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Chapter 1 : The Star of Kazan
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This is a bit ambiguous and may be hard to understand. Pay attention to the italic sentences throughout as they are not directly part of the story flow they do however play an intircate role in the theme. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.
Florence had gone into the church because of her feet. There really wasn’t another way for her to get there but just the same, her feet brought her. Its towering pillars and its stone walls were as cold on the inside as they were out. There wasn’t anyone inside that she could see, but then, her eyes were so blurry with tears that she barely recognized the majesty of the carved pillars and ornate buttresses.
Her hands were shaking and feet were making footprints in the dust as she walked with slow, uneven steps up the aisle. Her hand grabbed desperately onto an old, wooden pew, and she held it for a moment to catch her heaving breath. It felt rough under her pink hands and tiny slivers poked their way under her skin. She lifted her hand without even noticing, her eyes on the altar in front.
Shuffle. Shuffle. Shuffle.
Her feet moved on, but she felt like her body stayed put like iron or the stone that surrounded her. She breathed in and smelt the thick, musky air that seemed to cling to the very essence of the place. A place once exalted for its beauty and near perfection. Now, only a shadow of its former glory, rotting and empty to its core.
Like her and for that she felt a strange connection to its brokenness.
Her feet kept going, pushing her further down, and she let out a choked sob and leaned against another pew, grabbing it so tightly that her knuckles were as pale and white as snow. She had been gone months. Months. Going on the advice of someone who she wasn’t even sure truly existed. But she had made that choice long ago.
She was told that there was such a star that glittered so bright that it made wishes fall down upon your feet.
She took in a shuddering breath and lifted her dark eyes to the front. It was dark, faded by the evening dusk that made everything look like the same dull shade.
“I’m... I’m so sorry,” she whispered into the air that swirled around her and held her. The same air that wouldn’t let her go but instead the words echoed through it, slicing like a knife as they fell back into her ears.
It was too late. Too late for her regret and sorrow. Her choices had been made and only saw after the fact that she had been used. Used to complete a task that was not hers to do.
She finally let go of the pew and continued the long trek up to the altar. Up the place that she wanted her redemption. It was the only place she could think of going, who else would give it to her? Would Lily look at her and say, it’s okay Florence, it’s okay, you are not to blame?
No, she wouldn’t. She’d scorn her and hate her like she hated herself. The sad part was that it is her fault. She tried to play god, tried to take back what had already been taken from her.
The star had been bright, glowing and twinkling in the midnight Kazan sky.
The light continued to fade into deeper shades of grey and the chill from the gaping windowpanes blew through her hanging clothes. She glanced up and saw that the windows had once been stained and images of Jesus and Mary were once decorating the glass, but age had blown through them. There were gaping holes where rocks and fists had smashed through, leaving only a remembrance of what was.
The times of God were over, but she hung onto the last threads. Her eyes wobbled back to the front where the altar was raised on a stone platform. It was the last thread of life she had. It was carved. Images of doves, thrones, and light were commemorated, but the same destruction that happened to the windows was slowly happening to this workmanship. No one wanted to be reminded of the lies they had once been told.
This was the last stop, the only place left for her to turn to, and she felt so alone under the Russian moon. Alone, cold, and desperate. No longer looking for answers or solutions. No longer looking for anything but her own redemption.
She already knew there was nothing else. Everything had been taken from her.
Shuffle. Shuffle. Shuffle
Her feet moved on. The footprints in the dust now looked more like drag marks the closer she got. It felt more real now knowing that she was here, but not knowing what she really expected. All she knew was that her feet brought her here after it all. Maybe she could find the answer or maybe she’d find nothing at all. Nothing at all.
They say this star had a face once, a face that shone so bright that it gave hope to all who looked on it.
That is what she expected. Her searching led her in circles, round and round, nothing ever seeming particularly clear. She had wanted to save her. Had to bring her back. Her shoulders started to shake and a thousand knives seemed to dig into her stomach and she keeled over in pain.
She tried to push the images out, of a face so much like her own as it stared out into the Russian sun. It all began and ended here. Maybe it was fate, maybe it was just chance. But here she was, in a place known for its endearing spirit, one that far outlasted her own.
She kneeled on the dusty ground, breathing in the filth and grime like it was home. Choking and sobbing she crawled further down the aisle. She was so close. Maybe those images carved in stone could scare away the demons that fought for her heart.
It was her fault.
When Lady Time came and took its dues, it took the one thing that really ever mattered to her. Could she really be blamed for what followed? Her body convulsed in her own failure. It wasn’t meant to end the way it had. She had only wanted to see her face again to see the hope that shone on it because she was the light, the one who brought hope. She wanted that back.
Needed. It’s what she needed. She would have done anything. They were two side of a penny, they made things whole. But without her, she was nothing but a jaded woman of war too cynical to want to help. She should have been the one to have died; no one would have missed her.
Shuffle. Shuffle. Shuffle.
Her body went, but her mind felt far off. Like in a dream, where dark eyes smiled and two identical girls played in a field of green by the great big sea. They twirled around, and around their equally dark hair spun around them like a sheet of gold. She pushed the image away, tried to ignore what she lost. Tried to ignore the pain that shot through her heart and instead rested on her own guilt.
It was better than the pain.
Her body shuddered as she pulled herself forward with her hands. Always forward; she hated looking back. Hated seeing the footprints she left behind. She liked to believe they really weren’t her own, but that they changed, morphed into something less like her. It was the only explanation for how could she – a brave and courageous Gryffindor, all fire and gold, do what she did? She was no better than the Slytherins, who used any means to get ahead and gett what they wanted.
She wasn’t supposed to weak. No, she was supposed to face the future, strong of heart with an undying flame to light the world for others. She was no flame and she was definitely no hope. That was her sister.
They say stars were once people, stories of a past that were twisted by time.
A new face danced across her mind. One with a bright smile and permanently red lips. Someone she didn’t know but who changed her life forever. A face that chased her in her dreams and turned them into ravaging nightmares. She got what she was promised; she just hadn’t realised it would be like this.
It was supposed to have been better; she was supposed to have her back. At least then there'd be reasons for her actions.
The walls around her seemed to move in closer, pressing and grabbing at her hair, she pulled her hands over her ears and screamed. Screamed and screamed, the sound beating off the walls and floors. Surrounding her, being her.
Finally, she made it to the front, her feet aching, her head a furry fuzz. She dragged herself up the stairs, her body wobbly and broken like an accordion that was played for too long.
She reached up and touched a baby Jesus carving. Her fingers caressed the innocence. She wondered if He could take it all away. She wondered if what her mum told her her whole life was true.
This one shone so brightly now, glittering and moving under the Russian sky.
“I- I just,” she choked out as she leaned against the altar, feeling the grainy texture against her wet cheek.
“I don’t want to start thinking,” she whispered, her breath coming out in short gasps. Her voice carried in the great church, making the emptiness seem even greater and the loneliness crept deeper into her soul. “Not like I have this last week.”
Sacrifice. She had been asked to sacrifice, and she thought that it would be all it would take. What is a stranger to someone you love? She thought they were disposable.She only dreamed of the open fields and the expanding blue ocean that never seemed to end. Dark eyes like hers blinked back at her and she had reached out. Could she live with herself if she hadn’t tried?
She couldn’t live with herself now that she had.
The stranger with the red lips, red like the colour of her own red blood. The colour twisted in her mind, pushing everything out. Red and guilt: they were tied together like a coiled rope. Never separating, never apart.
“I can’t think again,” she continued to choke out. Her hand still reached out, touching the altar as if it offered her something she couldn’t get from life. Her last attempt at redemption. She was sick. Her mind wouldn’t stop, the images kept pushing to the front of her mind, the twirling, the red, and the sea all tied together so that she couldn’t distinguish one from the other. “Not ever again.”
This one was a story of a girl with lovely eyes and a pretty face, forced upon the heavens by the darkness underneath.
One for another. A life too quickly gone for – her breath caught in her throat and she pushed her head into her knees. She had done it. Desperate to see those dark eyes and dark hair that matched her own. She couldn’t see passed her own ache; the hole was too big, too gaping for her to fill.
The warnings seemed real to her now, you can’t bring someone back– her breath caught again and she wildly looked back at the altar. Begging it to answer her, begging it to bring her what she needed. Peace. Redemption. Deliverance.
Silence rang in her ears. The deathly quiet that came after a fall. The kind that seeped into the crevices of one’s soul and tore up the only things that remained. That was her answer. Nothing at all. Simply empty space to greet her torrid heart. A heart tricked into thinking she could be saved. Saved. As if someone could be saved from the death that clung onto them.
She should have known, should have relied on her head rather than her emotions.
How incredibly droll, she thought. If her younger Hogwarts self saw her now, she'd be apalled and she definitely wouldn't believe it. Following fancy and folktale as if it was truth. Legend and myth played no role in real life. She knew that.
She glanced at the altar and the carving of Jesus and the Virgin who seemed to stare down at her with frowning faces. Their mouths twitched in contempt, their faces contorted in hate. She scooted away, trying to get away from their stares. They saw right through her and they knew what she did. Forgiveness would not come. Could not come.
She failed. She should have known, should have seen the first time around the remnants of this mistake. It’s obvious to her now that she can’t change things. She can’t change life. But she had grabbed a hold of the chance offered to her, to bring back the one that mattered. She believed in something she should not have and stuck her hand in the flames. She tried to dance with it.
The problem was it danced back.
They never say that when you fight fire that it usually wins. In all the great stories the hero wins. The fire is beaten back and there is celebration. She should have known when it, for that is what it was to her now, told her that life and death were the same card that it was a lie. They were two different cards altogether, and although you can’t have one without the other you most definitely can't trade a death for life. No matter what tales it told her.
She found her sacrifice, the red like her own blood and she believed. But belief is a fickle thing; it doesn’t mean that it’ll come true. Like her mother’s faith in her invisible god. The one she came crawling to today, the one who gave only silence. A piercing silence that condemned her last act.
A girl taken far too young made to shine and give a hope and home to those who wished upon its shining glory.
She grabbed her knees with her hands, her forehead resting against them. Her body slowly rocked back and forth. It began and ended here. She – her sister, a light so bright, was last seen here, halfway across the world trying to stop the rising of You-Know-Who in a city of death. In the process, she had been ripped from this earth in a cold and hard city ravaged by fires and revolution. This church was a testament of those days long ago.
A dark city. One without light and the only light it had it had been snuffed out, made to live among the stars. That’s how she saw it anyway because where else could they take a light so bright and force it to live in the sky when they could have had it live here, within itself.
She sat in the darkness here, letting it fall into her and guide her. The night seeped in, cloaking the paintings and carvings in shadows. She wondered if this was the last place her sister saw. If she came here to find deliverance for those who did not know what they were doing in the war- amid the destruction and forgotten dreams. What was her purpose here? Other than to drift from existence, a light made to lighten the sky instead of the earth.
The darkness swam around her like a swan cutting through still water. Destroying the perfect glass reflection so that only shards and ripples remaining in its wake. She embraced it, never wanting to see a reflection again. Knowing it wouldn’t be herself that she saw, that face no longer belonged to her. It was someone else’s.
Her body curled into the fetal position on the platform with the altar. She wished she wouldn’t see her haunting reflection, but there is was, inside her eyes. Always there, never leaving her. Creeping behind her eyes like darkness and light.
“Please-” she whispered, trembling and hurting. “Please.” She just wanted to see her, to bring her back. It’s all she ever wanted. To stop the darkness that closed in around her, to end the trembling that overtook her in both her waking and sleeping hours. Hours that dragged on like a decade of solitude. Had it been wrong to seek? To try and create a better future where both girls could still have life? So what if someone else had to pay.
Her body shook harder as the reflection morphed into the red lipped woman with blonde hair that looked like it was spun from wheat. A woman she found under the Russian sky who was meant to solve it all and to gain back what was once lost. She simply sat there, empty eyes, empty face and the stranger with the red lips asks why have you killed me? Florence wants to say she didn’t, that it took her, but the truth glared her in the face.
She was the reason.
She pushed herself roughly off the ground, her clothes coated with dust and shadow, and she felt herself moving, running. Escaping those faces she couldn’t get rid of. She couldn’t think. Couldn’t see.
She fled the church under the stars that glittered above. Her feet moving swiftly below her, pushing her onwards and she passed people who yelled after her all with words she didn’t understand. She fled the well-travelled streets to the dirtier side where the shadows seemed longer and the people harder.
A smell of musk and sewer entered her nose, but she embraced it as they seemed to chase out the images that replayed in her mind. She stopped at a bridge that went over the Volga river. The water ran swiftly and the silence of this place was only broke by the slapping of water beneath.
She looked up to the sky; its inky blackness stared back. One star twinkled at her. Its glitter shined so bright that it contested the light of the moon. She smiled a look that lit up her whole face, and for a moment changing her, morphing her into the one she mourned, the one she needed.
Her arms rested against the railings of the bridge, and she let herself be taken in to wish upon the Kazan star where people came from miles to do so. She saw those dark eyes, the twirling by the ocean, the inexcusable guilt as the red lips mixed into her memory and before she could stop herself, the wish fell upon her feet.
A pair of hands grabbed her from behind. A scream bubbled up inside her, but as she leaned back to stare into their inky eyes and their metal mask that fit their face so well, she felt a fearful calm. It seemed right that she should be taken this way to fall beneath the city. It was as if in payment for the life she had so soullessly given away and although she may never be exalted in the starry sky; she at least had this.
There was once such a star that glittered in the midnight Kazan sky.
Note: “The Star of Kazan” was written by Iva Ibbtson and the title and first sentence of this story belongs to her. No copyright infrigement intended.
The "I don't want to start thinking again. Not like I have this last week. I can't think again. Not ever again." quote is from “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky. No copyright infrigement intended.
So there is little confusion, Florence is the character that Bertha Jorkins saw kissing someone behind some bushes. So she is canon, as obscure as she is. Also, see Let the Flames Begin to read about Florence in her Hogwarts years and there will eventually be another story about what brought her to this point in her life.
This was beta'd by Phoenix_Flames. <3
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