Beta'd by Summer (ginerva_molly_weasley)
I'm looking for a place to start
But everything feels so different now.
Just grab a hold of my hand,
I will lead you through this wonderland.
Yellow Light – Of Monsters and Men
The moon was mocking me, grinning and shining through the windows of the infirmary. The startling, white room was clinically clean, smelling of disinfectant, soap, and cheap flowered freshener. The floor squeaked, and it was deafening. There was a window open at the end of the room where she lay; illuminated dust particles swirling about as the warm air swarmed in. It wasn't raining for once, but I almost wished it were. The sound would have been some sort of distraction, and the rushing pummel of the water could have perhaps dragged me from that blank, hazy, distanced sort of state of mind: and it would have been pathetic fallacy at its best.
She wasn't supposed to be hurt. I saw it. I saw it, and not a hair on her head was going to be harmed – not a single one.
Her grip loosened; the broom was wrenched out from beneath her, her face set in a frozen mask of horror like the hundreds of silent others watching; the pale curtain of hair billowed around her like the feathers of a bird rustling in a gentle breezy wind, and yet she was to be untouched, unscathed, unharmed. That was not what happened.
It was like something from a badly put together movie, where the scenes switched to the wrong frame, resulting in some rushed, choppy mess.
She fell. I rushed forwards to catch her. She went further and further and further, and the screams and cries around us grew louder. The stakes were closer, suddenly sharper and more pointed. She slotted into my arms as my back hit the ground and I heard and felt something break.
I was so absolutely and definitively terrified at the prospect of her being harmed, that when I saw the blood smeared across her face as I held her against me, I thought I was going to die.
She was not hurt badly, but she was scarred. When I saw her fall, I knew she wouldn't die. I'd seen things happen that hadn't happened yet, and things always
happened without fail. She couldn't die or she'd be late for the future.
I was too close to the stakes, and one caught her skin as I caught her.
Pomfrey said I was lucky to be alive. I came out with only a broken shoulder, but she said I could have been impaled and had a lot more than that break. I barely kept the retort of my tongue when she said that luck was on my side.
It was only plausible that the moment I took my eyes off her, those few seconds where my attention was drawn to something else – a little golden ball for heaven's sake, that she should choose that moment to fall. It was just that little Fuck You from the fates that put the cherry on the top of that overly iced cake.
She lay beneath the scratchy sheets of the bed, asleep for ten hours, or maybe more – I'd lost count. The Healer said that it was her mind recovering from the shock more than her body, which was physically healed. Well, except one thing.
My eyes had stopped flickering to her face now, because I'd already thrown up twice from staring. It wasn't grotesque, hidden beneath the large, white, square bandage on the right side of her face. It was thin, pink, and fresh, almost neat, but it reminded me of everything I could and should have done.
The room was dim; Pomfrey lit the oil lamps earlier in the evening, and as the darkness loomed across the sky and the rain ceased its relentless hammering upon the glass windowpanes (it started the moment the game was halted, and stopped within the ten minutes it took to get her to the infirmary), my reflection grew increasingly luminous. My eyes were sunken in my head, lips in a thin line, skin sallow.
I hadn't slept in nearly three days, but I wasn't sure if it felt like more or less. I just felt that faint dizziness, that bad taste in my mouth and general nausea that came from lack of sleep. Pomfrey offered to put me out when she restructured my scapula, but I felt dull and speechless, and I knew I wouldn't awaken for a good twenty hours or so if she did. She couldn't administer drugs without my consent, but even when she worked her magic I couldn't remember feeling any pain.
I had thought the others would have argued their right to stay more than they did, but it grew late, and their presence benefited no one. Least of all, her. I stayed because I had things to say, and things to apologise for.
I thought that by leaving her, ignoring her, separating myself from both her and life – because they were the same thing really, weren't they? – that things would be okay and straighten out without my interference. I thought that without my taint, and my unnatural intervention, that everything would be 'fine'. I always wanted to say to her that everything would be 'fine', but nothing ever was, and I loathed lying to her. Her scar was testament to my hopes. I reasoned that I might as well enjoy the time I had with her, rather than waste it with bated breaths and bated wishes.
It was unhealthy, my reliance on her. I spent hours reliving her life and her thoughts and actions that often I forgot who I was. I became so immersed in her own mind that I forgot I was in mine. Clegg told me it was dangerous living my life through others'. I told him to piss off. That got a laugh, but his eyes weren't soft, and his laugh wasn't particularly enthusiastic.
I also had to apologise for failing her. I didn't want her to play, but already I knew she would; my request for her to do something after so long without speaking to her, led only to her predicted and absolute denial. I hadn't pushed it, because I hadn't anticipated the events that played out on the pitch.
She awoke at 10.52 PM. Her lips parted first, then her fisted hand tightened and relaxed, and then her eyes opened, unfocused and bleary. She blinked a few times and then pushed herself up. She sat still for a few minutes, supported by her hands, and stared down at her lap as if confused, like she couldn't understand why she was alive.
She was strangely motionless, and in those times that she wasn't, her movements were jerky, like the strings of a marionette being pulled too harshly.
I didn't want to say anything, couldn't quite force the words out and break the silence, but when I said 'Genevieve,' her head snapped to mine, her silver eyes as large as a doe's.
'You're here,' she whispered.
'I am,' I said.
She lifted her arms up and I stood up from the chair, my bones clicking out of their stupor. I gathered her closely against me. She wasn't harmed, but I was still helplessly gentle. She was so light and small that it felt as if she were about to break at any moment.
'What happened?' she asked.
'Broom accident,' I told her, my lips brushing her hair.
'Like you said.'
'Like I said,' I agreed. It wasn't the right time to say, 'I told you so,' and I wondered if it ever would be.
I pulled back, just in time to see the frown form on her face. A thin, doll-like hand drifted to her cheek, touching the white gauze with trepidation. I looked away, unable to stand watching the realisation dawn that I hadn't kept her safe, and that I hadn't tried hard enough to stop her.
She pulled the tape slowly away from her skin, and put the gauze on the scratchy pale blue blanket. Small fingers stroked across the bumpy ridge of her cheek, embedded at her temple and snaking down to her jaw.
She had the kind of skin that had never been harmed or blemished by adolescence, and in the sun only toasted a golden caramel, honeyed and beautiful.
I saw the question forming in her mind, even though she wasn't looking at me. Why didn't you try hard enough? Why did you put up such a pathetic attempt? I'm ruined because of you
, it said. Or maybe it was what I wanted her to believe – maybe it's what I thought I deserved.
'What happened?' she asked again.
'Broom accident.' The words were choked and thick in my throat, and my tongue was heavy, reluctant to form them.
'Was it from my broom? The broken pieces?'
I didn't reply. I knew what she meant, and we both knew how it had happened.
'I'm sorry,' I whispered, voice hoarse.
'For not helping you with… For not helping you.'
'You probably saved my life. Again.'
'It doesn't seem like enough.'
'You can't save everyone and anything, Rory.'
'No, but I can bloody well try.'
She smiled, and the scar moved with her cheek. In that moment, her smile didn't make me happy like it used to.
'Hey,' she said softly. 'It's just a battle wound.'
'From what battle
, Genevieve?' I cried, exasperated. 'Where's this fucking enemy? Why aren't I seeing it?'
'Ever thought it's just the fates, Ror?' she said, still calm. There was always calm before the storm, and I wondered how long hers would last, because though she was scarred physically, there was bound to have been something, somewhere inside her that had been emotionally damaged, too.
'They're harsh, Nieves,' I said, 'but they are not that harsh.'
'I beg to differ,' she muttered. As far as I understood she wasn't talking about her face. 'Do you have a mirror?'
She gave me a hard, stern look that I knew all-too well. 'Give it to me, Rory, or I'll just conjure one myself. Your choice.'
'You don't have to see it,' I told her. 'There's no need.'
'There's every need. Curiosity, for starters. Now give it to me.'
I hesitated for a moment, and she put an expectant hand out. I turned around and walked to the bed opposite her. Lifting up the mattress I pulled out the small, circular mirror that fit easily in the palm of my hand. Pomfrey told me to give it to her. I nodded, knowing there was no way in hell I was going to offer it willingly. She said it would be some sort of reassurance, and that the sooner she had to get to grips with it, the better.
When I cautiously handed it to her, she raised an eyebrow. 'A bit excessive, don't you think?'
'I had to take precautions. I didn't want to put the idea in your mind.'
Smiling, she looked into the mirror, holding it with two, slightly shaking hands. Her eyebrow rose higher as she tilted her head sideways. I could see the slight flinch in her eyes when she looked, and noticed the way the smile now seemed a little forced.
'It's not that bad,' I told her.
She said nothing, just put the mirror on her bedside, face down.
'Was there nothing Madame Pomfrey could do?' Genevieve asked quietly, settling back against the pillows like a sudden bout of weariness had overcome her.
'She said it was deep,' I said. 'Too deep. It looks better now, than… than it did.'
'I guess that's some consolation.'
I didn't ask how that could possibly be. I felt so blinded, both visually and emotionally. I was blinded by absolute rage at this invisible being set on hurting her so immensely. It wasn't just hurting her, either. She faced it all with such admirable determination that one had to wonder if it hurt the people around her even more than herself. But that would be a fool's mistake. I knew how much pain she suffered – I'd experienced it. She was merely brilliant and practiced at hiding it. She had to be, and she had to control it, for reasons it seemed very few knew.
'Where's Will?' she asked.
'He left. There wasn't anything he could do and I told him I'd be here anyway. The others had to go. The whole bloody Potter and Weasley clan were in here and screaming like fucking banshees. Pomfrey told them to leave and not to come back.'
And how are you here?
her careful eyes said.
'I was quiet. I know how people react, Genevieve, and knowing Pomfrey's stickler-for-rules attitude it's no surprise she couldn't find a reason to kick me out. That blond Auror told her I could stay, anyway.'
'Auror Athanas?' she asked, eyebrows high.
'Yeah.' When it was just he and I, standing and watching as Pomfrey tended to her cheek and 'did all she could', I knew that I didn't imagine that look of defeat in his eyes. Not only had he not worked quickly enough by doing his job
, but he also hadn't protected her. And now she had a scar to match his, but he'd got his through different means. I'd asked him how. It may have been rude, but he wasn't in any position to deny her or me.
'We went to arrest a group selling unicorn blood on the black market,' he had said, stood on the other side of Genevieve's bed. His eyes flickered back to her every ten seconds. 'They only had about three vials of the liquid, but that was enough to warrant a house-search and immediate imprisonment if we found any. We thought it would be an easy coup. It was supposed
to be easy. There were fifteen of us and we were told there were only nine in the gang. But someone had tipped them off that we were coming, so the whole thing was a trap and we were the bait. We went down to the basement of the house, this old gothic kind of place, where it was supposed to be kept. We thought it was too easy and Ja – Auror Bahram told us that it wasn't right.
'The wards were weak and easy to break through, but if you're hiding a substance like that you're going to take more caution. Anyway, so we got the bottom and then the door slammed shut. Next thing we know there's smoke coming down the stairs from underneath the door. Then the fire breaks through and something explodes. They must have put gasoline or some other sort of inflammatory on the stairs. There were a few wooden tables and chairs, and a splinter sliced up my face and another spiked me in my abdomen.'
'How are you alive?' I asked him.
'Bahram. He got staked in the shoulder but he was the only one conscious enough to even attempt to Apparate. He got me to St. Mungo's and the rest of the squad got out, too. But we still… we still lost some of our men.'
He looked at me then. 'No, you're not.'
'You're right, I'm not. If Bahram said there was something wrong then you should have listened to him. It was your own fault.'
The man quirked a smile. 'You're the only person who's ever actually said that. The others just try and say it was shitty luck or it couldn't have been helped. Instinct is what we rely on most of the time, and we should have trusted his.'
'Who was leading it? I mean, who was the coordinator of the operation?'
'I was. Back then I hated the guy. It was more for the sake of my pride that I wouldn't take his word, and also the rest of the team just wanted to get it over with. It was a unanimous decision to carry on.'
'You don't hate him now, I gather.'
'He saved my life.'
'That doesn't answer the question. That just makes you indebted to him.'
'No. No, I don't hate him. He saved most of us, even sat by our bedsides when we were recovering. He didn't say anything, he's quiet like that, but he was a comfort to all of us.' He sighed. 'And then, when we got back to Headquarters, recovered and ready to be sent out again, he just sank into the shadows, like nothing had happened.'
I wasn't sure that my mere presence would comfort her enough, or that I could just pretend nothing had happened. 'Any advice that I can give to her? You know, about how to deal with it?'
'Tell her it's what's on the inside that counts.'
I stared. 'You're fucking kidding me.'
'Yeah I am. Just… I don't know. Don't play it up. It's only flesh. She's still a beautiful girl, just with a scar. A battle wound.'
'What battle?' I muttered.
He looked down at her. She was still sleeping. 'I don't know yet, but I wish I did.'
Pomfrey had a habit of keeping her patients stuck in their beds for as long as she physically could. She was old now, and soon to be retired at the end of the year, but her words still had that experienced, biting command. She'd gone through the routine questions with Genevieve and wrote them down on a sheet that went in her already-thick file. There was nothing abnormal about her answers, and all seemed well.
She had no memory failure, and the quick examination revealed nothing but a bit of bruising on her arms where I'd caught her. Even that gave Pomfrey the incentive to keep us there until morning. We would have, too, if I hadn't noticed Genevieve's silent wish to leave the bleach-smelling room that was far too white during night time.
I told Pomfrey that we wanted to go to our dorms. I used Judah's voice – hard and cold with no room for negotiation, and I was almost pleased when it worked.
She checked over my shoulder, which was all-but healed, and prescribed me some pain medication. She gave Genevieve an antiseptic cream, a wad of gauze, and a new roll of medical tape.
The look of pity was unmistakeable in the Healer's eyes and deceivingly kind face, and I thought that after so many years of looking after patients, even through the war, that she would have learned to control it. Perhaps she thought her pity was the only way of sympathising with her patients, when her words lacked the softness required.
It was 12.31 AM when we finally left the Hospital Wing. I sucked in a breath when the doors swung shut behind us, my mouth stale and dry, welcoming the clean, cool air. I suddenly felt ravenous and thirsty.
I asked Genevieve if she was hungry, and we went to the kitchens to get something to eat. I wondered if she was tired, but remembered that she had slept for ten or so hours. There were only two house-elves in the kitchens when we walked through the portrait of the fruit bowl. The enormous hall was quiet; the only sound the quiet clang of pans and the scamper of small, bare-feet on dusty stone floors.
The fireplace on the left wall was lit, though it held few logs and the flames had nearly been reduced to embers.
The house-elves quickly announced themselves as Sookie and Nut, and stared at us expectantly with eerily large, bat-like eyes. Their ears twitched as they spoke. They looked exactly alike with their watery blue eyes, except Sookie wore a small pink dress and Nut what looked like a t-shirt and beige cotton trousers.
Hermione Granger had done well after the war. The house-elves at Hogwarts and throughout Britain had been freed, but almost all simply chose to stay. They received a wage, holidays, and days off. House-elves employed by families now had to undergo yearly (though they were often more frequent) checks to ensure that their accommodation and working conditions were within the National Standard House-Elf Regulations.
I never had a house-elf, but I supposed that with Judah's temperament and my mother's uncanny ability to turn a blind eye to things she didn't want to see, it was for the best. We would have failed the test ten times over, or the regulator would have conveniently been unable to come, likely with their pockets jingling and a little heavier than the day before.
'How can we help you, Miss and Master?' Sookie asked in a quiet, but high-pitched voice.
'Sookie, I've been in the Hospital Wing for most of the day and I haven't had a chance to eat,' Genevieve said. 'I wonder, if it wouldn't be too much trouble, if you could prepare something for us?'
'Of course, Miss! Sookie would gladly get Miss and Master food!'
In an equally quiet, but deeper voice, Nut said, 'Are you well, Miss?'
She hesitated. 'I am, thank you, Nut.'
The house-elves bowed and ushered us to one of the tables. We chose the mirror-Ravenclaw table in the far left corner, closer to the kitchen area.
'It's all right not to be okay, you know,' I said softly.
She settled her clasped hands on the table. She sat up straight, as usual, but her eyes were cast down. 'I know it's not, but I'm fine.'
'Well, if you want to talk about – '
'I said I was fine,' she snapped, eyes flashing like light hitting ice. 'I just need time to think, you know? To get my head around it. It's not going away.'
The elves each placed before us a bowl of vegetable soup, and a plate of warm, thickly sliced bread and butter. They gave us another plate of roast lamb, butternut squash and swede mash, peas, roast potatoes, and a boat of gravy.
We ate in silence. It wasn't uncomfortable, but we were hungry and tired. I realised that she was
tired, not in the physical sense, but just that bone-deep weariness that I was familiar with.
When we finished eating, Sookie cut us off a slab of chocolate cake. We shared one piece and ate it with vanilla ice-cream that made her teeth chatter.
As I ate, I wondered if perhaps their
presence would have soothed her. They would have distracted her, certainly, but for how long? I couldn't withstand them for two whole hours, not all of them. It was too late now, though. They were all snuggled up tight in their warm beds and their safe dreams while we, two anomalies, sat in the kitchens at midnight eating vanilla ice-cream and cake. I pulled my eyes away from her. I didn't mind being an anomaly for once.
We thanked the house-elves and told them to get some sleep. When we reached the Grand Staircase, a faint sickness and nausea started to surface. She began walking up the steps, to my surprise, but then stopped and walked back down.
'Thank you,' she said. 'I know your words have perhaps suggested otherwise, but you haven't looked at me like I'm disfigured. You've looked at me as if nothing's changed. I know by morning that won't be the case with anyone but you and perhaps one or two others.'
I pressed a palm to her cheek, brushing my thumb over her high, angular cheekbone. 'You're never going to be any different to me, Genevieve. Ever. You're my sister and mother and best friend, and you have been for seven years. That's never changed for me, and neither will you.'
She stood up on her tiptoes and kissed me lightly on the cheek, and then stayed there for a few seconds, staring into my eyes. For once it felt like she could see into my soul, and not the other way around.
I climbed into bed at 1.17 AM, still fully clothed. Will was muttering incoherently and Lewis and Lucas were snoring loudly. I used to cast a Silencing Charm on the curtains around their beds, but that was when sleep meant a far lot more to me than it did now.
My eyes stayed open for the next few hours, roaming the ceiling and finding no answers, until the birds began tweeting outside and the hazy grey light of dawn seeped beneath the curtains. Someone's alarm went off at 6 AM and tired feet shuffled into the bathroom. I heard the sound of someone taking a piss, a toilet being flushed, and the rushing water of the shower being turned on, hot and searing on delicate skin.
I showered and dressed fifteen minutes later, going through the motions and trying to remember what direction I was supposed to brush my teeth in. I pulled my feet to the Great Hall at 6.30 AM, eyes dull, top shirt buttons undone and tie noticeably absent, hair unbrushed. I ignored the curious, pitiful, wondering eyes, and wondered if her night had been as sleepless as mine.
I'm terribly sorry for the late update. My beta and I have both been very busy with life, and… I have no other excuse. This might
be my last update for a while. My exams start in a little under two weeks, and for the next two-ish months I'll be slaving over a desk with blistered hands. Lovely imagery.
I just want to apologise for all the updates that haven't been new chapter updates. Some of you may have noticed that I've been revising every chapter and adding some beautiful chapter images, hence the annoying updates, but I am nearly
finished with those.
Thank you a billion times to these people (and I'm sorry for not mentioning you guys before!):
imacullenpottergirl | Dare to Dream (you… I have no words. You're wonderful, Morgan! Thank you!) | mybabygoesrawr | cleopatra82 | nothingbutwords | miluv | Onyx96 | anonomys | Pattalack | Hope's Mom | Taraiel | Lillylover23 | blackangelwings | fairestofthemall | harrypotterluver123.
Rory's persona was somewhat believable. * nervous glance * As you could probably tell, Rory's got quite a mechanical, methodical mind-set, far more different than Albus'. I wanted this just to be about him and her, just an emphasis of their relationship and what it all boils down to, really. Please let me know what you thought!
There were some parts in there, like the mention of Professor Clegg, which may have made you go, 'Huh?' but all will be explained! If you have any questions or you'd like to let me know what you thought please review or visit my MTA page (which you can access by going to my Author's Page).