “And you could help!”

“Help with a cure that’s killed more people than have ever died because of the disease?”

“You’re not going to help?” I asked, finding myself utterly shocked by the concept that someone who could help, wouldn’t.

“I don’t want to help,” she said, her voice blunt and emotionless. “I want to know when I’m going to die like you do, without all this uncertainty and guesswork. I don’t want to waste my life by helping some research lab, which will probably kill me and will only save two people’s lives anyway? What’s the bloody point?”

“You have to!”

“Why? In an attempt to save your life, even though it might kill both of us? Talk about selfish?” she said, pushing the door open. “Of course that’s just a classic Mary McDonald! Why am I even bothering to explain it to you? I don’t even like you! I think you’re a selfish, attention seeking, unobservant, self-absorbed cow, and you annoy the hell of me!” she said, slamming the door shut after herself, leaving me alone in the broom cupboard with the darkness.

I pushed the door open, feeling angrier and full of so much grief that I was shaking again. The candle light in the corridor hurt my eyes painfully, and I scrunched my eyes up, and began to run.

***************

“McDonald,” a voice snapped, and my body jerked around automatically. I wanted to carry on running, to get away from all of this, just not to be anywhere near this damn place. I wanted to be in bed.  I wanted to crawl under my covers and just be allowed to just stop thinking. I didn’t want to talk to whoever it was that had called out my name...

Snape. I definitely, definitely didn’t want to talk to Snape.

“What?” I cried out, my voice sounding hysterical and slightly mad. “What do you want?!?” my voice flew out, shaking and wilder due to the pure inner turmoil I was feeling.

“I know,” Severus Snape said, walking towards me with a pained smile on his face. Like he was doing something he had to do, without really liking it.

“What the fuck are you on about!?!?” I screeched into the silence of the corridor. It cut through the air like a knife, and the pained expression disappeared from his face and he merely looked angry.

“Four months,” Snape said, his voice scratching deep within my skull as I realised of the enormity of the implication of those words.

My voice cut out then and there as the brutality of my situation hit me with enough force to wind me completely. Snape looked taken aback by my freezing.

“I could tell them. Watch your step,” was all he said, before whipping around and billowing off down the corridor. I watched his retreating back, almost in a trance, before finding myself glaring at the wall angrily.

He couldn’t know. He couldn’t tell them. They couldn’t find out that way.

It wasn’t possible.

The last few threads keeping me from falling apart snapped.

“No,” I whispered, my eyes focusing and blurring again on the brickwork of the castle that I’d been living in for the past six years.

“NO!” I screamed, running my fingers through my hands desperately. “NO! No! No.” I yelled, banging my fists on the wall in desperation, before sliding down the wall and feeling the floor come up to meet me. The floor was hard and cold. I ran my fingers through my hair, and dug my fingernails into my scalp. I felt the stab of pain as a nail broke past a layer of skin, and let all the emotions catch up with me, from the barriers I’d placed them behind.

A tear was falling down my face before I even realised it was there. Then there were more tears falling down my face. I was crying out everything that had happened, and everything that might happen, and everything that was definitely going to happen.

My hands dropped to my sides and I wept. 


A/N - You all still here after all that? What you expected? Not so much? Predictions? :) Please review, it really inspires me :D


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