I was in a perfect place where nothing bad could ever harm me. I wasn’t sure where exactly it was, but the air was warm and sweet and the sky was filled with bright golden light. Beautiful melodies drifted through my head as I sat on the edge of what seemed to be a river bank, dipping my feet in the cool, clear water.
I followed the path of a feather, caught in the water downstream to see a boy sitting twenty meters away, also lounging in the sun and smiling calmly at me.
My heart skipped a little beat. He was exceptionally cute. He raised his hand and waved briefly at me, smiling in that same calm and serene way. I had the strangest feeling I new him, like he was an old friend from a very long time ago. We smiled at each other for a moment longer until he looked down into the water again. He pointed into its depths and turned back to me. There was something he wanted me to see.
“Look.” He said in a quiet, honey-coated voice. “Look into the water.”
So I looked into the water, but all I could see was my own reflection. Pale, shimmering, barely there... I turned back to him, puzzled.
“Look beyond yourself.” He murmured, nodding encouragement. “See the bigger picture.”
So I stared into the water again, and slowly an image began to form.
There was a girl who looked just like me lying in a hospital bed. She was so fragile and weak. The white hospital linen was twisted around her body, she slept fretfully. Her dark hair cascaded over the sheets, a bandage wrapped around her head and long scratches ran up her arms and across her cheeks.
But it could not have been me. I was here- wherever that was, and I was fine. I was not there and I was not pale and broken like her. I looked at the boy again, but he was looking into the water again, his expression sad.
I gazed down again. There was another bed next to the girl’s. A boy of similar looks lay there, still and white. I could see his heart fluttering weakly through his chest from where I sat. Cuts and scrapes decorated his body also. He frowned as he slept. Perhaps he dreamt the same bad thoughts as the girl?
At the foot of the bed a congregation waited. Two tall young men- both nursing injuries, a red-headed girl- also bandaged, a man with a long silver beard and one more man with a suit and scruffy hair. They watched over the pair of fallen soldiers, quietly deliberating their conditions.
The bearded man and the man in the suit were deep in conversation. They talked deeply and seriously though I could not hear what they were saying. Their expressions were grave, solemn.
One of the tall boys, the one with glasses, wrapped his arm around the red-haired girl. Both were covered in cuts and scrapes, but none were as bad as the two that lay in the bed. They shook their heads and looked concerned as they watched over the male of the two who were resting.
The fifth addition to the party stood at the end of the bed that belonged to my doppelganger. His arm was in a sling and he hobbled a little as he shifted his footing as though he may have sprained his ankle. His face was blank. He simply stared with wide horrified eyes at the girl who lay before him.
With a quiet gasp I turned my face back to the boy who sat next to me on this river bed.
It was him.
I looked once more down into the river, and then back at the boy. He smiled sadly.
“Where are we?” I asked my voice shaking ridiculously as I said it. “What’s going on? Who are those people?”
The boy shook his head again, his dark grey eyes shining with what might have been tears. His dark hair fell across his face and his smooth lips pressed into a hard line.
“What’s happening?” I demanded again, louder, firmer. He looked at me, with his round sad eyes.
“Get better.” He whispered. “Please.”
“What’re you talking about?” I asked frowning at him. “I’m not sick.” A tear rolled down his cheek. Then it hit me. With a gasp, I looked once again down into the water. The sleeping girl turned fitfully. The boy at the side of her bed reached out to touch her. I scrambled to my feet unsteadily and made my way to the boy’s side. He rose as I stumbled towards him.
“That’s me?” I asked, horrified by the thought. The boy next to me nodded. “And that’s you?” He nodded again. I swallowed, looking at the weak, pale reincarnation of myself down below.
“What happened to me?”
“How are we here and there at the same time?” I insisted, panic rising in my throat. I pointed my finger accusingly at his chest as I spoke before gesturing wildly down into the water.
“Please, tell me, what’s happening?”
The boy grimaced slightly. He opened and closed his mouth helplessly a few times before he could find the right words to speak.
“You got hurt.” He said softly. “You and your brother.” I looked down again. So the boy in the bed next to mine was my brother.
“How?” I asked.
“There was a man,” the boy said, “who wanted to harm you.”
“And he did.” I surmised not needing his confirmation. “He got all of us…” I trailed off then, struck by the horror of the situation. What was happening? Was I dead?
There was a tight pressure on my arm. Suddenly the boy’s warm hands were clutching both my own.
“Tallulah,” He said firmly.
Flashes of memories came back to me- a birthday cake with pink icing, a postcard from France, running in a park with two older, smiling people who looked just like me. There was a tall snowcapped mountain range, grubby whitewashed Greek houses, a bright flash of light... A building with a marble staircase, the soft lips of a first love and a man with a horrible mottled face…
“Tallulah,” he said again. “You have to get better.”
“I will.” I promised, not knowing if of how I could achieve this. “I promise, I will.”
“You must.” He said again, his words stronger, his stare more intense. His dark eyes bored into mine. “For me, you have to.”
“I will.” I promised again, blindly. I gripped his hands tightly, attempting to convince myself as much as him. He sighed. I watched as something shifted subtly in the boy’s eyes. Nodding slightly he stepped back and released my hands. He was still moving backwards when I spoke.
“What’re you doing?” I asked. “Where are you going?”
Smiling sadly once again the boy raised his hand in a wave and then still stepping slowly backwards, vanished into the nothingness.
With a gasp I lurched back into reality. With a gasp I pulled my life away from the eager hands of death.
Panic. Everyone in the room went into overdrive. It was hectic. People rushed to the side of my bed. My vision was blocked by a sea of worried hands and concerned faces. Someone ran to get a healer. I couldn’t breathe.
“Get away from her. Give her space.” Someone was saying and I wanted to shout out ‘yes, thank you!’ but I couldn’t find my voice. I could barely keep my eyes open.
“Everyone stand back.” The same voice said. “I need to make sure she’s alright.”
The throng of anxious bodies around my bed parted and an important looking man dressed in white robes came to stand beside me.
“Lulah,” He said quietly. “My name is Leroy Bampshoot, I’m your healer. I’m just going to have to do a few check ups. You’ve been through a lot.”
I jerked my head in a weak imitation of a nod. My head was pounding. My eyes struggled to gain focus of anything. It hurt to breathe, I could feel an itchy, uncomfortable bandage wrapped around my head. I wanted to scream, I just didn’t have the energy.
Leroy went about, putting his wand to my body. My wrists, my temple, my heart. After each point he marked something on a clipboard he held. While he worked I looked at the faces of my friends.
Lily, James, Sirius. I attempted a weak smile just for them. James and Lily’s faces cracked into relieved grins. Sirius’s frown deepened. Dumbledore and the Minister of Magic stood at the end of my bed, looking serious, but reassured. Through a gap in the crowd I could see Jasper lying in the bed next to mine.
I somehow found my voice.
“Is Jasper okay?” I demanded. Leroy made one final assessment before answering me.
“He woke up yesterday.” He murmured, still marking things on the paper. “He’s fine; he’s just sleeping for now. Jasper lost a lot more blood than you. But it looks like both of you are going to be just fine.” He looked down at the sheet of paper on the clipboard.
“Judging by this, you should be right to go in a few days.” He looked at my friends and spoke to them sternly.
“I’m going to leave now; you can talk to Tallulah, but remember, she needs rest and quiet.” He made sure they had nodded before he turned and left the room.
There was a silence.
“Oh, thank god!” Lily gasped after a moment. There was a quiet ripple of laughter. One by one they edged closer to my bed and drew up seats. They stared awkwardly. I understood it would be hard knowing what to say. ‘How are you’ would be bad enough, ‘what’s up?’ would be plain ridiculous. I decided I could be the one to save them.
“What happened?” I croaked. Dumbledore frowned, pushing his half-moon glasses up his nose.
“Miss Wiley, you and your brother have been fabulously lucky.”
“It was a trap,” James whispered. “That man, the one you said killed your parents. He found you.”
I remembered now. I remembered the room; I remembered seeing Jasper blasted into the staircase, I remembered the way Leon and Audrey’s eyes had stared without seeing…
“Where are Leon and Audrey?” I gasped, jerking upright in the bed. Dumbledore looked grave.
“They are recovering. The wounds inflicted upon them were the work of dark magic, but the healers tell us they are confident what with time, they will heal fully.”
I breathed a sigh of relief.
“Tallulah,” he continued softly. “I’m sure you are aware that… that what you are, the nature of your condition, is not normal.” I felt my stomach sink. “I’m dearly sorry, but the ministry wishes to run a few tests, just to be sure everything is… in order.”
From Dumbledore’s tone it made it clear he disapproved of the Ministry’s plans.
“Now, now, Dumbledore.” The minister cut in, smoothing out his suit as he spoke. “No need to worry Miss Wiley with that just yet. All we wish to do is make sure everything and everyone is well… safe. I’m sure you can understand that we’ve not ever encountered anything like this. Rest Assured.”
And I was assured, or perhaps it was simply the fact that I was too tired to feel anything else.
“That’s fine.” I managed to say. “That’s just fine.” I lied back down. I could fee my eyelids starting to droop. Sirius reached out an arm and took my hand gently. I managed to open my eyes. He mustered a weak smile just for me. I breathed a sigh of relief. As tired as I was, it was good to see him smiling again. He’d been looking much too grim for my liking.
“How did you find us?” I asked, closing my eyes again and sinking further back into my pillows.
“We came back from the funeral,” James started, his voice clouded by the memory. “We were ahh…” He paused here and looked at Dumbledore. “We were going to sneak into your common room to make sure you were alright.” Dumbledore merely smiled and nodded. James continued.
“Lily went in and found the note that you’d left behind. We guessed you’d gone to save them and well, we went after you.”
“An incredibly foolish, but incredibly brave and noel act.” Dumbledore said, and I was surprised to find he was not looking mad as I thought he should. Rather, he was looking at James, Lily and Sirius with something close to pride and admiration in his eyes. “Go on, James.” He said.
“We figured you’d have gone to Leon and Audrey’s and well, we knew where that was, so we went there too. We tried the front door, but it was locked. That was when we heard the screaming.” He choked off here and looked and Lily and Sirius. Their faces were both dead white. Taking a steadying breath, he continued.
“Well, Sirius ran off around the back before Lily and I had a chance to stop him. He burst through the door, the bloody hero and blasted that wanker- sorry sir- that wanker who was trying to hurt you across the room.”
I looked at the various cuts and scrapes that covered my friend’s bodies and felt bad for them. That was because I’d been stupid enough to fall for Rostam’s trap and drag them along with me.
“But you got yourselves hurt.” I murmured, eyeing their injuries remorsefully.
“Yes, well.” Sirius said, a faint smile tugging at his mouth. “I wasn’t quite as heroic as I planned. I burst in, and after I pulled him off you I did manage to sprain my ankle and shatter most of the bones in my right arm, but don’t worry. The healers say I’m healing spectacularly.”
“I’m glad to report that neither James nor I were injured quite as badly as Sirius.” Lily said, almost laughing. “So anyway, there was a lot of fighting going on. We were um, a little out of our depth. I sent off a patronus to Dumbledore.”
“A fine piece of magic, might I add.” Dumbledore smiled and Lily beamed despite herself.
“Within minutes he and some aurors were there. The whole thing was over quite quickly. James and Sirius looked after that horrible man until the aurors came. Then they transported you to St Mungos, interrogated us for a while and then well, here we are. You’ve been out for two days.”
“Thank you,” I said, as earnestly as I could. I owed them my lives. If not for them, I’d be dead. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around that fact. “Thank you.” I said again, my words slurring a little. Sirius chuckled. I closed my eyes, but I could still feel his warm finger trailing down my cheek. I smiled to myself.
“I think that will do for now.” Dumbledore said quietly. “We are, after all, under strict instructions from Leroy Bampshoot that you require rest and sleep. I think it’s best we go.”
“Yes, yes, quite.” The minister agreed, rising to his feet. “I have some other business to attend to as well, I almost forgot. All the best, Miss Wiley.” He said, and I had to open my eyes to see him. “I wish you a full and speedy recovery.”
“Thank you, Minister.” I managed to squeeze out. He and Dumbledore left the room with a wave.
“Bye, Lulah.” Lily smiled, coming over and kissing me on the head. James grinned.
“See you soon, Wiley. I’m glad you’re better.” And then those two turned and left the room. I closed my eyes with a sigh.
I could still feel Sirius warm hand on my face. Tracing the outline of my lips. Trailing across my cheek, down my throat, across my eyelids. Despite myself I smiled. I opened my eyes.
“Thank you,” He murmured. I looked at him, at his smooth light skin, his messy dark hair, his purpley-grey eyes, but couldn’t fathom what he meant.
“Thank you for what?”
Sirius chuckled. “I’ve missed seeing your eyes.” And then he smiled at me once again and pressed his lips to mine.
“I love you,” He said.
“I love you too,” I whispered back slowly and then warm, safe hands of sleep claimed me as its own.
A/N: There you have it. Chapter 21. Not many more to go now :)
Write a Review The Burn-Out Heart: Chapter 21- Waking Up