Chapter 75 : Hallelujah
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The anger had been overwhelming, but, as time passed, it simmered and dissipated to the point where it had all but disappeared. The anger was no longer a factor.
But once the anger had vanished, once she was no longer angry, the torrent of emotions she had been feeling at Theodore and at Sirius was gone as well. Passion and feeling was lost in the process too, and, when all was said and done, these things that had taken up so much of her energy and feeling left so that, when they did, Scarlett was absolutely empty.
However, despite the emptiness, Scarlett had noticed an abnormality; her hands, pale with bony fingers, could not cease shaking.
She was alone; this further exaggerated the feeling of emptiness and distance. She had told Regulus nothing of her whereabouts and had not seen him since the morning, though she supposed she should have been back to the common room by curfew, as she was expected.
She bit her tongue as she recalled all of the nights—all of the lazy, casual, fantastic nights—that she had snuck outside to see Sirius, and all of the nights where that was where she was to be expected, where people were expecting her.
She was supposed to be in the common room—around people. She was supposed to feel safe and secure, to spend time with Regulus, even if she were too much in pain to converse with him. She was supposed to have that level of comfort, that level of simplicity, because that was the only comfort and simplicity she could ever ask for.
For some reason, though...for some stupid reason...Scarlett could not bring it in herself to take steps towards Slytherin.
Scarlett still intended to go on a walk to clear her head, and, technically, that had not been done yet. She had dealt with—albeit with some struggle—the initial shock of her fight with Theodore, had dealt with the fact that her hand was now barren of the ring she had never before taken off, had dealt with the fact that the ring which had outstayed even her wedding ring was gone and, with it, any evidence Scarlett and Theodore had ever even been friends, let alone spouses. She had dealt with all of it, had swallowed it all despite any pain it caused her. She had dealt with that much.
But when she saw Deena and Sirius... something had set off in her. Something about seeing Sirius go on a date, no matter who the date was with, put her into such a state that clearing her head at all seemed to be an impossible task, yet one that she would try again and again because just thinking of it sent a stab of pain through her.
She had thought, rather selfishly, that despite their breakup he would not do this to her. When Theodore and Ambrose had begun dating, she had not thought so much of it, because it was to be expected of them. Ambrose was ambitious in her pursuits and Theodore had been so numb that Ambrose's presence was superficial at best. She had expected both of them to do something like that.
Sirius had been different, though.
She had believed, in a silly way, that though they had broken up (as well as two people that were never officially together in the first place can break up) and though she had betrayed him with her Dark Mark they would always just be there. Sirius would always be available, would always be hers, because she had surely never given up on him. She had always hoped that he would never move on, because she hadn't. She had not moved on at all and she had expected the same treatment from Sirius.
But...she could not blame him. Maybe it was for the best that he had moved past her; Voldemort would not target him anymore. His life would be saved by getting over her, really, even if he would not know it himself.
Yes, it was all... for the best...
Scarlett took a sigh and stopped walking, leaning against the brick wall. It was such a hard thing to think about, such a hard thing to bear, and, though she was struggling, she was doing it.
But, though she was doing it...
She had gotten in similar fights with herself before, got into them so often that this one shouldn't have been any different, yet Scarlett found herself consistently surprised at how difficult they really were. Each one piled on top of the other so that, every time, she had a heavier burden to put behind her, and, though she should have been used to it, it was something she could never accustom to.
She gritted her teeth together as she recalled all of the previous mantras, all of the things, that she had told herself each and every time she felt this way—every time she felt as if she were going to give up. There is hope, she told herself. There is always something to fight for—
You must be rather bored of yourself, Scarlett. Merlin knows I tire of you, yet I do not spend as much time dealing with you as yourself, so I can hardly imagine how you feel.
Scarlett took another deep breath, willing herself not to speak to him, not to take his bait, because there was hope, there was something to fight for—
Voldemort laughed; the sound bounced off of her head and grated in her ears. How many times have you told yourself the same exact thing? he said, and she wrapped her arms around her torso in defense as she said to herself, again and again, not to speak to him, for speaking to him only made him stronger, and Merlin knew he was strong enough as it was...
How many times have you told yourself the same thing? he repeated, and Scarlett shivered as she could have sworn she felt herself agree with him and his impatience with her. How many times have you told yourself that there is hope, Scarlett Nott? How many times have you told yourself that there is something to fight for, that there is always something to fight for...
I have to wonder, Scarlett... each time that you repeat those little phrases, believing that they will send me away so you will have no worries... each time... how many times do you feel, honestly feel, that there is hope? How many times do you believe that there is something to fight for? Surely not every single time you say it, or else you must be eternally hopeful.
Here is what I have to ask you, Scarlett, something you should ask yourself the next time you want to tell yourself that—do you honestly believe in anything that you are saying, or do you say it emptily, without meaning, because you do not believe it at all?
She told herself, nearly screamed it to herself, to not talk to him, to not agree with him, to not let herself fall into his cleverly worded and manipulative ways—there is hope, there is something to fight for—
But even as she thought it she could feel how pathetic the words sounded in her head, how weak and feeble she really was, and how she was falling, falling, coming so close to being intrigued enough to speak to him—
What do you mean?
You are so stupid... so foolish... not that I mind, of course.... you know the answer to your own question.
Tell me. I do not know what you mean.
At some point, Scarlett, I am sure you believed the words you tell yourself. You have said them to some effect with me before, and, with that success, you believed that repeating yourself would be the best remedy, that it was the words, not their meaning, that gave you confidence.
But those memories—of hope and of something to fight for—why, they must be getting old. And each time you repeat yourself the words lose a little more of their meaning... so that you cannot ward me off, even if you tried...
Perhaps if you had a new motivation, you would get the same confidence you once had.
But what motivation is there now?
There is so much to fight for...
Voldemort's laughing grew louder and shriller and was so cold that goosebumps erupted all over Scarlett's body. You really are running in circles, aren't you? he said, and Scarlett groaned, feeling every feeling of weary that she had fought every time before, but having the fear that she would not have the power to overcome it again.
What... do you mean...?
It is remarkable how you can make me entertained and sickened all at once.
You always ask these questions... always need clarification and elaboration to such measures that even an infant could understand what I mean... but you never just know... you cannot be expected to exert that much energy, I suppose—
WHAT DO YOU MEAN?
Oh, don't you remember, Scarlett? Voldemort said, his words slow and hypnotizing as they wrapped themselves around her, though Scarlett shoved her nails into her arms as hard as she could, willing herself to keep her guard up and to not be susceptible. She bit her tongue as if it would stop her thoughts, but she knew it was an impossible battle to fight, that her curiosity and his insistence could not be beaten.
Those were the exact words you spoke to me back in January.
But then she blanched as she remembered... remembered how, like now, she was all alone...How he had been the same, somehow so suggestive... How he had asked her why she fought, fought so incessantly, when all she was fighting for was the unendurable pain.
You said those words to me just before you surrendered... before you were able to feel nothing... before you succumbed...
Succumb now... Scarlett... succumb...
She felt it, just as she had before—the tug of impulse to go towards the forest...
But she did not move, even as not moving made her body nearly collapse.
What do you have to fight for, Scarlett? What are you fighting for when it is so much easier... when it is so much preferred... for you to not? Why fight?
There is so much to fight for...
Your husband loathes you and has found comfort in another woman. Surely you are not fighting for him. Sirius has clearly forgotten about you and done the same. Surely you are not fighting for him, either.
Even your sister, Tiffany, told you she was disappointed in you...
She felt her body perspire, felt her breaths become shorter and more rapid, as she resisted, and, with difficulty, found power to shake her head. "N-no," she stuttered, finding that the muscles in her jaw preferred to stay shut, but she fought that, too. "I a-am not like that anymore... I h—I have changed..."
I know that you've changed. I do not particularly care. You see, Scarlett, change never really lasts, especially like this...
"N-no," she gasped. "Stop—trying to make me—" She took a gulp of air—"Move—I do not—want—no—"
Slowly, though she tried to fight with every ounce of her being, she took miniscule steps towards the doors that led outside... the doors that she had avoided for so long... the doors that, once she passed, she knew she would never have a chance to fight again...
SUCCUMB, Nott. Go to the outlook now.
"No," she said again, and in a sudden jerk her body hit hard against the wall as she tried to prevent her feet from moving...
As she did, for some reason she did not understand, the urge to want to move stopped, and she breathed a sigh of relief, believing he was gone, believing that somehow, against all odds, she had won this fight—
She could not even finish her thought before she felt it—the last thing that she had ever imagined she would feel again. The pain from hitting the wall she believed to be temporary, and definitely worth it if there were any chance of stopping Voldemort.
But it was spreading. It was multiplying, intensifying, and for a minute she imagined that she was back in November and she didn't know what the pain was, where it was coming from, and all she knew was that it was there, that that was all there was. All there was was pain.
However, she now knew who the pain came from. She knew that its intent was not mysterious and vague, but obvious and cruel, and it bounced off her flesh, ripping at her insides and shooting through her veins. It was never-ceasing, like fire—a total overtaking of her body in the most painful way possible, no longer dependent on urges and impulses but now translated into nothing but pain, burdening, terrible, like fire somehow on fire—a fire hot and intense and somehow erasing every thought out of her head except for the one word, the one word that she had left.
"No," she moaned, sinking to the ground and putting her knees to her chin, her face clammy with her tears and her sweat.
GO TO RAVENCLAW'S OUTLOOK.
DO IT NOW. STOP FIGHTING.
"Stop it," she whimpered, trying to put her forehead on her knees, but her muscles were frozen. They would not move on her accord anymore. "No," she whispered, the pain overwhelming, overcoming her, just like Voldemort was overcoming her now, and she felt it, she felt herself begin to stand, felt her consciousness begin to fade, to be trapped within her own mind... She felt it and she could not stop it because he had won and she had fought as hard as she could but he had won... She tried to sob, but her face would not contort, the tears would not come, she could not move, she wanted to move...
Why had she ever thought she should agree with him... she could never agree with him... why had she lost the meaning of those words... why had she been so intrigued by what he said? What had she done...
And the pain... when was the pain going to end... was it never going to end...
It was over, all over—
"Scarlett?" a voice called out, and Scarlett nearly cried in joy. "Where did you go?"
"Regulus," she breathed, and tears spilled down her face, both because he was here and because she was able to cry, that his appearance had distracted Voldemort enough for her to regain control. "Regulus—"
And then she was sobbing, sobbing at how close she had been from falling into Voldemort's arms again, how close she had been to becoming what she had been in January, to what had led to Tenereus's death. She was sobbing because she could, because she never wanted to lose herself again, and she was sobbing because she had been so close to losing herself.
"Scarlett," Regulus said, taking in her state, and then the next instant, he was there, wrapping his arms around her even as she could not stop sobbing, the action once and for all placing Voldemort back in the confines of her mind in disgust. "You're going to be okay, Scarlett," he said, and she knew that she was going to be now, that it was over, because Regulus had saved her, because Voldemort was not in the forefront of her mind anymore.
And she remembered, way back in November, when she had been in a terrible state, how Sirius had been there, and how she had him promise that he would stay with her, and now he wasn't, now he had broken his promise, and that realization made her cry even harder.
"Regulus," she said, "Stay—with—me—"
Nothing needed to be said; Regulus gave his tacit agreement by squeezing her tighter, because, she knew, as long as he were there, he would stay with her. As long as he were there, everything would be okay.
And that was the way it wasn't supposed to be, but that was the way it was.
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