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Chapter 25 : I Run to You
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Run from my past
I run too fast
Or too slow it seems
I Run to You – Lady Antebellum
“You seem happy,” Arieda mused to Gideon at the breakfast table next morning.
He blinked in surprise.
“Shouldn’t I be?”
“You haven’t been happy since Louisa died. Not like this, anyway. It’s like the old you is finally back.”
“I never left...”
Her smile turned slightly sad.
“You did,” she sighed. “Oh, you really did. You may not have realised it, but we noticed. It’s as though you didn’t want to bother us, didn’t want to be a burden, but ... oh, Gid, you’re never a burden. If anything, trying to deal with everything by yourself made it harder for us, because we just felt as though we couldn’t help...”
“But ... you were mourning too, you’d just lost your sister...”
“Exactly. We could have helped each other through it...”
He groaned, and his head fell into his hands, as he realised the impact of what he’d done.
“Merlin, Ari, I’m so sorry...”
“Oh, don’t apologise, Gid ... heck, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you feel bad! It’s just, I’ve been wanting to say this to you for so long, but I never thought it was the right time. But now, you seem ... well, content. Happy. And it’s a relief to see.”
He nodded in agreement.
“Yeah. Things are ... yeah, they’re good.” He paused. “You’ve been spending a lot of time with Sirius lately.”
He’d noticed this for a while now, but every time he’d thought of bringing it up, something had happened to distract him. Mentioning it now, he wasn’t sure himself if he meant it as an accusation or a mere observation.
“Yes, I have,” she said defiantly. “And what about it? He just wants the company – and so do I, for that matter. Are you going to try to tell me I’m not allowed to talk to him?”
“I – don’t be daft, of course I’m not!” he said indignantly. “I just ... you know he doesn’t like me-”
“I know nothing of the sort. He’s not said a thing to me about you, and I haven’t brought it up either. He’s lonely, Gideon. He doesn’t know who to trust anymore, apart from James and Lily, and there’s only so much time he can spend with them ... I mean, why do you spend time with me?”
“But you’re a friend, Ari, you always have been; that’s why I spend time with you-”
“And he and I can’t be? You forget, I was year mates with Mary’s sister.”
“Does he still see Jane?”
“Sometimes.” She paused. “She’s not as involved with everything as we are. It makes things awkward. He just needs company, Gid! Are you really going to begrudge him that?”
Despite all the bad blood between him and Sirius, her words stirred feelings of utter guilt and self-loathing in him. She was right. In the end, they were all struggling through the same war; they all needed comfort and support from each other. And who was he to deny Sirius a friend?
He’d been wondering if the Order would face a backlash after the raid and Death Eater captures of the previous week. It seemed unlikely that Voldemort would let them get away with their audacious stunt.
They hadn’t expected him to hit quite as hard as he did, though.
It was Fabian who told him the news on Monday morning, when he arrived at the Ministry to find out where he would be patrolling.
“They’ve gotten Edgar,” he said gloomily.
Gideon stared at him.
“What?” he said, horrified.
“Edgar Bones. Death Eaters copped him and his family last night.”
Gideon’s heart sank.
Before heading off on his patrols, he scouted out Araminta, in her cubicle, not wanting to spend the evening on his own. She’d looked just as sombre as he felt. Perhaps she anticipated another summons from Voldemort.
“Did you know him well?” she asked him that evening, as they played a game of chess. “Edgar Bones, I mean.”
“Reasonably well.” He watched as his knight took out her bishop. “He was a couple of years above me at school. Hufflepuff. I got to know him a bit more through the Order, though. He saved my life a couple of times...”
She didn’t say anything for a moment. She just concentrated on the chess, something that perhaps he should have been doing, as she took his queen and both rooks in quick succession.
“I’ve always wondered what Hogwarts house I would have been in,” she said quietly, as he deliberated over how to get himself out of the hole he found himself in.
He looked up, all thoughts of chess forgotten.
“I’m sure you can find out, you know,” he said. “I can ask Dumbledore-”
She shook her head.
“Don’t be daft,” she said. “He has far more important things to be worrying about.”
“You’d be surprised.” He moved his knight. “He likes to concern himself with small trifles.”
“There are small trifles, and then there are completely pointless requests.” She looked up at him. “Don’t worry; I’m sure the curiosity won’t kill me.” She moved her queen triumphantly. “Checkmate.”
“Bugger,” he muttered, as her queen toppled his king. He paused a moment, fearing that the question he wanted to ask might upset her.
“There’s something that’s been bothering me,” he began tentatively.
She looked up from the chess board, frowning.
“What is it?”
“You said you couldn’t kill.”
“I can’t. I said, I only ever told you the truth.”
He cocked his head in confusion.
“But ... you’re a Death Eater. How can a Death Eater not kill?”
“I guess my parents installed too large a sense of morality in me.”
“I can’t imagine Voldemort takes too kindly to servants who can’t kill.”
“Follower, not servant.”
“There’s a difference?”
“A small one.” She paused. “Besides, my value isn’t in my duelling. He has people like Bellatrix to murder and pillage. I told you already, my speciality is in more delicate arts. Hence why I’m the spy.” Another pause. “I can do near enough anything else. I know more Dark magic than you could even imagine. I can torture someone easily. But there’s a difference between causing someone pain, and actually killing them.” She swallowed.
“So you’ve never killed anyone?”
She said nothing, but looked down at her hands, which were knotted together tightly on the table between them.
“Aside from Travers, obviously,” he added.
“But that was unintentional. I pushed at him in rage; I didn’t anticipate the oaf cracking his head open and bleeding to death. That was his fault.” She shrugged nonchalantly. “In order...” She hesitated. “In order for someone to prove themselves a worthy Death Eater, one has to kill. It’s part of the ... ‘training routine’, to coin a phrase. Every wannabe Death Eater has to undergo as cruel a security regime as that of the Ministry – crueller, because the Dark Lord has followers like Bellatrix who thrive on putting people through such terrible treatment. And of course, he’s not one to shy away from it himself,” she added.
“I was lucky. I didn’t have to endure it. The Dark Lord started training me when I was fifteen. He as good as brainwashed me, I guess. I think he thought putting me through the regime was pointless; my loyalty had already been proven – after all, who else was I to be loyal to? I knew nothing else at the time. I wanted to avenge my parents’ deaths, and he was incredibly cunning in hiding the true manner of their deaths, to stir up that feeling of revenge that set me against the Ministry and the Order, even without any true feelings of hatred towards Muggles or Muggleborns.
“But while I may have been exempt from the security checks, I still had to prove myself in other ways. I still had to prove I could use the Unforgivables, for instance.”
She closed her eyes, and her hands knotted tighter. He reached forwards, his hands enveloping hers, and that simple touch seemed to give her the strength to continue.
“She was eight. A Muggle, of course. Her parents and older brother had already been killed by the others. The Dark Lord left the girl to me.”
Another pause. Gideon’s heart went cold.
“He knew, he knew that was my weakness. And I knew that if I didn’t succeed this time, I would be punished, and put through that same routine time and time again until I succeeded.”
She bit her lip, her eyes still clamped shut.
“I told myself that I was doing it out of mercy. She’d seen those deaths, right in front of her. She didn’t understand who the people in masks with sticks were, what the green light meant, but I think she knew it was something bad, and...” Her voice cracked.
“You did what you had to do,” he said quietly, hoping his words could ease her mental torment. “She would have died anyway.”
“That’s what I told myself-”
She stopped mid-sentence, and reached for her wrist, her eyes wide. His hands fell away from hers.
“Is he summoning you?” he said sharply.
She nodded, her face draining of all colour.
“Have you seen him since we raided the house?”
This time she shook her head.
“I – I have to go,” she said, her voice trembling slightly.
“Be careful,” he said, as she got to her feet. He felt as though he should say something else, but had no idea what to say. “Come ... come back here afterwards. So I know you’re okay.”
She nodded again, and Disapparated with a loud pop.
His hands shook as he put away the chess set, trying to distract himself from thinking about how her audience with Voldemort was going. Afterwards, he set about tidying the entire flat – even though there was barely anything to tidy away. Then, when he could find nothing else to do, he sat down with a book, but he couldn’t concentrate on it. His mind strayed from the words on the page, until he eventually gave up, put the book to one side, and resorted to pacing up and down the room, his hands in his hair.
It crossed his mind that she must have been going through the same thing on the night of the raid as he was now. It was no wonder she’d seemed so relieved to see him. He’d thought she was overreacting when she’d said how worried she’d been about what might have happened to him, and now he found himself wondering the same thing, wondering when she’d come come back, if she would-
No. He couldn’t let himself think that. She’d be fine, surely she would? Voldemort hadn’t found her out yet...
But then, someone had given away the Death Eaters’ location to the Order. If Voldemort suspected it had been her...
He groaned, and fell back into the chair, his head in his hands.
She finally returned, after what felt like an eternity. She Apparated into his flat with a loud pop, landing in a sobbing heap on the floor. She’d clearly come straight from her encounter with Voldemort, as she was still in her Death Eater robes. Gideon’s stomach churned, as he slid off the chair and onto the floor beside her, pulled her into his lap and held her as she cried.
Once her tears had subsided, he tentatively posed the question.
“He tortured me again,” she said in a shuddering whisper.
He pushed her hood back.
“He’s angry. And he wants your head. So he took it out on me.”
“Oh, Merlin,” he breathed, holding her closer. “I’m so sorry...”
“Don’t be daft, it’s hardly as though you can just sacrifice yourself.”
“But I hate to see him hurting you like this! And ... I can’t do anything about it...”
“You’re already helping,” she murmured, looking up at him. “Just ... just by being here...”
She’d not been the one to initiate contact before. But this time, she reached up, and pulled his head down to meet hers in a feverish kiss. He responded in kind, careful of where he placed his hands, not wanting to hurt her when she was already in a fragile state – but she pressed herself forwards, slid her hands under his shirt, and he was the one to pull away.
“Please,” she breathed against his lips, her hands trembling.
He shook his head.
“I don’t want to hurt you,” he said, trying not to let her touch distract him.
“You won’t.” She looked up at him, her eyes pleading, as though the intimacy was the only way she could forget her ordeal.
His self-restraint was beginning to waver.
“What if you regret it?”
“I won’t, I promise, I...”
Her gaze, so needing, so desperate, swept away the last of his self-restraint, and he kissed her, holding her to him tightly, as though his touch could somehow heal her pain.
And afterwards, as she fell into a peaceful sleep, her limbs still intertwined with his under the blanket which he had conjured, he gently brushed the hair back out of her face, and vowed to himself that even if he couldn’t stop her being tortured, even if he couldn’t prevent the pain, he would do everything he possibly could to try to make it go away.
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