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Chapter 21 : Of Black Satin Ribbon and Cold White Ice
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“Hermione, are you feeling well enough to go to the dance studio?” Draco asked as they stood from the kitchen floor.
She took a moment to assess her body and then nodded. “I just feel a little achy --- a bit shaky even. Maybe dancing it off would be a good idea.”
He nodded. “I’ll meet you down there then.” He watched her make her way slowly to the staircase to change and couldn’t help but feel worried. “Are you sure you can make it there on your own alright?”
“I’ll be fine,” she called over her shoulder as she made her way slowly up to her room. “I’ll be there in just a moment.”
Draco, who was already wearing loose clothes, grabbed his dance bag from the corner of the common room where he usually left it and set out the portrait hole. He hated this sneaking around. He knew it was what she wanted and in the long run it was sensible and really the only choice they had, but she was sick and he was worried she should not be walking around the hallways at night alone.
He reached the studio, threw down his bag, and started warming up. If she wasn’t here in five minutes he would go looking for her, he promised himself. Five minutes flew past in a blur and before he had enough time to bolster himself in panic she was walking through the door, a slight smile on her face.
“You made it,” he said as he walked towards her.
She smiled, casting him a puzzled expression. “Of course,” she said. “I’m stiff, goodness knows. I need to warm up before we start.”
Draco nodded, took her hand, and led her towards the center of the room. She gracefully sat on the floor and he kneeled before her. “Give me your foot,” he said. She extended her foot forward, leaning back on her hands as he put the bottom of her shoe to his stomach. “Alright take my hands,” he commanded. “Contract the muscle. Extend and then loosen. Go on, do it.” She did as she was commanded. When he was satisfied that her legs had been stretched thoroughly he moved behind her. “Put your arms in the air,” he said. Again she did as she was told and he tugged and pulled and bent her every which way. It was not until fifteen minutes of this had passed by that he let her go. She fell back on the floor with a huff.
“I feel like pudding,” she said.
He laughed. “Better pudding than pulling a muscle and not being able to dance your final jury.”
Talking about final juries set her immediately on edge. She sat up, pulling her legs tightly to her chest, which was still feeling rather tight and compressed. “Juries…” she whispered.
Draco knelt before her, placing a hand on her kneecap. “I won’t let you fail your jury,” he said. “There’s no way.”
“I assure you,” she mumbled, “there is.”
“Get up. Stop moping and come here,” he beckoned as he stood and took a few steps back.
She smiled, pushing herself to her feet. She had to stall for a moment as she reached an upright position and her head swam.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
She nodded and stepped into his outstretched arms. “I’m alright. Just move slow.”
“Why don’t we start working on your jury piece?” he suggested. She groaned. “Juries, you realize, are only weeks away?”
Hermione stilled. “Weeks?” she asked. “Truly? Weeks?” The unavoidable panic seized her.
“Don’t you dare,” he said forcefully. “Don’t you dare do that to yourself. There is no reason you won’t pass that jury. You’re one of the best dancers in that class and you know it. Stop shorting yourself and dance.”
“I can’t dance in front of anyone, Draco. You know that.”
“I don’t give a damn what you think you can and cannot do. I’ve worked with you for months. I know better than anyone, even better than you, what you are capable of and I tell you right now that you are one of the best dancer in the class.”
“It doesn’t matter if I can dance when I am alone, or with you. No one cares, Draco. A good dancer is not judged by what she does when no one is looking. That jury is my only chance to show Dianna that I can dance, but I am terrified to do it because going in there she will be dead set on the idea that I am a horrible dancer.”
“If I could go with you I would, but I can’t. You have to do it alone. I know you can.”
“I wish I had as much confidence in me as you do,” she laughed softly. “Unless you want me to throw up, probably on you, don’t spin me too much,” she added.
He laughed and slipped a hand on her waist. “If you insist,” he said as music lilted through the room. She closed her eyes, planning to absorb the music in the little recesses one escapes to when they wish to do such a thing, but found that all she had was an overwhelming urge to sit down and fall asleep. She wrenched her eyes back open, training them on the small area where his chest met his neck and dipped inwards as he started to lead her across the floor.
“Naturally, you’ll do these steps without me guiding you,” he said as he stretched with her to the right, their left legs extended backwards and then sweeping towards the front once more.
“What if we cloaked you, or spelled you, so that you could come into the room and dance with me. You know, just push my limbs where they need to go and I’ll smile like a good little marionette and we’ll pass.”
He laughed again. “Are you suggesting we cheat?” he teased. “Why, I never thought I would see the day.” He let go of her waist and, momentarily forgetting her current condition, spun her quickly out and back into his stomach. She gasped, her eyes snapping shut as an abrupt pain shot through her back and out her chest like a metal rod. Her legs gave out beneath her, the feeling of numbness and pins and needles overwhelming her. He slid to the floor with her, catching her from hitting her head on the wooden paneling. “Hermione?” he asked, mentally berating himself for being such a brute. “Are you alright? I am sorry.”
But Hermione did not have time to respond because at that moment the door to the studio flew backwards on its hinges and Ginny came running into the room as Hermione started to cough violently. Ginny stood in the doorway for a moment, concern and panic painted across her visage. She was breathing heavy, as if she had just gone on a long run, and her hair was flying around her shoulders. She looked from Draco to Hermione and back to Draco. Everything in the room went still; frozen in the calm before a storm.
“Draco,” Ginny finally said.
“I spun her too hard,” he said miserably. “Here I am promising safety-”
“-Draco-” Ginny tried again. She had overhead Dumbledore and the man from the ministry. She knew someone had to tell Draco and it would be better if Hermione was able to do it. First she had to get them to pay attention to her, however.
“-and I let her go into -”
Draco brushed a clump of hair from Hermione’s face as the coughing finally subsided and Ginny came to the end of her rope. “Can you stand up and-”
“DRACO YOUR MOTHER IS DEAD!”
Draco stopped. His hand froze where it was on the side of Hermione’s face. Hermione drew a laborious breath, her eyes riveted in horror on Draco’s eyes as they slowly drifted shut and one - a single lone, solitary - drop of water escaped from the corner of his eye. It happened so quickly and was gone so suddenly that Hermione thought that perhaps she had imagined it. When he opened his eyes again he did not look at her. He helped her to her feet.
Her hands grasped his upper arms. “Draco,” she said softly. “You’re trembling.”
He helped her to the door where he passed her into Ginny’s arms. He then exited the room and was gone into the darkness of the hallway - not ever saying a word the entire time.
Draco had not come back to their rooms. In fact, Hermione had not seen him since last night when Ginny had run into the studio. It was now dinner time, the first time she had gone down to the Great Hall to eat since she had been released from the hospital; since Colin Creevey had died.
The hall was oddly quiet. People sensed something was wrong. Everyone knew something horrid had happened. All the students knew Colin was missing. They knew something was going on in the school. They noted Draco’s absence. They saw Hermione’s quivering shoulders, as if she was so cold she could not stop moving. They noticed the way Ginny hung her head and the anger with which Ron was hacking at his meal. They were aware of the youngest Creevey’s absence as well.
When Dumbledore slowly rose to the podium everyone slowly set their forks back on their plates and turned their eyes to face him. The quiet, if it was possible, became thicker and heavier. Hermione gasped, struggling to breath through it.
“My dear-” Dumbledore’s voice broke as he began to talk and he softly cleared his throat. The small sound echoed about the room. “-friends.” His eyes, the brilliant orbs behind his half-moon spectacles, were sad and vacant. “I am obligated to share very sad news with you all this evening.”
A girl at the Ravenclaw table was crying. The student’s were shifting in their seats. As much as they all wished to know what was going on, no one actually wanted to know. It was a paradox there was no solution for.
“Yesterday we endured a tragic event. It is my duty to inform you that above all, you are safe in this castle. Your professors are here to protect you and keep you happy and safe. Together we have been able to ride the winds of peril before, and we will do so again.” Dumbledore’s words were cold. They dripped ice as soon as they left his mouth and they hurt the ears. He took a deep breath. “Yesterday afternoon, one of our students; Colin Creevy-” he paused, his eyes closing as if he was in great pain “passed away in the infirmary.”
The uproar that ensued was overwhelming. Hermione clamped her hands over her ears and rose from the table, intent on escaping the pandemonium. People were crying, staring vacantly at the wall in shock, screaming at each other. She tried to push herself towards the doorway as the professors watched the chaos helplessly. They didn’t have the heart, or the strength, to demand them quiet themselves. To demand they not grieve.
“How does this happen!?” a boy yelled.
“How did he die?!”
“People don’t just up and die! How did it happen?!”
The yells started to merge into one until the shouting was nothing but an overbearing maelstrom of cacophony. Hermione finally managed to stumble into the hallway and then everything went black.
“I told you he was nothing but trouble, Hermione,” Ginny was cooing in Harry’s ear.
Hermione didn’t turn to either of them. She was too distracted by the blurring edges of the room. It was as if she was in the midst of a water colouring. Black was creeping into the corners. She turned to her side, only to find the floor was no longer there.
“Have you seen my brother?” Ginny asked Harry.
Harry smiled. “Ask Hermione.”
Ginny turned to Hermione and her face was suddenly not there any longer. Her skin was all intact, but it was smooth and creaseless. Hermione jumped back.
“Have you seen Ron?” she heard Ginny’s voice.
Wordlessly she shook her head. There was a sudden thumping and the three of them turned to find Ron coming down the boy’s staircase. He was a milky blue color, his skin flaking off in some areas. One of his eyes was scarred over and shut.
Hermione scampered to her feet as he limped towards them.
“Hey, Ron!” Ginny’s empty face joyfully called to him.
“How are you feeling, Mate?” Harry asked in a jovial voice.
Ron’s mouth opened to respond, but no sound came out. Harry and Ginny nodded as if they had heard words and understood them. Hermione continued to back away in horror as she realized that Harry had no hands attached to the ends of his arms. She suddenly found herself falling backwards. She landed with a definite thump into the fireplace she had been staring at only moments ago.
She screamed in agony as the flames kissed her skin, but not one of the other occupants of the room turned to look at her. The continued to laugh together. Laugh and laugh and laugh whilst she continued to scream and scream and scream and scream …
Hermione woke up with a start, darkness meeting her eyes. She blinked, but it did not go away. She took a moment to assess herself. She hurt. Her muscles were rigid and sore. Her feet were oddly cold. Her throat burned. Her head was pounding. Her hands were shaking. She tried to brace herself and sit up, but none of her limbs responded.
“Miss Granger,” a voice whispered from somewhere above her. Her vision was milky and blurred, she realized. The person was only splotches of gray color in the darkness. The figure sighed. “I expect the news of your dear friend’s loss has just settled in since you last left me.” Hermione blinked again and finally the school healer came into focus looming above her. “Although you don’t seem to have been able to shake this flu,” Madame Pomfrey was musing to herself. “You are burning up.”
Hermione let her eyes drift shut again and Madame Pomfrey left her side quietly. Another child was being hustled into the room and needed a bed and her attention.
Draco sat on the edge of his mother’s bed a slim, and shiny, black ribbon slipping through his fingers. There was the numb pain in the center of his chest that he kept rubbing at but that would not dissipate. His whole body was tight.
On the other side of the room one of the last remaining house elfs was dutifully packing up his mother’s things. He watched, completely silent.
How had she died? a small voice whispered in his ear. He closed his eyes. She hadn’t been sick. She hadn’t been in need of anything when he left. He had been sure she was safe her. Her death was his fault. If only he had stayed here a little longer. If only he had found out what was so wrong in her world that she had called him home to begin with.
His fist tightened and to his horror the ribbon he grasped slipped from his fingers. He snatched it up and regarded it for a moment. It was not unlike the others he had seen his mother tie in her hair before. There was nothing unusual about it. As he was looking at this little piece of material his eyes fell to the side of the bed, where a stack of sheets was piled up. He rose, intent on discovering why his mother’s bed sheets were thrown haphazardly on the floor. His mother was meticulous about the state of her bedroom. He could not recall one instance where even one shoe had been out of place.
He grabbed a corner of one sheet and gave it a great tug and, much like a giant snake, the sheet slithered up from the floor; a long rope of bed linen. Draco closed his eyes against the new knowledge. He didn’t want it. He dropped the sheet and walked stiffly towards his mother’s bed. She had done it. She had killed herself. He knew it in the very marrow of his bones. And if he had not left her here alone, maybe she wouldn’t have done it. This was his fault. This was his father’s fault. He had driven the only person in Draco’s life who loved him to the grave. If only Draco hadn’t left her here.
He lay back, her pillow welcoming him into its folds as if he was falling into a motherly embrace. He reached up, tying the black satin around his head, covering his eyes, and then lay there on that bed. Drowning in self loathing.
Everything was black. The room he was in was black. The space before him, and behind him, was as black as night. He felt heavy. Mind, body, and soul; heavy. He knew but one thing: he had to find her. He set off into the blackness and in a matter of moments found himself at the entrance to their common room. He flew through the portrait and stood immobile in the center of the room.
“Draco,” Hermione’s voice beckoned from the darkness. He could only see spots of dark and the even darker shapes of furniture.. He tentatively picked his way across the room. “Draco,” her voice moaned in pain.
He made his way around the couch before the fireplace and as he neared the stairs, his foot made contact with something. The fire suddenly flared into brilliance and he looked down to find a bloody mess at his feet.
Hermione was sprawled on her back, her hair about her face and blood trickling out of the corner of her mouth. There was a black ribbon wound around her head, covering her eyes. She tried to speak, except nothing but violent coughing came out. He dropped to his knees and reached for her hand, simultaneously ripping the ribbon from her face. Her fingers were tangled through a bunch of ribbons which appeared to have been white at one time, but were now streaked with crimson. Attached to these ribbons was a pair of pointe shoes, blood trickling from her hand and over the toes. He tried to pry her fingers away from the ribbons and she screamed, a second stream of blood trickling over her lip.
He slid his hands beneath her neck and pulled her up on his lap. “Merlin, Hermione,” he breathed. His hands were groping at her face, trying to wipe the blood away. “Please. Talk to me. Say something. Anything.”
Her mouth opened and closed but sound refused to emit. Slowly her body became heavy in his grasp and her eyes shut, her head drifting limply to the side. Suddenly she vanished. The room was lit as if it was a normal evening. A fire crackled merrily in the fireplace. He slowly rose from his knees, his eyes riveted on the spot she had just been laying. There was no blood; no sign she had ever been there.
He raised his hands to his face, and then ran them through his hair. When he dropped them he noticed a cold, wet, feeling and looked down to find red streaming between his fingers. Startled, he clenched and unclenched his fist and raised it only to find as he blinked the feeling and the color was gone.
“Draco,” a waman’s voice beckoned from upstairs.
Draco rushed up the stairs, taking them two at a time, to find once he reached the end there was an infinite amount of doors and a foreign hallway that stretched on as far as he could see.
“Draco, my darling child,” he heard her call, her voice pleading.. Draco started down the hallway at a run. What door? What door did he pick?
“Oh, my lovely little dragon, won’t you come here?”
“Mother!” he found himself shouting. “Mother where are you?”
“Draco, my darling child.”
Draco stopped. There was no choice. The voices were coming from all the doors. He turned to face the closest one and took a deep breath. He didn’t know what he would find on the other side.
“Draco, please! Oh, please! Let her go! Draco!”
“I swear on my parents’ graves, Malfoy, if you don’t let her go I will kill you.”
“Tell them Draco!” This last cry ended in a shriek. Draco hurtled towards the door before his resolve could disappear on him. Behind the door lay a scene that stopped him cold. He saw himself on the floor, Hermione in his arms, and Harry across from them with his wand pointed at them. Behind Harry, a female body with long hair splayed about them lay motionless.
“Draco,” Hermione sobbed, clutching at his shirt. “Tell them,” her voice cracked. It was but a hoarse whisper.
“Hermione.” He watched himself in shock. His face was streaked with blood and his hair hung limp in his eyes; eyes that never left the brunette’s who hung limply in his arms. “Please don’t leave me.” He was surprised at the sound of his own voice. It was hoarse as well. It was full of so much pain.
“Malfoy,” Harry was nervous. He was anxiously shifting his weight from foot to foot and the hand holding his wand was shaking. “I didn’t want to believe it.”
“Believe it!” Draco’s self cried. He was horrified to see tears creeping down his own cheeks. He had to get out of this room. He turned to go back through the door, but the door was gone.
“It just isn’t possible!” Harry screamed at him.
“You’ve seen them! You’ve watched it all happen, Potter! Damnit! She’s getting weaker!”
Something grabbed him mid-stomach and he had the odd sensation of being ripped backwards. The room disappeared and he found himself in blinding darkness once again. He carefully began to pick his way through the blackness. His foot hit something hard, and after groping about he deduced that he had stumbled across a staircase.
At the top of this staircase was another dark hallway, but this hallway had a definitive end: a door. He gently pushed the door open and stepped inside, closing it behind him once more; closing himself in the dark space. Now he could hear a soft sobbing as he stepped farther into the darkness. It was Hermione.
He reached down until his fingers grazed the cold side of something that felt ceramic, a bathtub, and by the sound that reached his ears he knew she was perched on the edge of it. He slid to the ground before her as his hands groped blindly until they found her arm, and then her shoulder, and slowly her face wet with tears.
“Tell me,” he said softly. It was the only prompt she needed before collapsing in violent tears. He took her by the shoulders and pulled her to him as he fell back against the sink base and she settled against his chest, her face tucked into his neck, her tears sliding coldly beneath his collar.
“Catch me, Draco,” she whispered into his shirt. “Catch me before I’m gone,” and she vanished. Draco looked down, startled that all that lay in his grasp was a single black ribbon. He shook his head, his grip vise like on that cold piece of material.
“I was the prima ballerina.” She was standing before him, her hair wet and covering her face. Her back was hunched. A white nightgown trailed about her feet. There was a small trickle of red making it’s way down her cheek from her eye. She was crying blood.
He took a step away from her and she was gone again.
“He put a white rose in my hair that morning.” She was right behind him. He whirled but there was nothing there.
“I tied the rope around my neck and then I danced,” There was two of her now. They spoke in unison in a voice that grated against his ears. One stood to his left and one to his right. Her words made no sense. One of her images reached for his left hand and wrenched the ribbon from him. She danced around the room, the ribbon trailing behind her.
“Catch me, Draco,” a third said from behind him. “Catch me, Draco,” they all chanted together. The dancing one was smiling and singing her plea. The one on his right was crying and the one on his left never let her eyes leave his. “Catch me, Draco.”
Suddenly they all disappeared and just as quickly as they had gone, he felt the light pressure of hands on his shoulders. Her voice whispered in his ear, “Catch me, Draco. I’m falling.”
When Draco opened his eyes he was startled by the blackness that affronted him for he was sure it was morning. Remembering the black ribbon he had tied around his head the night before he ripped it away and the room came into sudden brilliance. There was a small bird outside the window, singing in a mockery of joy.
At the end of the bed someone, presumably a house elf, had laid out a black robe of mourning for him to wear. The cape was thick and coupled with heavy black boots for trudging through the snow of the graveyard. Practical - yet all it did was raise a bubble of nausea inside him as he imagined his mother frozen in that ground.
He dressed slowly. He was to ride over with his father. Stand next to his father during the ceremony. Look as if he grieved with his father. When all along he wished to plunge a dagger in the depths of his father’s chest. He blamed his father just as much as he blamed his self.
She can’t escape.. She couldn’t then, she didn’t have the strength to leave him, and she can‘t now. Instead she went with him and received her own deathmark, believing somewhere in her heart that he still loved her and there is absolutely no escape for her.
Mother had proven him wrong. She had indeed found an escape and as greatly as it pained him, he admired her strength. He wished her now to bless him with that strength. He would greatly need it today.
Hermione blinked her eyes open wearily and was startled by the sheer feeling of unwell that enveloped her. Madame Pomfrey was immediately at her side and Hermione was startled by the dark circles under the healer’s eyes. Her confusion showed on her face. Madame Pomfrey sighed. “You’ve been asleep for two days, Miss Granger,” she said wearily.
Hermione pushed herself into a sitting position, adrenaline rushing through her. All of the beds around her were full. Not one of the occupants looked to be able of any conscious activity.
“I don’t understand what is going on,” the healer was saying. “But they just started pouring in. They all have the same symptoms.” Madame Pomfrey was smoothing over Hermione’s sheets, almost as if she did not realize she was speaking aloud. “They all came in here just like you did. They all have the same symptoms. I think-” Madame Pomfrey stopped and walked back towards Hermione’s head. “I think they all are suffering from the same thing,” she said in a slight whisper. “Its as if they are all sick with the same thing,” her voice betrayed her horror for if such a thing was true - who knew what it would mean for Hogwarts. “We have a spell we wish to try,” she finished
Hermione was startled. “A spell?” she asked.
“Yes,” Madame Pomfrey said as she helped Hermione climb out of the bed. “We’re a little concerned and we think this may help.” As they reached the large vacant area in the middle of the room Madame Pomfrey took Hermione by the shoulders. “You do not have to do this,” she said to Hermione. “We aren’t sure if it will work, it shouldn’t hurt you any, but we don’t know if it will help at all. You see, you might be our only help in finding out what is going on. You see, Hermione, they all have your symptoms,“ Madame Pomfrey gripped Hermione’s hand. “Do you agree to have the spell cast on you even though we are unaware of the side effects?”
Hermione had a fleeting moment of remembrance where she saw Colin Creevy’s yellow eyes staring at her and blood trickling over his body and she realized she didn’t have a choice. Anything this spell did to her could not be worse than bleeding to death from some weird illness. “Yes,” she said resolutely.
Madame Pomfrey nodded. “I don’t know if this will hurt,” she said softly.
“Hasinth“ she said, wand pointed at Hermione.
A silver wisp drifted from the point of the wand and curled about the tip like smoke. It slowly wafted over to her and she watched, fascinated, as it danced before her. She reached for it, completely entranced, and it reached its own wispy fingers to her. Once it touched her skin, she gasped at the coldness. The mist pulled back, and then, as if changing its mind, came forward again, curling around her fingers.
It started to spread, up her arm and once it reached her elbow her teeth started chattering. She wanted to wipe it off but she could not lift her other hand to do so. She tried to rub it against her gown but it kept spreading, chilling her to the bones. She looked at her hand and it was a gray-blue and emitting a steam; the water vapor that forms when you step outside on a cold day and breathe the cold air. She continued to try and wipe it off but it kept spreading. Once it had reached her shoulder she dropped to her knees because the pain was so acute. She had to close her eyes because it felt as if they were being gouged out from the inside. Pins and needles kept shooting up her arm and then moved across her chest. She felt like her lungs and heart were blocks of ice inside her body.
Her vision was no longer of any use to her. All her senses began to shut down one by one. First her sight, then the feeling in her legs and arms. She felt as if the very blood in her veins was freezing. Her sense of smell was the third to go. She felt trapped in her body. Like she was in a dark room and the way out no longer existed. She was contained and could not fight back. She didn't know when her hearing went, but eventually there was a dull ringing in her mind and she knew she was now deaf. The last thing to go was her sense of taste. She could feel her body stopping all movement and everything freezing up and then her tongue felt like a piece of rock in her mouth. A cold piece of ice. She wanted to scream. She opened her mouth and took a deep breath, preparing to when suddenly everything was gone. She was lying on her back, on the cold floor and she was looking up at the ceiling. Her breath was coming in great heaving gasps.
“Miss Granger!” Madame Pomfrey was at her side, pulling her into an upright position. “Miss Granger, are you alright?”
Hermione was so cold. She was shivering, her teeth chattering together. “Did it work?” she asked.
Madame Pomfrey was silent for a moment and Hermione looked up to her with an inquisitive look. “Miss Granger,” the healer cleared her throat. “I don’t think it helped any,” she said softly.
“Why do you say that?” the girl wondered as she went to stand up, but quickly found out her legs were paralyzed.
“Please, don’t try to move, Miss Granger,” Pomfrey said as she scooped the slight girl up and placed her back in the bed. “I want the headmaster to look at you before we decide anything.” Then she bustled off.
Hermione was afraid. Surely whatever was now wrong was better than a disease that caused you to bleed from the inside out? Surely the headmaster could fix this? She tried to stand once more and was able to drag herself to her bed. She pulled herself up halfway onto the mattress before the coughing over powered her. She slipped off the mattress, her hand covering her mouth. She pulled her knees to her chest as she settled on the floor with her back against the bed. She was so cold. Her body felt as if it was being dipped into a bath of ice. Her skin had an odd bluish tint and she could not decide if it was real or a trick of the light and her unclear mind. She continued hacking until Madame Pomfrey came through the door once more, Albus Dumbledore behind her. Hermione pulled her hand from her mouth and held it before her in a beckoning plea as they rushed towards her. She had enough time to register with horror the red blood dripping from her palm before she lost consciousness again.
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