Chapter 3 : The Reason You Loved Me Before
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Don’t you remember?
The reason you loved me before
Baby, please remember me once more...
Not long after they had fallen asleep, the sun was rising; Leanne could see its bright glare through the tiny space between the curtains, and this, along with Katie crying in her sleep, woke Leanne up. Leanne was grateful for the soundproof spells in her room; without them, they would have kept her mother up with their shrieks of laughter last night, and Leanne knew Katie’s screams would have woken Angela now too.
Katie’s eyes were full of terror as she sat up in bed, gasping. “Don’t kill me, please...”
“Katie, no one’s going to kill you,” Leanne soothed, automatically getting up and sitting on her bed. She hesitated, and then she lightly placed her arms around Katie, pressing a soft kiss on her forehead and stroking her hair. “It’s okay... you’re safe, Katie. You’re with me. It was just a dream.”
“It was real,” she sobbed, her voice muffled because her face was against Leanne’s neck. “I’m sure it happened... he was -- he was going to kill me... he had a knife...”
“It’s all right,” was the soft reply. “You were only dreaming, love.” Leanne felt Katie’s trembling body shift upwards until her eyes, sparkling with tears, were level with Leanne’s.
“You -- you promise?”
“I promise,” Leanne whispered back, biting her lip and just about managing to stay still. Katie’s mouth was less than an inch away from Leanne’s, and this made it difficult for her to think straight. “It was only a dream. It won't ever happen again.” Leanne tried to release her, as gently as possible, but Katie clung to her and wouldn’t let her go.
“N-never?” Katie repeated, and she was so close to Leanne now that her lips briefly touched Leanne’s as she spoke, setting them on fire.
“Never,” Leanne said encouragingly, and then she couldn’t stand it a second longer. Leanne kissed Katie, tentatively at first, ready to stop at any moment, almost as if she were waiting for Katie to pull away. To her surprise and delight, however, Katie kissed her back, with just as much fervour and desperation. Leanne gently pushed at Katie’s shoulders so Katie was lying against the pillows, and their legs tangled together as Leanne slowly traced the outline of Katie’s thin face with her fingertips. She brushed away the tears on her cheeks, lightly touching her eyelids, running them down the sides of her nose and around her mouth. Her lips followed where her fingers had been, kissing her forehead, her eyelids, her nose, her cheeks, and then they met Katie’s lips, and Leanne could taste pure, unadulterated ardour.
Leanne broke away and looked searchingly into Katie’s eyes, seeking her permission. Katie nodded, closing her eyes and letting out a shuddering breath as Leanne’s lips moved downwards, down to the hollow of Katie’s neck, her shaking hands pulling down the straps of her nightdress. “Tell me when to stop,” Leanne whispered, her lips against Katie’s skin.
“Don’t stop,” Katie murmured back, as she lifted Leanne’s t-shirt over her head. Leanne proceeded to explore Katie’s body, hoping -- no, knowing, that Katie would do the same to her. And then they were lost in each other, in a heated swirl of tongues and hands and lips, and Katie’s nightmare was completely forgotten as, afterwards, they slept soundly in each other’s arms.
“Darling,” Angela called, “don't you think it’s time you woke up?”
Leanne awoke with a jolt. She was alone, her bed feeling strangely lonely. Though the curtains were shut, the sun shone brilliantly in her face through that small gap, so she closed her eyes, blocking out the light. As she did so, the memories of last night came back to her: Katie, in her bed, Katie, her body pushing against Leanne’s, Katie, her lips trailing down Leanne’s midriff, to...
She shook her head, trying to rid herself of the thought, and she looked at her clock. It was two in the afternoon, much later than when Leanne normally woke up. Katie had obviously left earlier. Why? Was it because she had to get back to her mum, or --
“Leanne, I’m going to come in.” Her mother’s voice.
Leanne sat up, the duvet sliding off her bed and landing on the floor. Angela could not possibly come in. Not now. Leanne was sure the room smelt of sex, and she knew that that alone would trigger unwelcome questions.
“Mum, I’m up,” Leanne said loudly. “Don’t come in, though; I’m not dressed.”
“All right. Is everything okay, dear?”
“Are you sure?” Angela asked.
“Yes, Mum,” she insisted crossly. “I’ll be down in a bit.”
Silence. Thank Merlin, Leanne thought as she heard footsteps go down the stairs. She got up, cast a charm to freshen the air and opened the window before going straight into the shower. The tepid water on her back was refreshing, and as she reached for the shampoo, she wondered why Katie had abruptly left like that, without even waking her. Was it because she felt having sex with Leanne was a mistake? Or maybe Katie didn't really care about her, and she just slept with her out of... well, what was it that Katie felt towards her? Was it love, or lust? Loneliness, perhaps? Leanne knew that she loved Katie, and she had done for a long time. But when it came to what Katie thought about Leanne... she had no idea.
Was Katie embarrassed? She could have been. And, Leanne remembered, wincing as soap suds got into her eyes, Katie had previously reacted badly to the idea of being anything except friends with Leanne.
But then, Leanne remembered what happened last night. Katie could have pushed her away and just left if she wanted to. She didn't have to kiss her back. And yet she still did. What did that mean?
Wrapping her towel around her, Leanne emerged from the shower and went back to her room, where she dried herself, and she had just finished getting dressed when the door suddenly opened and Leanne’s mother came in, bearing a breakfast tray. She flicked her wand, setting the knife to work buttering toast.
Leanne’s initial annoyance that her mum came in without knocking disappeared at the sight of food. She was about to thank her, but then Angela made her get up so she could make her bed. “Mum, can you leave, please?” Leanne said, irritated.
“Your room is a mess, Leanne,” she said sternly. “You’re seventeen years old -- when are you going to learn to tidy up? And why is everything on the floor?”
Leanne froze as her mother picked up a very familiar-looking nightdress, a frown on her face.
“Did you lend this to Katie yesterday? Silly girl, she’s as messy as you. Where did she get to, by the way?” Her tone was casual, and to Leanne’s relief, she can’t have known about what Leanne and Katie had done last night, but Leanne could tell that she was concerned about Katie nevertheless.
“Mum, please just go,” Leanne pleaded, avoiding her question. But her mother remained where she was, tossing the dress into the washing basket and folding her arms.
“Is everything all right with you two?” Angela asked, creases forming on her forehead.
“Everything’s fine, Mum,” Leanne said, and then, she could not bear to look at her mum anymore. Grabbing a piece of toast, she quickly left her room and was out of the door before Angela could say anything further to her.
Leanne didn't know where she was going until she left the confines of her house. There, she Apparated outside Katie’s flat. The first thing she noticed was that there were a lot more people around than there were yesterday. Unfriendly-looking people. She tried to ignore them, instead marching up to the flat, munching on her toast, where the door was about to close. She just about managed to get in before it shut.
Quickly, Leanne went up the stairs and down the corridor, where, in addition to the piss she had seen yesterday, there was also the stench of vomit in the air. She almost retched, and it took all her willpower to keep her mouth shut and force the bile back down her throat. Reaching the door, she knocked twice, took a deep breath and waited.
There was no answer. Leanne knocked again, but after ten minutes of waiting, she realised that either they both weren’t in, or Katie’s mother was there, too out of it to answer the door.
“What you doing?”
Leanne whipped around at the sound of the voice coming from a woman further down the corridor. She looked like she was in her twenties, possibly, and she wore a bandanna and had several piercings in scary-looking places.
“I’m -- I’m looking for someone.”
“What’s their name?” the woman asked, frowning suspiciously.
“Katie. Katie Bell.” The stranger raised a pierced eyebrow, shaking her head. “She’s tallish, um, blonde...” Leanne trailed off, unable to find the words to adequately describe Katie.
“Pretty?” she said.
“Beautiful,” Leanne said immediately. The woman shook her head.
“I don't know who you’re talking about, love,” she said. “You must be in the wrong flat -- I’ve lived here ten years and there’s never been no Katie anywhere. No pretty girls, neither, I’m afraid. ‘Part from you, of course,” she added, giving Leanne a cursory once-over.
“Mary Bell?” Leanne tried, ignoring her last words.
“Nope. Sorry. I’ve seen no Bells nor Katies nor no one who you’re talking about. Good luck finding them,” the woman called as she opened her door.
Leanne groaned. What was she going to do? She had to find Katie, but she was nowhere to be seen, and apparently, she didn't even live here.
So where was she?
I gave you the space for you to breathe
I kept my distance for you to be free
The remainder of Leanne’s summer holiday passed rather slowly. After she went to the flat, Leanne had also Apparated to where Katie used to live, in Worcestershire. She had no luck there, either. She tried contacting her by owl, too. Not once did she get a reply, and then Leanne just gave up.
Somehow, it seemed inevitable that it would come to this. Leanne knew even kissing her was potentially putting their friendship into jeopardy, let alone sleeping with her. That was the whole reason she had hidden her feelings for so long. But Leanne had taken the risk and given in to her own desires, and now, she was facing the consequences.
Her mother had not asked her about Katie again, and their relationship began to deteriorate too. Leanne no longer wished to confide in her mother, or, rather, she felt she couldn’t. Her feelings for Katie had been her deepest, darkest secret. She had suppressed it for so long that she did not want anyone, least of all her own mother, to know any more about it than they already did.
Leanne was glad to go back to Hogwarts in September, but she was also scared about seeing Katie. She did not look for her on the train, and she was not able to at first anyway, because as newly-appointed Head Girl, she had to head the Prefects’ meeting and then patrol the train. Once patrol was over, Leanne passed the compartment Katie was in (she was with a couple of Gryffindor sixth-years), but she didn't go in, not knowing what to say. Especially in front of those girls, who she knew were infamous for their tendencies to gossip.
In fact, since they were sitting at their respective House tables in the Great Hall for dinner, and then Leanne immediately had to lead the first-year Ravenclaws to their common room, they did not see each other until the next day. Leanne, after receiving her new timetable at breakfast, had gone straight to Defence Against the Dark Arts, her first lesson, fifteen minutes early, and she was soon joined by Katie.
Leanne did not look up as she approached, instead opening her bag, intending to start reading the textbook. But then she felt a hand close on her wrist, and Leanne snatched her arm away as though burned.
“What’s wrong?” Katie asked. Leanne did not reply, stepping back, although she couldn’t stop herself from looking at her.
She looked well, Leanne thought, her face less gaunt, but still with her cheekbones jutting out at such an angle that Leanne was sure they could cut glass. Katie’s eyes, too, held that same hardened, slightly bitter look to them, as if they had seen far too much in a short amount of time, and definitely more than most seventeen-year-olds had.
“How have you been?” she asked Leanne. Leanne didn't answer, trying to pretend to be engrossed in the book. “Congratulations, by the way. I always thought you’d be Head Girl.”
Still, Leanne said nothing, pretending to focus on her book.
“You can't ignore me forever, you know.” Against her will, Leanne looked up and shook her head, unable to say anything. Katie, encouraged, placed a cautious hand on Leanne’s arm, but Leanne was almost thankful when they were interrupted.
“Perhaps you'd like to continue this lovers’ tiff in detention, Miss Starr, Miss Bell,” said Snape coldly. Leanne shook her head frantically, and Snape sneered, noticing the badge on her chest. “I should think not, Miss Starr. The headmaster certainly would not want the new Head Girl to be in trouble on her first day back. Inside,” he instructed, and Leanne realised that more of the class had arrived. She followed Katie in, choosing a desk well away from her, but that did not faze Katie. A few minutes later, Katie charmed a piece of parchment to fly to Leanne while Snape had his back turned, writing on the blackboard.
Please can we talk? I’ll be outside the Prefects bathroom at 5pm.
“I haven’t got long,” Leanne muttered to Katie, looking around carefully outside the bathroom door.
“That’s okay. I just... I just wanted to see you,” said Katie. “I’ve -- I’ve missed y--”
“What do you want?” Leanne interrupted, her tone veering close to belligerence.
“Listen... I’m sorry I took off so suddenly in the summer--” she began.
“Oh, when you decided that you wanted a quickie with whoever you could find before you left to wherever you went?”
“Leanne, that’s not fair,” Katie whispered. “I had my reasons...”
“You could have woken me up! You could have left a note! Anything!” Leanne shouted. Realising they were attracting unwanted attention, Katie gestured at the door to the Prefects’ bathroom. Leanne was already distressed, so she nodded, said the password and entered, Katie at her heels. Leanne was keen to put as much space as possible between her and Katie, so she sat on the rim of the bath, and Katie took the hint and kept her distance from Leanne, leaning against the wall several metres opposite her.
“You could’ve been dead for all I knew,” Leanne continued heatedly. “I didn't know anything about where you were, what you were doing... Even if it was just a quick letter -- something, anything--”
“I couldn’t let you know.” Katie paused and took a deep breath before going on. “At about eleven that day, there was an owl knocking on your window, and it woke me up. You were still sleeping. It was from my dad -- I had to go straight away. Mum -- Mum overdosed.”
“B-but -- you checked on her!” Leanne stuttered, her cold demeanour towards her melting instantly. “You said she was fine! And -- your dad--”
“I thought she was okay. She was asleep when I saw her. She must have taken more after I left -- I didn't think to check if she’d used it all up, but she obviously had. ”
“H-how is she now?” Leanne asked, almost scared to know the answer.
Thankfully, Katie smiled. “She’s fine. She’s doing really well now, thank Merlin. It seems that, given the right treatment, she should be fully recovered eventually. It’s thanks to Dad more than anything, though. He came round on the day you did, just after I’d left, actually. You remember me telling you how he was going to take me to Diagon Alley?” Leanne nodded. “Well, he came to pick me up a bit later than we planned, and when no one answered the door, he went in anyway and found Mum.”
“That... that was lucky,” Leanne said somewhat inanely, for want of something else to say. Katie, thankfully, didn't seem to see it that way.
“It was,” Katie said sincerely. They stood in silence for a while, just looking at each other, and finally, Leanne had enough and broke it.
“So... what happens now?” she asked.
Katie looked confused as she said, slowly, “Well, Mum’s supposed to be coming home by Christmas...”
“No, Katie. I didn't mean -- I meant... about us.” As soon as the words left her mouth, Leanne regretted saying them, because Katie stopped short, suddenly looking unsure of what to say.
“Oh. Erm, I--” Katie hesitated, biting her lip as if trying to choose her words carefully, but Leanne jumped in, misinterpreting her completely.
“It’s okay,” she said quickly. “I understand--”
“No, you don't bloody understand, Leanne!” Katie said shrilly. But then she paused as her voice echoed around the room.
“Katie, it’s -- it’s okay. I’ll just… go…” Leanne got up and made her way to the door, and she was about to turn the doorknob when Katie’s hand suddenly on her shoulder rooted her to the spot.
“Please just listen to me. Please. Look, I -- I want to be with you!” Katie burst out.
“Wh-what?” said Leanne disbelievingly, now stock still.
“You heard me,” she murmured, her arms snaking around Leanne’s waist from behind. “I want us to be together. I should have contacted you; I know I should have, but I was too busy being worried about Mum. And then -- I don't know, Leanne. I just didn’t know what to say. I thought you probably hated me for going like that--”
“I could never hate you,” said Leanne. “Never. I -- but--”
“But nothing, Leanne. Please... just -- just say yes. Isn't this what you want?”
Leanne couldn’t quite believe what was happening, and she wanted it more than anything, but she had to make sure. “I don't want this to be just a-- of course it’s what I want. It’s what I’ve wanted for ages -- but I want to be with you. Properly. Seriously. Not--”
“It won't be anything you don't want. I’m serious. I want that too.”
“You're sure?” Leanne managed to say as she felt Katie’s lips on the nape of her neck.
“Of course I am,” Katie said firmly. And then Leanne couldn’t stand it any longer; she twisted around and kissed her full on the mouth. As Katie’s tongue entered her mouth, any protests Leanne had dissolved on her lips.
The weeks that followed were some of the happiest times of Leanne’s life. They stole every possible moment with each other, and it was wonderful being able to hold hands with Katie or casually kiss her in greeting without having to worry about consequences. Better still was the fact that neither Katie nor Leanne were fifteen-year-olds anymore; no longer scared of what other students thought of them, Leanne didn't care about what was being said behind her back. No one dared to say anything to the Head Girl’s face anyway, and Leanne was keen to keep it that way. Meanwhile, she had Katie all to herself, and that more than compensated for the little trouble she received for going out with a girl.
Besides which, it was only those rumour-mongers who actually listened to the gossip that actually knew about them. Most students, Leanne reasoned, had their own lives to be getting on with, and since You-Know-Who had returned, the Head Girl’s sexuality was the least of Hogwarts’ concerns. In fact, most assumed that they were just very, very good friends, and Leanne saw no reason to deny that, because Katie was indeed her best friend as well as her lover.
It was Halloween when Leanne told Katie this. They had left early on in the feast to Leanne’s dormitory. They were sitting cross-legged on the bed opposite each other, talking, and at Leanne’s words, Katie just smiled at her, leaning back and resting more comfortably against the pillows. It was one of her mysterious smiles, from which Leanne couldn’t guess whether Katie approved of what she was saying or not.
“That’s why I’m so glad I'm with you,” Leanne continued, when Katie didn't say anything. “I can hug and kiss you because you're my best friend and no one needs to know anything else.”
“I don't really care about what anyone else thinks,” said Katie thoughtfully. “I never have. And -- you know... we’re so different, you and me.”
“We are, aren’t we?” said Leanne, sighing, the smile disappearing from her face as she reached out and took Katie’s hand. Unconsciously, Leanne dragged her thumb slowly across Katie’s palm, as she said, slowly, “Katie... sometimes, I wonder why you’re with me at all. And I think others wonder the same.”
Katie shook her head in disbelief. “Leanne, you are, hands down, the most intelligent person I have ever had the good fortune to know. Hands down. But you really don't get it, do you?”
“Get what?” Leanne was bemused.
“We’re -- we’re together because I think you are smart and funny and caring and loyal and eloquent and beautiful and I fancy the pants off you. If no one can see that, then they're all idiots. Really, though, all I care about is being with you. Sod everyone else.”
“I’m not beautiful,” Leanne said unnecessarily. Then she moved forwards, pulling Katie’s legs apart so Leanne was kneeling between them, and she kissed her rather teasingly on the nose. “But I’m flattered you think I am--”
“Oh, stop pretending, Leanne. You,” she said quietly, placing the barest kiss on her lips and smiling, “need to stop being so hard on yourself.”
She smiled back. “If you say so.”
Later on, Katie and Leanne reluctantly pulled away from each other, their foreheads still close together after another lingering kiss. Even after more than a month of them being together, Leanne felt content just to gaze at her and drink her in, her lips so close to Katie’s, Leanne’s arms enclosing Katie’s waist, knowing that Katie was hers. But she didn't dare blink, in case Katie suddenly disappeared, and the whole thing turned out to be some kind of illusion, a dream, a fantasy. No. That could not happen. Leanne was too in love with Katie for that.
“What’s on your mind?” Katie asked her softly, slowly running her finger up Leanne’s bare arm, up her shoulder, across her collarbone and then downwards, between her breasts, tracing circles on her stomach. “You look... deep in thought. What are you thinking about?”
“How much you mean to me,” Leanne murmured, her eyes bright and earnest. As Katie’s hand moved lower, Leanne’s heartbeat quickened, and the familiar cloud of heat started to rise in the pit of her stomach. Then, Leanne took a deep breath and said, “Katie... Katie, I lo--”
Suddenly, appearing to sense what Leanne was going to say, Katie silenced her with a crushing kiss, and they were both breathless when they broke away. “Don’t,” Katie whispered. “Please. No words... especially words you feel obliged to say.”
“But I--” Leanne tried to protest, but to no avail.
“No, Leanne. Don't do this.” It was not an order; it was a plea.
Silence. Leanne stiffened in Katie’s arms, and her hands fell limp at her sides. She tried to say to Katie that she wanted to tell Katie how much she loved her. She needed to. But it was like someone had put a Silencing Charm on Leanne, and she just couldn’t speak.
Slowly extricating herself from Katie, Leanne sat up and got off the bed, reaching for their pile of clothes. She began to put them on with trembling hands, trying to ignore Katie, who had joined her and done the same. Even as their hands brushed against each other in retrieving their various articles of clothing, Leanne still felt the sparks that flickered between them as skin touched skin, however briefly. Katie, who dressed quicker than her, waited for Leanne, her arms folded, as Leanne shakily pulled on her skirt. Leanne was nervous under Katie’s unblinking gaze, finally pressing her lips together to stop herself from crying as she fastened her bra wrong for the second time. A mere look could be so, so physical, and it was only in the last month that Leanne realised this.
“H-here, let me...” Before Leanne could do or say anything to say otherwise, Katie hooked it on properly for her. Then Katie picked up Leanne’s shirt, and she gently put it on her too, slowly doing up Leanne’s shirt buttons. All the while, Leanne didn't say a word, and she didn't look at Katie, closing her eyes instead, until at last, Katie did the last button up and straightened Leanne’s skirt. But Katie did not move away. In a way, this was worse for Leanne, by having this tiny distance between them, filled with heat and anger, and something else, something that Leanne did not even want to label in her own head, not when Katie had forbidden her to say it.
In a voice most unlike her own, Katie said, timidly, “L-Leanne?”
“Mmm,” Leanne mumbled, not knowing what to say or do. What was she supposed to say? And what if Katie decided she didn't want anything to do with her after what Leanne nearly --
“Look, okay, I just think it’s too soon for you to feel the need to put a label on your feelings.”
“I don’t need to say anything. I wanted to say it,” Leanne said, her voice still slightly shaky. “What’s wrong? Don't you think I’m being honest?”
“No, it’s not that. I know you don’t need to -- it just -- it just seems so... I'm not saying it’s not genuine. I'm not. But I think you feel obliged to say it, and I do too, and I would definitely feel pressured to say it if you said it to me, and I'm not ready for that.”
“You don't have to say it back. But I just wanted to say it to you.”
“It shouldn’t be like that, though, Leanne. And we haven’t been together long, and I just want to... to take things slow. I don't want to rush anything. We have all the time in the world. I'm not going anywhere. Neither are you. Is that too much to ask? Unless you have plans you didn't tell me about?”
“N-no. I’m not going anywhere.”
“I didn't think so. So is -- is that all right?” Katie said, and she licked her lips nervously, twisting her hair around her finger as the silence that met her words grew heavier.
“I -- yes, that’s -- if that’s what you want, fine; of course it’s all right,” said Leanne finally, but her eyes returned to her shoes. Then Leanne felt Katie’s finger under her chin, gently raising Leanne’s face to hers.
“So we’re okay?” Katie asked. “We are, aren’t we?”
It took Leanne a lot of effort, but she managed a smile, saying (though she wasn’t sure if she believed it herself), “Yes, we’re -- we’re okay. Or... we will be.” Leanne suddenly didn't want to talk about it anymore, so she tried to kiss her, but after a few moments, Katie pulled away, tucking a strand of her hair behind her ear and asking, “You’re -- you’re not angry at me?”
Leanne shook her head. “No, Katie,” she said, much more sincerely this time. “I never could be.”
“You... you are coming with me to Hogsmeade, aren’t you?” Leanne asked as she waited for Katie in the Quidditch changing rooms. The rest of the team, thankfully, had already left, being cold, hungry and wanting dinner.
Leanne wasn’t sure if she should be asking, but although she and Katie had been together since September, they had never actually gone out, on a proper date.
Katie laughed at her uncertainty. “Of course I am,” she said. With a grin, she suggested, “Would you like to go to Madam Puddifoot’s?”
“No way!” said Leanne, immediately worried.
“Good. Neither would I.” Relieved, Katie kissed her, and then she said, “We don't need to go to some crap café to prove that I... that we’re a happy couple.”
Leanne gazed at her, marvelling at the conviction in Katie’s eyes, and still smarting over Katie’s avoidance of that word. She stole another kiss, her hand on the back of Katie’s neck. “Who does?”
They looked at each other in silence for a few seconds, and then they simultaneously said, “Cho Chang!”
They burst out laughing together, and it was with the same cheerfulness that they set off to Hogsmeade the next day. Really, Leanne needn’t have worried. Admittedly, they only went to Honeydukes and Gladrags Wizardwear before giving up and going to the Three Broomsticks, but they enjoyed themselves immensely nevertheless. Once inside the warm confines of the pub, they ordered drinks and joined a few Gryffindor seventh-years at their table, since there weren’t any free ones. Cormac McLaggen started up a rather dull conversation with Katie about Quidditch, and it was clear that he was trying to chat her up, something he had apparently tried to do before.
It was obviously not working, and despite Leanne and Katie’s clasped hands across the table, Cormac was not taking the hint. Leanne was too polite to tell him to shut up, and anyway, it was clear that Katie wasn’t falling for it as it was. Soon, Katie made an excuse, whispering something in Cormac’s ear that made him splutter on his drink, spraying the person opposite him with it. Then Katie got up and headed for the ladies’. She made a face at Leanne from behind Cormac, causing her to stifle a laugh and almost choke on her own Butterbeer.
Leanne wanted to go with her, but someone tapped her shoulder from behind, and she realised that Heere Patel, a Hufflepuff in her Arithmancy class, was trying to talk to her. Flustered, she apologised and greeted her, and they were in the middle of discussing their latest essay when Katie returned.
“Let’s get going,” she said to Leanne, interrupting her conversation. Leanne could not help but frown at the absence of the smile which had been on Katie’s face just a few minutes before.
“Don't you want to finish your drink?” Leanne asked.
“Let’s get going,” Katie repeated, this time a little tersely. Leanne opened her mouth as if to argue. But, not wanting to ruin what had been a good day, she pushed her Butterbeer bottle away from her, stood up, bade goodbye to everyone and followed Katie.
Leanne reached out for Katie’s hand, but she snatched it away. Only then did Leanne realise that, along with her odd behaviour, Katie also had a parcel with her.
“What’s that?” Leanne asked sharply as they made their way through the crowded pub.
“Nothing you need to worry about,” she replied, holding it closer to her.
“Where did you get it from?”
“None of your business.”
“You didn't have a parcel with you before...”
“So what? Stop asking so many questions,” Katie snapped.
“But why--” Leanne began, but she got no further.
“It’s got nothing to do with you, Leanne**!” Katie shouted as they started walking down the street together. The sleet attacked their faces, but Leanne didn't care: instead, she tried to grab at the package. However, Katie snatched it back, and it tore.
And then, the roar of the wind had seemed insignificant compared to Katie’s scream. The rest of it -- of Harry Potter and his friends trying to help, of Katie falling with a crash to the icy ground, of Hagrid carrying Katie to the castle, of that kindly sixth-year girl who tried to comfort her -- had been a blur for Leanne. It had been a whirlwind, just like the sleet that had flew in circles around Katie’s cursed body as she had shaken with ear-splitting screams.
And hoped that you’d find the missing piece
To bring you back to me
Leanne takes a deep breath; she has been talking for the last hour at least, and she wonders if any of it had sunk in, and -- most importantly -- if Katie remembers.
“So here you are,” says Leanne. “That’s wh-why you’re here. Do -- do you know who I am now?” Leanne asks, and a tear leaks out of her eye and rolls down her cheek. Katie doesn’t answer: instead, she instinctively reaches out to wipe the tear away, and her hand stays there, her fingers gently caressing her cheek, bringing Leanne closer to Katie -- and then the door opens. The Healer smiles rather smugly at Leanne, as if he knows exactly what he has just interrupted. Leanne instantly shoots up at the sound, before she is instructed to step outside while he examines her.
“Can we have a minute, please?” she asks. He looks like he will refuse, and insist that she leave the room now, but then he complies, waiting outside.
As soon as he is out of the room, Leanne leans forwards, kissing her lips briefly, and she doesn’t care that they feel dry and chapped against hers, or that she only responds weakly. Leanne only cares about the fact that Katie is here, alive. Then Leanne moves away, her face still hovering over Katie’s.
“Do you remember?” Leanne asks, reaching for her hand and squeezing it. Leanne holds Katie’s hand against her chest, and her heart beats faster as Katie’s eyes remain shut.
“The last thing I remember,” Katie murmurs, “is a cocky boy called Cormac McLaggen.” A grin crosses Leanne’s face, and Katie goes on. “He was trying to tell me how many goals he had saved in his whole lifetime, and I remember I eventually got up and whispered to him that I didn't give a shit about any of that, because I had a gorgeous, amazing girlfriend called Leanne Starr who was the smartest person I’ve ever known, and the most beautiful too, and the day I would play Quidditch with him is the day I would stop loving her. And that day will never come, because there was something I should have told her, something I was too scared to say, and I hadn’t allowed her to say it to me -- and now I know: that I love her, so, so much, far more than life itself.”
For the first time in months, Leanne is rendered completely and utterly speechless. Katie loves her. She loves her. Leanne watches Katie’s eyelids open, and to Leanne’s delight, this time, the recognition is there. And this time, the spark flickers, but it does not fail.
Thanks again to Sarah, aka Sapphire and Dawn, for being so, so amazing. This story would be nothing, nothing, I tell you, without her. She saved me when I was panicking and told me which bits I needed to rewrite and generally un-crappified the first draft. And thanks again to Alex/Ithinkrabis2people, for being just as fab and making me laugh with some of your comments :P
And thank you, Jess, for being a kind person and allowing me an extension. But most importantly, thank you, to my recipient, Alex, for being the lovely, lovely person you are, for all your encouragement with everything and for being such a wonderful friend. And finally, I’d like to thank you -- if you managed to get through all of that without wanting to bleach your eyeballs, that is, hehe. If your eyesight is still intact, I would love you forever if you reviewed :)