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The Art of Breathing. by AC_rules
Chapter 23 : Consequences.
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 39


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A/N  - due to the long wait last time, I'm being very good this time :D My aim is to get another chapter waiting in the queue before it closes, but that might not happen. Lets hope :) 

Thank you guys for all your reviews, I'll start answering them when chapter 24's written, and school's ended. Please keep reviewing. I reaally go appretiate it :D

I was doing my nails. The brush was shaking in my hand as I tried to colour them as carefully as I could. The blue liquid spilt over onto my cuticles and I glared at the bottle, grabbing the tissue I had nearby and carefully rubbing off the excess. My hand slipped, wiping off half the varnish I’d just applied. I kept my mouth completely shut to hold in my scream and reached for the bottle, beginning the whole process again. The brush glided over my nail leaving behind blue liquid, but this time it was uneven due to the half layer that was underneath, and I growled at the bottle, taking the nail varnish off the whole nail so it would be even.

“Mary, we need to go in a minute,” Lily told me sharply. Her normal morning chirpiness was gone and she looked half dead, but I barely registered her voice. “You need to stop painting your nails.”

“I need to finish it,” I growled, finishing the second nail and blowing on it in an attempt to dry it.

“You need to come down for breakfast.”

“No.”

“Mary!”

“I need to finish my nails,” I said, my voice coming out a little hysterical as a blob of blue varnish got on my skin.

“Why?” Charlotte asked, busying herself at the mirror.

“I need something to go right today,” I muttered, trying to scrape the nail varnish on my thumb off with my index finger. Then nail varnish on that nail dented itself and I glared at it angrily. I desperately tried to recover the nail, but it was in that stage when it was mostly sticky, but not dry and nothing I did helped. I screamed in frustration and tried to wipe the varnish off with the tissue. It left a blue trail and looked worse than it had ever done before.

I slammed the tissue down on the floor and resisted the urge to chuck the bottle of nail varnish at the wall.

Lily hardly looked impressed by my antics, given that for once she hadn’t woken up singing rainbows and flowers, and was becoming more like a normal person (waking up in a bad mood). She gave me her best withering look, which was normally saved only for James, and whipped her hair around so that she was looking at the mirror instead of me.

“Well I’m going to breakfast. You suit yourself,” she snapped, glancing at herself once more before leaving.

“Look,” Charlotte said, waving her wand over my hand and muttering something. My nails were suddenly done perfectly and I sighed in relief, feeling so much better. It was stupid that something so small had become such a big deal, but it seemed like it would be that sort of day. Maybe if the small things went right, the big things wouldn’t feel quite as bad.

I once had a theory that nothing could go wrong if you had blue nail varnish on, it was like my good luck charm, until I had worn it on the day I found out I was dying. Still, it made me feel slightly better to have it coating my nails.

“Thank you,” I muttered, then grabbed my bag to follow Lily down the stairs.

I stopped to look in the mirror and tried to smile at my reflection. I’d woken up early today and bothered to spend time on my hair to make it resemble something. I’d managed to produce enough heat from my wand to curl my hair around it; there was a simple spell to do it but I didn’t have enough power for that, all I had to do to curl it was concentrate enough emotion on the wand so that it was hot and wrap my hair around it. It had exhausted me somewhat but I was glad that I’d managed to do it – I didn’t care what Nate said, surely that meant I was doing better? That I was getting better? Or I was just more used to the concentration required to get the wand to work.

Still, the bottom of my hair was curled, although they’d pretty much fallen out to slight waves and would probably be straight in ten minutes, but it was better than normal.

Then I’d made an effort with my make-up so that instead of going for the more outlandish shades my eyelids were covered in subtle hints of glittery brown, and my lips were only a little redder than normal. It felt important today to look as if I’d tried and to look nice, because everything was falling apart. Seemed like that was the only part of my life I had control over right now.

Plus, I’d almost convinced myself that if I looked nice enough Sirius might forgive me.

I sighed, running my fingers through my hair and remembering the brown colour it had been before, and almost missing it, before turning away from my reflection and trying to catch up with Lily.

Of course it didn’t matter how nice I looked as to whether Sirius would have forgiven me – if he’d been going for looks in the first place then he definitely wouldn’t have picked me: my features were hardly inspiring. Little over average looks, I’d always considered. None of my features were particularly horrific – my nose was questionable – but other than that it wasn’t like I was hideously disfigured – I just wasn’t pretty or beautiful, like everyone else seemed to be. I was just average.

It felt like everything had just regressed to the beginning of the year, or even before. I was barely on speaking terms with anyone, my family was in tatters, Nate wasn’t here and to top it off my biggest secret was being hung over me and I physically couldn’t tell anyone because I wasn’t strong enough to deal with their reactions.

I brushed away a tear that brimmed over my left eye and hurried down the stairs before I did anything that would ruin my mascara.

I didn’t quite catch her up, and I wasn’t altogether sure that I wanted to given that we weren’t exactly on best terms at the minute. Who was I on good terms with? Right now that list seemed to be getting a hell of a lot smaller, and most of it was all down to my own stupidity.

That brought me back to the problem I had to deal with right here and now – how was I supposed to act around Sirius? What was he going to have done? When was he going to forgive me? Was he going to forgive me?

I walked down the stairs slower than I normally would, hoping to avoid going in to the hall for as long as I possibly could. It was stupid, but there was nothing much else could I do.

“Y’all right McDonald?” a voice asked, and I turned around, startled. Jeremy Wood was suddenly standing behind me and talking to me like I was one of his mates – although he addressed pretty much everyone like that. Still, he had a way about him that could make almost everyone feel special and comfortable – he was fairly good looking, certainly better than average, and had an air about him.

“I guess,” I answered, slightly surprised by his sudden interest in me. I lifted my hand up to the banister to hold myself steady. As far as I was concerned, the only person Wood harboured any dislike for was the Marauders, purely because he’d wanted to be quidditch captain himself, rather than just a player. This rarely added up to much though – the Marauders were too well liked by the female population for him to actually do anything about it.

“Nice nails,” he said, nodding towards them.

“Thanks,” I said, smiling at him. “It’s my good luck nail varnish.”

“Does it work?”

“No,” I admitted. “Worth a shot, right?” I suggested, and he nodded cheerfully.

“Yeah, well I hate to disappoint you but... brace yourself,”  he added, clapping me on the back before calling after someone in front of me and skipping down a few stairs to talk to them instead.

Any positive feeling about the morning vanished as I wondered what the hell that was supposed to mean – what had bloody well happened?

“Oh God,” I muttered as I walked into the Hall, and many faces turned to me simultaneously. I forced myself to smile, even though it made me want to cry. My mind was sent spinning into ideas and theories behind why they were all so interested in me – surely not that I’d had an argument with Black? That happened every other day. They’d never bothered to take a particularly interest in that before now, so why should they... oh. Unless it was because we’d been kissing in the common room before hand and people thought we were dating...

I suddenly felt even more stupid than I had done yesterday from that whole affair and felt my cheeks flushing red – why had I been so stupid? I’d kissed him, in public, and we weren’t even freaking ‘involved’ (the term dating seriously freaks me out, and does not suit me and Sirius). Surely that couldn’t be what all this was about though, surely?

Fuck. What if Snape had told them all that I was dying? I nearly froze right in the door way as I considered this possibility – I couldn’t imagine everyone’s reaction. If my suspicions about Snape blackmailing the others were right, then it was almost definite that he wouldn’t just tell everyone before manipulating me to do whatever the hell he wanted... It made no sense.

It had to be something to do with me and Sirius, which I could deal with without too much pain. He’d probably be less mad at me than he was last night, and even if he wasn’t he was sure to only need a small time of cooling before we might sort something out. Not that I should really go anywhere near that type of thing considering the whole dying thing, except...

I’d now pretty much accepted that I wanted Sirius and me to actually be something other than... well... what we were before – whatever that was.

It seemed for once things had been going my way in that department, and unquestionably I should take up the chance of something going right, shouldn’t I? Especially since none of the rest of the world is on my side.

The world doesn’t revolve around me, but I wish, just for a moment, that it did.

I looked back up to where I was going – my normal place at the Gryffindor table – and didn’t see anything much out of the ordinary. Mike, Anita and any other “plus ones” were absent and I was thankful for that – this didn’t need to be made any more awkward.

“Hi,” I said, by way of announcing my presence, and sat down opposite Sirius. He didn’t look at me.

My stomach dropped – it was obvious he was still mad, but I decided that I could wait. At least they didn’t know I was dying, which meant that anything else was a relief. Plus, I did deserve Sirius being angry at me, I had been a bitch.

“You got your nails finished then?” Lily asked snidely, as she stabbed at her pancake, shredding it to pieces.

“Charlotte did them for me. I tried to catch you up.”

“You look nice,” James told me, obviously trying to make conversation and appease at least one of the raging mad females they were sitting with.

“I prefer your hair normal,” she commented, casting her criticizing eyes over my appearance. “And the eye shadow’s too dark.”

I glanced up at the table, realising I hadn’t checked yet today, to find that Nate still wasn’t there. My chest tightened just as Lily’s words were processed in my brain. They hit a little harder than she’d necessarily realised.

“Please,” I began, my voice cracking slightly. “Can you try and be nice to me today, It’s not exactly going my way and -”

“Why isn’t Nate here?” Lily asked sharply, and they all looked up at once. Sirius acknowledged my existence for the first time that day by looking up expectantly for my answer.

“W...why should I know?” I stuttered, knowing they weren’t going to by a word of it.

“Every time you look up to the table and see he’s not there you look like you’ve just found out someone’s on their deathbed,” Lily suggested, and my chest tightened even more. Her choice of words certainly didn’t make it any easier for me to spit the words out. My breath caught in my chest painfully and I closed my eyes tight to regain it.

“God,” James exclaimed softly.

 “What–?” Lily began, but stopped when Sirius shook his head at her.

“Any new gossip?” I asked, my voice higher than normal. “Because I was talking to Wood on the stairs and he told me to ‘brace myself’ – I was almost expecting someone to drop something on my head and yell gotcha!” I rambled wildly. “Don’t you hate it when people jump out on you like that though?” I continued, although I was sure no one was listening. “Then you feel like your hearts just stopped beating with shock and you can’t do anything but scream – and then you’re all jittery and strange because you feel like someone’s just -”

“Hey!” a cheerful, annoyingly perfect voice said, and I looked up to see Amanda Brocklehurst walking towards her table. She bent down to kiss Sirius on the cheek before sitting down next to him and smiling at him. Then she threw her arms around him and proceeded to kiss him properly.

There it is.

Gotcha.

My brain froze and my whole body was filled with the shock of it. Like the blood had stopped running in my veins and my lungs stopped needing air. Then it caught back up with me.

“Lovely,” I said, my voice even more uncomfortable than it had been before, as I tried not to process this new information to avoid saying anything stupid – I didn’t need anyone to know how crap I was feeling. “Well, I think I’m done with this,” I muttered, looking towards my breakfast in disgust. “I’ll just be off -”

 “Hey Mary!” Amanda said brightly, turning to look at me with a grin on her face. “Not going to vomit again are you?” she joked. I wanted to hit her more and more with every moment.

“Well,” I said, eyeing their intertwined hands that lay on the table. “I’ll try not to.”

James laughed at my response next to me, and I turned to smile at him in thanks of his support. I hoped that this one of Sirius’s rare decisions that James wasn’t going to approve of. I needed someone to be on my side and it seemed Remus, Peter and James were the only people who didn’t appear to hate me, including the big man at the top. I probably could have done with God giving me a hand here.

“You don’t know what’s wrong with Marlene do you?” Amanda asked me. My gaze locked with Black’s and I found my shoulders stiffening again, angry even thinking about it. It felt like she was shaking my shoulders rather violently and my head was spinning with it. It was cruel - sending her in to ask me about the thing that got her positioned there – the thing that managed to destroy Sirius and me.

 “Not a clue,” I retorted, pulling another waffle onto my plate so that I had something to do, to excuse myself for not talking. I stuffed it in my mouth and chewed with my eyes cast downwards.

“She’s been all mopey. She’s stopped leaving the Common room like she used to. She keeps writing letters, then scrunching them up into balls and chucking them into the fire angrily.”

“Right,” I muttered in between bites. She deserved every damn thing she got as far as I was concerned – she’d managed to screw up my life as well as hers.

“She’s not been listening in class, and has been skipping Quidditch practices! She’s never missed a Quidditch practice in her entire life – it’s her passion.””

“What the hell do you want me to do?” I snapped at her angrily, feeling guilty for blowing up at her when it so obviously wasn’t her fault. “It’s not my bloody fault that she screwed things up, is it? No. So you’re not going to recruit me to sort out her life thank you very much – I don’t care!”

“Sorry,” Amanda said, her voice timid. “I thought you were friends?”

“Drop it!” I snapped, glaring at my waffle and chewing it angrily.

“What the fuck is up with everyone?” Lily asked, giving Sirius a death glare.

“Shut up Lily,” I snapped, turning round and glaring at her before she said something that would fuck the whole situation up even more. Like any mention of Sirius kissing me the night before was probably not going to go down well with Amanda.

“No!” Lily said, shaking her head. “Why does everyone have to be such arseholes? One minute you guys are -”

“Lily! I am warning to shut that fat gob of yours right now!”

“That’s not fair,” James said, butting in. “Just because you woke up on the wrong end of your hole, doesn’t mean you can take it out on Lily!” James said, now glaring at me. I guess that end of support was just gone. I should have known.

The fact of the matter was everyone liked certain people more than others, and I was way down their priority lists. The only one I was near the top on was Sirius, and that had just dramatically dropped since yesterday.

“Why don’t you just start dating someone you hate to prove a point?” Remus put in, glaring at Alice. Remus and Alice – they were the top of their own lists, but also the top of their annoyed lists. Such is the ‘brilliance’ of love.

“Because that’s the solution to everything!” Alice said, glaring straight back at Remus. Trying to gain exactly the same point off each other – it was nearing pathetic.

“Mind if I interrupt?” Marlene’s voice said, and I snapped my head around to glare at her. All of our heads turned to look at her, and we all went silent.

“Yes,” Sirius said, speaking for the first time. “You’re not wanted here.”

“Don’t be a prick!” Lily said, pulling her down onto the seat. “Mary’s friends are just as welcome here as yours,” she said, looking meaningfully at Amanda, who appeared not to notice. Maybe she was being purposefully oblivious; maybe she was just really stupid.

“She’s not my friend!” I protested, trying to move away from her. I knocked a glass of pumpkin juice over with my elbow. “Merlin, sorry Frank!” I apologised as the pumpkin juice soaked over him.

“It’s fine, honestly I don’t -” Frank began, but his last words were drowned out by Lily flaring up again.

“Even better! You ignored me for a week to talk to your enemy!” Lily snapped.

“I didn’t ignore you!”

“Yes you did! I’ve been your friend for years, and you just pushed me out and -”

“Then you two had some secret?” Alice put in.

“Don’t judge what you don’t know shit about,” Sirius said, glaring at them both.

“Sirius!” James reprimanded.

“Yeah, don’t judge!” Remus said, glaring at Alice.

“Then when you’re not ditching us for Marlene, you’re ditching us for Sirius.”

“Precisely,” added someone else. Their words mixed together in my head.

“All of you shut the hell up!” I yelled, a little louder than them. They were all silent for a split second as they took in what they were saying before turning it all back on me.

“No! You shut up!” James snapped, followed by a general agreement of noise and insults.

 “It’s you’re bloody fault!”

“Just because you’re pissed doesn’t mean you can -”

“You just blocked us out!”

“You’re always -”

“Maybe if you hadn’t -”

“You never tell us anything!”

“You think the whole world revolves around -”

“You were talking about us behind our back!”

I lost track of what was being said as all their voices blurred into this one voice. A voice I recognised so well – Sirius’s voice. His lips were shut, as he glared at everyone in the vicinity, but everything they were saying – Sirius was saying. Every word.

“You’re so self-centred!”

“You don’t even care about us!”

“Then when I was upset you were too busy snogging Black to -”

“You never tell us what’s going on!”

“You’re such a slag -”

“Then you expect us to help you-”

Every single one of my faults being screamed at me all at once, in Sirius’s voice as I realised that I had screwed everything up – just as they were saying. Every action has a consequence, and it was high time I started facing up to that. There was nothing I could do take back what I’d done, but now I just had to live with it.

“You can’t even do magic!”

“You over-reacted!”

I stopped listening, letting the words wash over me instead, these were the consequences of my actions and had to accept them and get over them.

That was the only way I was ever going to get out of this rut.

 I sighed, pulled myself off the table and walked away, not bothering to look at their faces.

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

As soon as I was out of the Great hall I began to run. There was no reason for it apart from the fact that my brain was finally running out of people to blame, and I knew that any second now I was going to come to a conclusion I didn’t want to hear.

I didn’t want to know that the reason for all their complaints was completely down to me. I didn’t want to know how I’d effectively ruined all their relationships and put excessive strain on their friendships just by being there. I didn’t want to face up to the fact that it was all my fault and I had to sort it out because this was my last chance.

This was it. All I had.

So I ran, my feet pounding on the floor of the corridor as I pushed myself onwards in no particularly direction. I didn’t know where I was going, but I guess I wanted to lose myself within the stone walls of Hogwarts castle. It was easy enough to do.

I turned left, then right, and then dragged myself up the stairs. I turned down another corridor, went up another flight of stairs, before descending down some others. It was stupid. I’d spent the last six years of my life here so it was foolish to think I could get so easily lost.

My breath was coming out short and heavier now – running wasn’t exactly my forte – but I wanted nothing more than to keep running and get away from everyone. I didn’t want to talk to them.  I didn’t want to spill anything because I knew it would come out pathetic and stupid and they wouldn’t react the way I wanted them too.  I turned left again into a darker corridor and made myself run even faster, although my body was screaming with fatigue.

There was another flight of stairs – ones that I didn’t recognize – so I forced myself to run up them even though my legs felt like jelly and the world was spinning around me.

Then my foot, which should have collided with the stone of the stairs, fell through nothing and disappeared from beneath me.  My body fell forwards and my arm collided with the step above, but that was nothing compared to the excruciating pain that was running through my other, slightly freer, leg. It had twisted out backwards at a weird angle as I had fallen and was now the only thing keeping me up.

“Bollocks,” I muttered, trying to remember how to breathe. The pain, combined with the excessive exercise, meant that my lungs were working on overtime.

I tried to ease my left leg out slightly but to no avail. The strain I put on my muscle made it throb and I felt my eyes water with the pain.

“Help?” I yelled weakly. I didn’t really hold out much hope that anyone would come.

I’d heard a little bit about trip stair cases – mainly from the Marauders who claimed that they’d put the trip stairs in place (which I was doubtful of) but whoever had placed them had put them in secluded places so that people wouldn’t get seriously hurt. They can’t have been that clever though, because they hadn’t worked out that there was no one there to help those who were unfortunate.

That does sound like something the Marauders would do actually...

The other theory went that the routes that had trip stairs used to be popular routes around the castle, but were now generally unpopular and disused.

I didn’t much care. All I knew was that I was stuck and it bloody hurt.

I muttered curses under my breath, mainly aimed at the Marauders, and hoped that someone came along soon to help me.

After several minutes of absolute agony I realised there was no way I could stay in this position for much longer – it was a bit like doing the splits, only with no floor to hold my weight, and only my legs and arms for support.

I rested my arms on the step above and tried to pull me leg out of the trick step and managed to pull myself up an inch.

“Arghh,” I swore loudly and my breath caught in my throat at the pain. I closed my eyes and forced my arm muscles to drag me upwards until I was leaning my weight on the step above rather than my other leg.  I tried again to pull out the leg stuck down the hole and I had just about managed to hitch myself up another step when my body started to slip backwards again. My free, strained, leg was desperately trying to find a step I could use to stop myself from slipping but it was no use. My body slipped backwards and my freed leg suddenly felt the full force of my weight in the wrong direction. White hot pain flooded through my leg and I could have sworn it broke clean in two.

I screamed and it echoed around the halls.

The new pain gave me enough motivation to use all my strength to free my leg.  I pulled myself upwards and turned around so that I could sit down on the staircase. I tried to move my other leg, but it only caused more pain to shoot up it. I’d used up all my energy in getting my leg free, and I had none left to yell for help again.

I lay back my head on the cold step and screwed up my eyes tight, until eventually I passed out.

***********

“Isn’t she upset?” a voice asked behind me, which I ignored as I walked back to my place in the church. “She’s not even cried for her dead mother. What a repulsive creature.”

“She’s in shock,” a second woman said, shaking her head. “They were arguing – she hadn’t talked to her in over a week! You don’t expect people to die in the middle of an argument.”

“It’s so tragic! Such a poor child!” a third woman yelled, sobbing into her hanky and clutching one of her friends for support.

“Can you imagine?” the second woman put in, causing the third to renew her sobbing.

“She doesn’t look upset to me,” the first woman added disdainfully. “I do feel sorry for her though – for walking out of the loos at her mother’s funeral with her skirt tucked into her pants!” she began to laugh haughtily and she wasn’t the only one.

I froze in horror and desperately tried to untuck it discretely.

**********

I floated back into consciousness as a bell rang, but I couldn’t tell you what the bell was signifying. I’d lost track of time somewhat.

 I remembered someone talking about time being abstract and that even if you only had a week to live that could be all the time in the world. It was all the time in the world – in your world – because after that everything ceases to exist. Can something be real if nothing is happening anymore? Does a tree still make a noise falling in the forest if there is no one there to hear it?

***********

“Who is she anyway?” muttered a young Sirius Black, as I sat down at the Gryffindor table for the first time.

“I don’t know,” Lily snapped at him, her expression disdainful. “Don’t be so rude.”

“Who are you, anyway?”  another, slightly chubby, girl with short blond hair asked.

“Mary McDonald,” I said nervously. Looking between their faces they were all so much more confident and self assured than me.

“I’m Charlotte Jones,” she said simply.

“James, mate!” Sirius exclaimed, as James Potter came to sit at the table.

“I’m Alice,” added a short girl who looked more nervous than me.

“Lily Evans, come sit with me – you don’t want to hang around with this lot,” Lily said, pulling me to sit next to her. Alice smiled nervously and sat down next to Lily. This Lily obviously had a thing for helping people, and a thing against those boys.

I looked up at all of them who were already talking amongst each other. I looked down at my hands. I was already left out.

***********

Sirius could have picked any girl to date, so why had he picked one he had told me yesterday he wasn’t attracted to? Was I supposed to be jealous of a relationship I knew to be a complete lie?

I was.

***********

I sat at the Gryffindor table eating my toast with a small smile on my face. Lily sat next to me, and ever so often she would catch my eye and we would laugh. She was talking to the others as well as me this breakfast – slipping from conversation to conversation with ease. We were waiting for the Marauders to come down to breakfast, and my stomach was full of nervous butterflies and excitement.

How would he address me?

Lily said he normally asked out girls who he’d snogged, but I wasn’t so sure.

I had this feeling that he’d kissed me, and nothing else would ever come of it.

How wrong I was.

***********

He picked her because he knew me; he knew how to get at me. He knew that Amanda was good at everything and all around perfect, whereas I had all these faults screaming at the world. He knew that she could make me feel inadequate in a way that only two other people could do – Lily and Marlene.

He wouldn’t touch either of them because his morals did stretch to something. Lily and Marlene were already claimed, and Amanda Brocklehurst was the next best thing.

***********

So far he hadn’t said a word to me, and I wasn’t very surprised.

Still, there was a part of me hoping that any second he would look me in the eye, or pull me aside and declare that he loved me and only me, and ask me to accompany him for a stroll around the lake. This would lead to further snogging, conversation, more snogging and a brilliant wonderful relationship. Fat chance of that.

“Pass us the bacon -” Sirius said, and I looked up at him in shock. Such a small sentence ,but inside my head I was already making up meanings and possible feelings behind the words. Till he said the word that shattered everything. “- Amanda.”

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

He’d called me Amanda.

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

I swallowed back down the bile that was rising in my throat. I gritted my teeth and glared at him – he didn’t even know my name.

“My name is Mary,” I said, trying not to show any emotions in my eyes. His eyes flashed guiltily for a second, and everyone stopped talking. “You can get the bacon yourself,” I said, and then the post arrived in a flurry of owls.

It was mother’s day, so it seemed like everyone had a letter. In all the chaos I was able to stand up and walk away without anyone noticing.

***********

It’s amazing how you can feel so lost and empty without warning. Like one second you can be floating along like everything’s okay, then find yourself tumbling into a reality where nothing is as good as you ever thought it was.

People have sides to them like you wouldn’t imagine. They just come roaring out when you’re not expecting it, like the biggest shock in the world. 

They’re all consequence of mistakes, but you never expect them to catch up with you. You expect things to right themselves and everything to go back to normal once you’ve admitted you’re wrong.

One apology won’t make up for anything – lost time, hurt, love and pain. An apology is worthless because it changes nothing. Nothing is given back except the acknowledgement that you’re to blame, and they knew that anyway! 

You never expect things to turn out the way they do, suddenly getting so much worse, when you thought things were going all right. Then highlighting every single mistake you made, and what you could have done better. Then you can talk all you want, but it doesn’t change the situation.

It’s like running up a flight of stairs, and falling down a trick step.

You should never have been running, you should have gone a different way, you should have been more careful.

But you’re still stuck there, until someone else comes along to pull you out.

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

There were footsteps in the corridor and I suddenly snapped my head up, realising that now someone might be able to help me. I was about to yell out for them, but I was beaten to it by Sirius coming into my view at the bottom of the stairs and glaring at me. It was ironic that he should be the one to help me really – my knight in shining armour so to speak.

“Mary! Everyone in the damn castle has been looking for you! You’ve been gone for over five hours and where have you been? Sitting on the damn stairs feeling sorry for yourself? Well I’m sorry, but I refuse to escort you back to McGonagall (who’s furious about you missing lessons by the way) when you’re just sitting here twiddling your thumbs for the sake of it!” Sirius exclaimed angrily, turning away, almost disappearing again by the time I caught my voice.

“Sirius, wait!” I yelled after him with all my strength, he turned and seem to enlarge with anger.

“Wait?” he yelled, his voice getting angrier by the minute. “For you? I don’t have several decades you know.” Neither do I. “Because you’re such a nice person, because you care about other people’s problems, because you, Mary McDonald, have other things to worry about, which you’re not going to tell anyone because you’re too high and mighty with your shitty family and crappy problems. Well let me tell you. You don’t know ANYTHING!” Sirius yelled, finally letting out some of what he was feeling. “I’ve had to listen to your sob stories every time you get the teensiest bit upset because for some reason you think I might actually care! YOU THINK I GIVE A SHIT?!” Sirius yelled, and I must admit that his words were getting to me somewhat, and would have had a considerably greater power if I hadn’t been almost blinded by pain. “Because to be quite frank, I don’t have a freaking heart so if that’s what you’re looking for PISS OFF and find someone who can be bothered with you and all your crap! I’m done!”

He was ascending the stairs as he said this, getting closer and closer to the trick step. “I’m done with your eavesdropping, your need to be right all the time and your-”

“STOP!” I yelled as his foot was about to touch the trick step. He stopped, and took in his bearings before finally comprehending just why I’d been here for five hours (really, that long?) on my own.

“Trick step,” he muttered, and I nodded weakly. “How bad did you get hurt?”

“I think something cracked,” I told him, and he looked mildly horrified about how much he’d just yelled at me. He took a deep breath and his entire demeanour changed in an instant. He was no longer angry, yelling Sirius, but the caring, gentle one that rarely showed his face. He was still shaking with anger though.

“I’m going to have to take a look at this. Would you mind if I took off your tights?”

“You can’t take my tights off!” I protested. “I haven’t shaved my legs!”

He obviously didn’t see that as much of an excuse, because he just shook his head and proceeded to pull my tights off again. The moment was more than a little awkward considering what he’d just yelled at me, and the whole situation we’d got ourselves in. We were currently not speaking – and in the middle of a massive argument – and this little interlude wasn’t exactly making things very easy.

“I might like the natural look,” Sirius commented in an attempt to lighten the mood.

“I think you’ve proved more than enough times that natural isn’t your style,” I quipped back, and he smiled slightly.

The tights running down the side of my legs made me gasp out in pain. “Shit, sorry,” Sirius muttered.

He ran his fingers up my legs to ease off the tights and cause me the least amount of pain possible. “Squeeze my hand,” he told me, allowing me to grab hold of it to stop myself yelling out in pain. He pulled them off the end of my feet and ran his fingers up my legs softly. “Just checking to see if you have broken anything,” he told me, his voice reassuring and soft.  There’re some nasty bruises,” he added, and listening to him did make me feel better even though his words were meaningless and stupid.

“Yeah you’ve broken it,” Sirius muttered, pulling out his wand. “I can fix it, but not as quickly as Nate would do.” A numbing sensation spread across my leg as he touched the wand to my skin, and for the first time in hours it didn’t hurt anymore. “You can’t walk on it for a while. James is better at dealing with legs, so I’ll take you to him,” Sirius said, and I nodded. “Sorry, but I’m going to have to carry you.”

“Thank you,” I muttered as he picked me up and pulled me into his arms.

“No, I’m sorry,” Sirius said, shaking his head. “If I’d known the reason you were here was because you’d broken you’re freaking leg I would have come after you before potions. I just thought you were being a stubborn bitch and hiding from everyone.”

“It does sound rather like me,” I replied, leaning into his chest.

Sirius sighed and I felt my chest constrict – did I really run away from things that much, and act so bloody melodramatic?

“You sound like you knew where I was?” I suggested.

Sirius looked at me as if momentarily taken aback by my perceptiveness. He stuffed one hand into his pocked (while supporting me with the other) and grabbed a piece of parchment.

“I solemnly swear I am up to no good,” he said quietly. A map of Hogwarts suddenly appeared on the tattered parchment, and it was all I could do to stop my eyes from widening in awe. A map of Hogwarts – it was so ingenious and altogether so brilliant that I was beginning to have a new found respect for the marauders! I watched the labelled dots move around and stared at where our dots where – on top of each other.

“No gasps? Falling to a dead faint? No singing our praises?” Sirius mocked. “I rather hoped your reaction would be slightly more dramatic. I suppose this is dramatic for you though – you’ve stopped talking.”

“Hmmm...” I commented, trying to find Lily’s dot.

“I would take you to McGonagall,” Sirius sighed. “Honestly I would, but I don’t think you’re quite up to facing her – she’s mad. You’re very pale, and you just missed an opportunity to yell at me.”

“I’m always pale. There’s no need to rub it in.”

“There’s always a need,” Sirius muttered, and I realised for the first time that we were acting like normal. As if our relationship wasn’t in an utter state.

“My head feels funny.” I muttered as my thoughts swam in and out of focus. It was like swimming through something thick, or having double vision.

“It’s just the spell,” Sirius said, holding me tighter as we got to the bottom of the stairs. “It’s fine, you’ll just feel a bit drunk.”

I buried my head into his chest feeling woozy.

“Great,” I grumbled.

“It’s not so bad – the company could be worse.”

“Yeah, I could be with Snape,” I snapped angrily, suddenly annoyed at the whole situation. “Or... oh wait. That’s it.” He obviously noted the change in my tone, and loosened his grip slightly.

“We’re nearly there,” Sirius said, not rising to my bait although I could tell he so wanted to.

“No thanks. I’ll wait for someone else to come help me,” I told him, trying to push myself out of his arms.

“Don’t be stupid – you can’t walk.”

“I’d rather spend the next five hours passed out again than have you help me,” I snapped angrily, trying to break his hold on me.

“You think I want to be here helping you?” Sirius snapped back. “I only agreed to help because I wanted to yell at you when I found you.”

“What happened to – If I’d known the reason you were here was because you’d broken your freaking leg I would have come after you before potions,” I said, mimicking his voice the best I could.

“I change my mind. I would have sent James. I’m glad you’ve been elsewhere the whole day – it’s been so peaceful, practically tranquil. Without your voice permanently puncturing my eardrums with complete crap, so why don’t you crawl back to your staircase and see if anyone else cares enough, because I’m -”

“Done? I got that bit from your little speech earlier. How many times did you rehearse it?” I asked sweetly. “Because maybe if you’d gone over it one more time you wouldn’t have sounded like such a stuck up pure blood bastard.”

“How original, using my family against me, mudblood,” Sirius retorted. We both fell into silence. Never before had I heard him use the word – and I think he’d shocked himself as much as me. He’d thought he had a better control of his temper than he really had.

“Put me down,” I said after a few seconds of silence.

“No.”

“I am telling you to put me down. Right. Now.”

“Tell me why Nate’s not here,” Sirius ordered, and I don’t think he really meant to say it by the look on his face.

“I don’t want to talk about, and especially not with you!” I shrieked. “I want you to put me the hell down and piss of back to your girlfriend!”

“About that...”

“NO! I am not interested and I’m not going to listen to a single word you say until you PUT ME DOWN!” I yelled.

“What is the meaning of this?” McGonagall yelled, and we both turned around to see her and groaned. She had to pick the worst moment to show up. “Miss McDonald, you’ve been skipping classes!” she yelled. “You will catch up on all your work and you’ve earned yourself detention for the rest of the week. Don’t interrupt me!” she snapped when I began to open my mouth. “Then both of you have lost ten points for Gryffindor each for causing a commotion in the corridor.”

She continued glaring at us both with her stone cold eyes. “Black – you have lost an additional twenty points for sexual harassment...”

“WHAT?” he burst out over her, and I had to fight the urge to laugh.

“No, no, it wasn’t like that,” I protested over her voice. “He wouldn’t put me down because -”

“Because she broke her leg on a trip step,” Sirius finished, glaring at me. “I fixed it up the best I could but I’m not too great at bone-healing so she can’t walk for at least ten minutes. Or course Mary McDonald is so freaking brilliant that she can walk on it anyway,” he added scathingly. “Just because she’s too proud too...”

“Maybe you should try the pride thing?” I spat back in retort. “Then you might not leave your room looking like that!”

“Where as if I had pride I could walk around with my hair dyed fluorescent colours to attract even more attention to myself. If that fails, I’d certainly have got their attention when they see my face!”

“Go die Sirius,” I told him, slamming my hand against his chest in an angry attempt to cause him pain. He just laughed at my feeble attempt and was about to say some other ‘witty comment’ when our argument was cut off.

“Ten more points from Gryffindor,” McGonagall yelled over us. “Although the previous twenty points can be added back on. When did you fall down the trip step?”

“This morning,” I replied. “I’ve been lying there all day. Surely Sirius should get thirty points back though? He healed my leg, carried me all the way down here, and found me. I shouldn’t have detention either – it wasn’t my choice.”

“You still have to catch up with the work,” she said sternly, folding her arms.

“What’s the point? I can’t do any of it!”

McGonagall ignored my comment.

“Will you check I did her leg all right Professor?” Sirius asked. “I’m not sure if I did it right or not, and Na – Mr Peacock I mean, isn’t back yet.”

“He’s back,” McGonagall said, looking at me. “That’s why I needed to see you.”

She was addressing me.

Nate was back.

“He’s back?” I asked, not quite believing that anything good could have happened today (although it wasn’t necessarily good news). She nodded.

I pushed Sirius’s arms off me (which he’d obviously loosened to allow me to do so) and stood up, my legs feeling weak underneath me. I didn’t care. I needed to find out if Becky was alive or dead. I needed to see him, right now. I took off down the corridor, hoping against hope that it was going to be okay.

*********

I found him in Professor Quigley’s office, talking to Kate with a look of pure and utter love in his eyes. I would have found it sickening on any other occasion and would have made some dark comment, instead I ignored it entirely. I knocked on the door softly and was quickly beckoned in. My nervousness had been growing over the past few minutes as I’d raced around the school, and now the suspense and worry was killing me.

“Mary! They found you then?” Kate said, looking much happier than she had since Nate had been away. “Come out of sulking?”

“Actually, I broke my leg.” I told her. “I’ve been passed out for most of the past five hours,” I told her, feeling more resentment towards her comments than I probably should. “Sirius fixed it for me.” I told Nate, who looked worried. “But never mind about that – how is she?”

“I’m going to leave you to it,” Quiggles said. “I’ll come back in a minute or too.”

My stomach dropped – no one wanted to be around when the bad news was told. 

She was dead – why else would she leave?

 My insides went numb. I clenched my fists at my sides and tried to prepare myself for when the grief finally set in - so that I was prepared for when I had to accept that my sister was dead. Everything inside me was tense, and I hoped against hope that I wasn’t about to start shaking. Tears were building up in my eyes and any second now they were going to come spilling out.

“She’s okay,” Nate said when the door shut.

“What?” I squeaked, as a tear rolled down my cheek.

“She’s not going to die,” he clarified, and it took me a second to catch my breath.

The tears were rolling down my face despite the good news and I found myself laughing despite myself – she was going to be okay. A weight that I hadn’t even realised was holding me down disappeared and I felt light. She was going to be okay.

All the rest of my stupid insignificant problems disappeared into nothingness when I thought about how good, how amazing this news was – she wasn’t going to die! Good things still happen!

“She’s not out of the woods yet,” Nate told me. I had my hand clasped to my mouth as I laughed and cried at the same time.

“I know,” I said through my relief. “But I was positive she was dead when Kate left!” I said, biting my lip and laughing nervously. “But she’s alive!”

“Yeah,” Nate said, grinning back at me. “You deserved some good news after everything.”

“Yeah, I do,” I said, still laughing.  “I really needed that.”

“Can I look at your leg while I explain the rest? No offence to Sirius, but he’s only a kid.”

“Sure,” I said, putting my leg up on the chair (which was admittedly a little awkward). “It doesn’t hurt much anymore though.”

“Probably because you were too focused on finding me to think about it,” Nate argued and I sighed. I was on this brilliant high and I didn’t need him to bring me crashing back down. I’d been deprived of good news for so long that it was such a shock to the system, and I didn’t know what I was supposed to do next. “She’s still being drip fed food because she refuses to eat,” Nate continued, pressing his fingers down at points on my leg to see if my bones were all fixed. Sirius had been much better at it – his hands had been much warmer against my skin.

“Yeah,” I nodded, the reality of the situation hitting me a little more. It didn’t seem good enough that she was alive, considering she’d tried to take her life herself.

She might be alive, but that wasn’t by choice.

“Will she try to do it again?” I asked, and he didn’t look at me.

“Her dose of antidepressants has been increased and she has to talk to another counsellor every week. That should help, but we really can’t say,” he added.  “Your leg is fine – he did a good job. There’s something else though,” he said, looking at me worriedly. “I think it’s a good idea, but you might be less keen...”

Nate stopped talking and looked over to the door, which was creaking open.

 “Sorry,” Kate said in the doorway. “It’s just... erm...” She gestured nervously to the door. “Mr Black was eavesdropping,” she said, and I looked at Sirius standing in the door way in surprise.

“Sorry I -” Sirius began, looking almost scared of me.

“You can stay,” I said, looking at him carefully. “If he can hear this next bit?” I asked, turning to Nate. “Is that okay? He’ll have overheard about Becky anyway.”

Nate looked at me in surprise and nodded.

Sirius looked more than surprised at my willingness to let him be here, and stepped through the doorway awkwardly.

“What’s the other thing?” I implored Nate, and he smiled.

“Obviously we want to stop her from trying to do it again.” Nate continued, looking at me but occasionally glancing in Sirius’s direction. “So she’s going to come here.”

“What?” I asked quietly, my voice shaking now although I wasn’t sure why.

“She’s coming here. I’m going to keep my eye on her and help her as much as I can. You’re going to help too. The others are all going to come visit her as well, which means they get to visit you too.”

Nate tried to persuade me. “The others are a mess – they need you! You’re the strongest one!”  I snorted at this but Nate continued. “Andrew, your dad, he doesn’t know what to do – he’s blaming himself. Johnny’s completely lost. Karen’s just trying to keep everything together, but she’s pregnant Mary – and she has to look after Ria too. They need you – they all need you, and you can argue it as much as you like, but you need them too.”

“I don’t have a choice do I?” I asked dryly.

“Yes you do, but none of the other options are worth considering,” Kate said from the doorway. “It will be good for you.”

“No one has to know she’s your sister,” Nate continued. They were all looking at me, waiting for me to agree. It was so hard though – my family at Hogwarts? It was alien. A strange, weird concept that I didn’t want to buy into. The good thing about Hogwarts was that it kept me away from all that family drama, but I’d sworn never to forget them like that again. There really was only one thing to choose.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Sirius said from the doorway. I nodded, looking down at the floor.

“Excellent,” Nate said. “Because she’s coming tomorrow,” he said and I breathed out slowly. This whole thing was huge, but it had to happen.

“We should go,” I said after a few seconds of silence. “You’ve been away, you should be spending your time with Kate not me,” I said, standing up and smiling at them both. “Thank you.”

“You okay?” Sirius asked when we were out of the office, and I nodded. He sighed and pulled me into a hug. It was almost suffocating – he was squeezing me so tightly that I couldn’t breathe - but in a good way. His strong arms were wrapped tightly around my back and it made me feel truly safe. It was just a hug, but it made me feel warm and cared for. I hugged him back with all my strength (which admittedly is lacking some) and breathed in his scent (how stalkerish am I?). “I’m proud of you,” Sirius said when he finally released me - a few seconds before my internal organs would have collapsed from being squeezed too tightly – and his words meant more than they probably should have done.

I absorbed the moment for a few seconds, backing it up in my memory.

“Now you’re going to die,” I said, when I thought I’d savoured it for as long as I could. “You bloody hypocrite. I told you I didn’t want to talk about it, so what do you do? Exactly the same thing that you yelled at me about!”

“It’s different!” Sirius protested, and I shook my head. “I only did it because you wouldn’t tell me and-”

“And why do you think I did it? For blackmail? I’m not Snape you know.”

“How did you know about that?” Sirius demanded. “Been eavesdropping on any more conversations?” I swore internally – that hadn’t meant to come out like that (although I now had conformation that Sirius was also being blackmailed). “Maybe if you told me what was going on with you then I wouldn’t have to eavesdrop!”

“Amen to that!” I exclaimed. “You’re not the only one being kept in the dark here!”

“I didn’t yell at you when I knew you were down!” Sirius yelled.

“YES YOU DID! You made me feel like crap with all that ‘using you’ rubbish. Then you made this whole stupid argument when you knew something was wrong. You go get a new fake girlfriend to make me feel inadequate when you know that my whole life is screwing itself up, and then you come and yell at me when you KNOW how crap I feel! HOW IS THAT ANY DIFFERENT?”

Sirius didn’t say anything.

“You know what? I’m done with YOU, and you already told me you’re done with me so that’s it. We’re through. It’s over.

“Fine,” Sirius said, and my heart sank.

Part of me had expected him to tell me that I was talking rubbish. That we would never be through, that it couldn’t be over before we’d got started. He didn’t, and that was that.

There was nothing else we could do.


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