You're so consumed with how much you get You waste your time with hate and regret You're broken When your heart's not open Frozen – Madonna
It only took Gideon ten minutes at most to flick through the reports in his office. Once he was finished, he headed back to the training room. He found his cubicle claustrophobic, and tended to avoid spending time there when he could.
The training room was otherwise empty when he reached it. He decided to do some duelling practice on the Wall, which – as the name suggested – was a wall one could bounce spells off, so as to practice duelling without requiring company. Most people stuck to less harmful spells, so as to avoid Stunning themselves or worse, but Gideon relished the added risk, and used a wide array of hexes and curses..
After a few minutes, a movement out of the corner of his eye attracted his attention. He dodged to avoid his rebounding full Body Bind, which headed towards the door. Araminta yelped and ducked. The curse shot over her head into the corridor and crashed into the stone wall opposite.
“That was a close shave-” Gideon tailed off, the smile vanishing from his face, as he noticed how angry she looked. What had he done this time?
“Who’s Louisa?” she demanded.
His blood ran cold.
“I – what?”
“You heard me perfectly fine.” She crossed her arms and glared at him. “And you’re going to tell me who Louisa is, and just why you’d omitted all mention of her before now.”
He closed his eyes in resignation.
“Not now,” he said. “Not here.”
“I don’t give a damn where, Gideon, but you’re going to bloody well tell me now, or so help me, I’ll go back to Arieda and get her to continue her story.”
“Arieda told you about her?” he growled.
“Arieda assumed you’d already told me about her poor deceased sister. Imagine her shock when she found out that I wasn’t even aware that she’d had a sister, let alone that you were married to her!”
“Yes, well, it’s not something I like talking about, funnily enough-”
“That won’t get you out of it, Prewett.”
He sighed with aggravation.
“Look, I’ll tell you, okay? Just ... not here. Later, after work, we’ll go back to mine, and I’ll tell you-”
“Alternativelywe go back to yours now and you tell me. Actually, there’s no ‘alternatively’ about it; that’s what we’re going to do. It doesn’t bother me whether you get there consciously or not; you’re going to tell me everything I need to know right now-”
“Fine!” he snapped.
Crossing the room, he grabbed her wrist in a vice-like grip, and dragged her towards the atrium, ignoring her yelping protests. He led her to the fireplaces and pushed her none-too-gently towards the nearest one. She glared at him and rubbed her wrist, but stepped into the fireplace. He followed her, finding her waiting for him in the public toilets used by the Ministry. He took her wrist again and Disapparated, hearing her yelp as he vanished.
They materialised in his flat, where she yanked her wrist out of his grip.
“No need to be so rough,” she spat.
“And there’s no need for you to be so rude and impatient! What need was there for me to tell you about Louisa, anyway? She’s dead; she’s irrelevant to you-”
“Hardly, if you’re moping around like this all the time because of her!” She gestured towards him. “And don’t you go telling me it’s not because of her; Arieda told me that it was, and it’s blatantly obvious now that she was right. So, what the hell is it about her that’s got you so miserable still?”
“You mean I need more reason than purely losing the love of my life?”
“You’re acting as though she died two weeks ago, not two years ago. Now stop protesting and just tell me what happened.”
He sighed again and fell back into the overstuffed sofa behind him. Now he’d stopped yelling, all his memories of Louisa came flooding back into the forefront of his mind, memories that he’d tried so hard to keep at bay...
“She was Fabian’s best friend at school,” he said dully, staring at his hands. “Marly and I, we were always inseparable, even before Hogwarts ... but, once we’d gotten there, and met Wheeza, she and Fabian became just as close. I was always loud and boisterous at school; Marlene was the same, whereas Fabian and Wheeza were quieter types. We never really gave her the time of day, until our Fourth Year when she hexed a Slytherin who’d been bullying a Hufflepuff First Year. And at that moment, I fell in love with the girl.”
He closed his eyes and rested his forehead in his palms, savouring the memories now, letting himself fall into them...
“We married straight out of school. It was a quiet affair, nothing fussy. We applied to become Aurors together. And we just made the perfect double act. During Auror training, I was the better dueller, but she was far superior when it came to the paperwork side of things; I’m terrible at it, and always relied on her to help me through. We duelled well together, and were always paired together during missions. People say that you shouldn’t mix your personal life with your working life, but we just ... we worked. That’s why I have a weak left side when I’m duelling by myself. For years, she was always there, right by my side ... and then she was gone...”
He could see her now, on their wedding day, as vivid as though it were happening right in front of him. That golden-blonde hair, those warm brown eyes, that dress...
He opened his eyes and shook his head, trying to force her image out of his mind, to bring himself back to reality, and continue the story.
“I was the year above Sirius at school. We always got on well, though. He was dating a girl in his year, called Mary. Mary MacDonald. Once they’d graduated, they were paired with Louisa and me on missions. It was the ideal grouping ... at least for a year.”
He drew in a shuddering breath, as the memories of that day started gushing into his mind, replacing those of happier times.
“It was the seventh of July, nineteen-seventy-nine. Over two years ago now. I can still remember it as though it were only yesterday. We ... we were sent to Hogsmeade. The Death Eaters were raiding the village. We split up; Wheeza and Mary went one way, Sirius and I the other.”
He squeezed his eyes shut again, twisting his fingers round his robes. The events of that day had already replayed in his mind too many times and now, they ran again. He watched his actions, trying to stop himself as he always did... but of course, he couldn’t, he never could, and he was forced to watch the trainwreck unfold before him once more...
“It was a trap. A set up. I fell for it. Sirius told me they were trying to lure us, but I didn’t listen, I went forwards anyway...”
He stifled a sob.
“Sirius nearly died. I only just managed to save him. We got out alive, then went to find the girls.”
He buried his head in his hands, gripping his hair in his fingers, as though physical pain would help ease the emotional pain, though he knew all too well that it never worked.
“We were too late. They’d ... they’d...”
A sob escaped from him and he squeezed his fingers tighter in desperate frustration.
“I relive it all the time. If only, if only I hadn’t been so damn proud, if only I’d listened to Sirius when he’d told me it was a trap...”
“He blames me for Mary’s death. And how could he not? If we’d have gotten to them sooner, we could have saved them. I could have saved them...”
He tailed off, knowing that if he said any more he would dissolve into tears. He had cried too many of those in the past two years.
He felt the cushion sink ever so slightly, and sensed Araminta’s presence next to him. He felt a hand settle awkwardly on his shoulder.
“It wasn’t your fault,” she said quietly. “The Death Eaters’ traps are hard to spot, easy to fall for. You shouldn’t beat yourself up over it, or you’ll never move on, and you have to, you need to move on...” Her voice grew stronger, louder. “That’s why you’re so messed up all of the time. You can’t move on, because you won’t let yourself. Marlene was right; you’re either full of emotion or a completely empty shell. You’re trying not to get close with anyone, because you’re afraid you’ll lose more people you love, so you’re trying to be emotionless, but at the same time you still love Louisa, and you’re still so ridden with guilt and sorrow-”
“Since when do you care?”
He raised his head sharply and glared at her through bloodshot eyes.
“Why should you give a fuck? More to the point, how do you think you can even begin to understand someone else’s emotion when you’re emotionless yourself-”
“Nobody can truly be emotionless, Gideon,” she replied quietly. “I think you of all people should know that.”
He bit his lip and glanced down at his lap.
“You don’t understand,” he said, in nothing more than a whisper. “She was my everything. She was the reason I woke in the mornings, the reason I came home at night, the reason I fought. She made this war bearable. Without her, I have nothing, and it’s just getting worse.”
“How can you say you have nothing? You have Fabian, and Marlene, and-”
“Have you ever been in love, Araminta?” He looked back up at her.
She shook her head.
He got to his feet, running his hands through his hair once more.
“Then you couldn’t possibly understand.” He paced in front of the sofa. “Every time I see Fabian and Marlene, I’m reminded of what Louisa and I had. James and Lily remind me of what we could have had, what we would have had. And Sirius reminds me of what I’ve done, the pain I’ve caused both of us, and the hatred he now feels for me because I all but killed his girlfriend.” He stopped in his tracks, and his eyes bore into Araminta’s, so different from Louisa’s, so ice cold. “Do you have any idea what it’s like to live like this? To have to go through it all every day, knowing that there’s a slim chance I’ll even come out of this war alive, and that even if I do, the life ahead of me is nothing without Louisa. You can’t even begin to understand how all that feels.”
Araminta stood up herself, reached out and took his hands in hers. He let her, not in the mood to argue or be angry with her any longer.
“Why won’t you talk to anyone about this?” she asked him. “Why do you let yourself struggle with it?”
“I don’t want to burden anyone else.”
He looked away again; she raised a hand and turned his face back towards her.
“You told me,” she observed.
“I never meant to. You made me tell you. I don’t want to trouble anyone ... it’s not as though people are short of things to worry about...” He hesitated. “There’s ... there’s something about you ... it’s just so easy for me to get sucked in, to find myself telling you things, even though my head’s saying no...” He tailed off, confused.
They fell into silence. Oddly for them, for the situation, it wasn’t an awkward one.
“You need to forgive yourself,” she said eventually, her voice quiet. “The way I see it, you’re currently your own worst enemy; you can’t move on from her until you forgive yourself, and you need to move on.”
His eyes welled with tears; he blinked them away furiously.
“Why do I need to? It’s not like I have anything to live for-”
“Yes, you do. Your friends, your family, they need you, regardless of what you say. And besides, you’ll feel better for it. At the moment, you’re in a vicious cycle. Your guilt over her death won’t let you move on, and because you can’t come to terms with her death, you’re reminded of it all the time, and it makes you feel more guilty, which makes you mourn her more...”
It was as though she could see into his soul. It unnerved him how well she seemed to understand.
He removed his hands from hers and turned his back on her.
“Why? He demanded of the mantelpiece. “Why should I have to move on?”
“Because as long as you’re alive, you have to actually live. It’s not just about surviving, you know. Otherwise, you’re just stuck in a miserable existence...”
“You seem to know all too well about that.”
“This conversation is about you, not me,” she said shortly, letting him know that she was done with being sympathetic. “Well, I’ve said my piece. And for the record, I think Arieda is much more of a credit to Louisa’s memory than you are. At least she’s still living. You moping around like this ... it’s a disgrace to her memory.”
He span round angrily, but was met only with a quiet pop, and thin air.
Her heart fills with trepidation as she sees who awaits her this time.
She tries to hide her disappointment at the harsh voice, and the fists that accompany it.
“Got me anything yet?”
She draws a breath in sharply, dreading his reaction.
“They ... they are holding their cards close to their chests...”
“I don’t care,” he hisses, his spittle landing on her cheeks. “Your job is to scout out the information we want, no matter how closely guarded it is. You’re meant to be good at this, so start proving it.”
“I told you-”
“I know what you told me. I’ve told you already, I don’t accept failure.”
She realises, with a sinking heart, that she has no other option.
“What do you have?” he growls.
“I have ... the address...”
“What is it?”
She tells him.
He lets out a cold laugh.
“You have finally proved your worth. Next time,” he hisses, “don’t hold back information.”
She sinks to the floor where she remains for several minutes, as tears escape from her closed eyes.
A faint pop reaches her ears and her heart contracts with fear. A figure crouches over her, lays a hand on her shoulder.
Her heart jumps at the soft tone.
“If I’d known how bad he would be, I would have come with him...”
He trails off, and settles himself against the wall. He reaches out and pulls her head into his lap, stroking her hair comfortingly. She squeezes her eyes tight shut, and cries.