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Chapter 2 : Nothing thicker than a knife's blade.
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‘Helena, you have seemed so detached lately, you must be spending too much time outdoors because I do find the wind makes your thoughts all loose and discarded. You cannot formulate a single thought when they are like that, so stay inside, Helena. Stay inside and read the book about the magic of the Norse community. It is very informative and will aid your History of Magic studies greatly.’
‘Yes, Mother. I will go and fetch it now.’
‘Very good, Helena. Remember, do not forget to read every day. Your mind requires it for nourishment and only the fool forget that. You do not wish to be a fool, Helena, do you? An existence as a fool is a rather barren one after all.’
I nod and even allow a small smile to creep onto my face for nothing can harm, hurt or hinder me today. I met Eleanor in the rain whilst everyone else attended breakfast in the Great Hall. I met her in the rain, in the shadow of the Unicorn Lair whose residents understand the power of abstract ideas and how beauty can be found everywhere. There, we can be understood.
Streams of white bleed across the windows, bleaching them until the frame is no longer transparent. It is no longer translucent either, but an opaque, thick forming colour blocking out everything and one. Like my mind, I ponder. It wanders about, trying to focus upon a subject, a matter of interest, but the only thing which captivates it is you, dear Eleanor, all is lost to you.
‘The snow is building up for every hour that passes, is it not, Helena?’ Aunt Helga asks me, turning in her chair to face me. ‘I am beginning to fear that the students will not be able to return from their homes after Yuletide. But I always am a worrier, am I not, Helena?’
I indulge her with a rare smile of mine before speaking. ‘Yes, but the snow is rather thick so you have reason to worry, Aunt. I do hope that your plants will not be damaged as that would be a shame.’
‘I think they shall survive the night. They are considerably sturdier than us.’
I nod at her words before returning to my book. The words sprawled across the pages mean not a word to me, the streams of black float up and down, not sticking to the set lines but having a life of their own. It is my final Christmas Eve as a student here. It is my final one before my eighteenth year. My final one before all the unknowns begin.
Time flows before me, never-ending in its stream of numbers as each one flickers upwards and upwards, getting closer and closer to the Day of Judgement. Soon, my husband will be chosen for me and I will be forced to live a life of solitude, locked up in his house and the sole purpose of my life will be to respond his bidding. A rather dismal prospect if I do say so myself.
The idea of you, Eleanor, the owner of the sweetest and dearest heart, always disappears into the depths of the past at this point. The idea of you is forgotten as nothing can withstand the power of society, of upward wills and desires. I am simply a lump of clay, a blot in the landscape, ready to be faded out, moulded into something, whenever someone desires it. My own desires will never prevail.
‘Aunt Helga, may I ask you something?’ I say.
This is the reason for me following her after dinner. Alone and secluded in her private chamber, I can ask her anything that takes my fancy without fear of anyone entering and interrupting our talks. Anyone being a potential talker who could ruin everything for me if they listened to too much of this conversation.
‘Yes, dear, I had a feeling something was bothering you. You seemed so… so lost, I suppose, today. Tell me child, what is it?’
Her words surround me and provide the warmth my own mother’s tongue is expected to give out. Except Mother’s words are never ones of calm and patience but of barbs and bruises. If I listen too carefully, too much too, I will be forever bruised and beaten down by them. With Mother she is the lone victor, the wielder of the knife. She alone is the one who has decided who succeeds or fails, and she has clearly dealt her cards for me as Nike, the winged Goddess of Victory, does not fly by my side.
‘If one knows one is doing something wrong, something which could be considered as eternal admonition for the soul, would one carry on with it? Would one carry on with it because for once it gave them boundless joy and a meaning for their bleak existence? Would one carry on with it because it meant that when the sun shines and one finally knew the reason for its beams of light? Would one be allowed to carry on for all of that?’
‘That was quite some speech, Helena, dearest. Are you sure you are not better served by asking your mother these questions of morality and the sanctity of the spirit? My knowledge severely lacks the depth of your mother’s; surely, she could give you these answers?’
‘She could, Aunt Helga, she could. But she would not. She will believe, and say so accordingly, that my soul deserves to be damned if I do anything which will cause my reputation to fall into disrepair. She will not sympathise at all, she will just yell and cry and tell me that she will damn me even more. You do not understand, Aunt Helga, she will not help me.’
I watch Aunt Helga’s absorb my words for what they are. Her face tenses up so its transformed into a world of ditches and rivets, of tracks and holes as the wrinkles make her face take on a wild, beastly form almost. She is transformed and I begin to fear. Fear because when Helga is like this it only leads to outbursts between her and Mother.
‘You may find that help is easier to find if you did not insist on speaking in riddles and metaphors for every line of your speech, Helena, as that does make it a good deal harder to understand. However, I will try and address the matters at hand. I do believe that if the question of the afterlife is involved, one must heed great caution. I know your mother disapproves of these matters, a thing which caused a great deal many of the rifts between your father and her, but I do believe some truth does lie behind the idea of a life beyond this one.
‘So I will warn you now that whatever you are doing must be done with the image of Him in mind. Whatever you do must take concern for where you want to lead your later life. Your life is a gift, Helena, do not make it a damned one because you will have eternity to contemplate all the mistakes you make. Do what you know is right and nothing shall come to harm.’
A life of being damned. A life of being fallen. A life of sinning. I have been ignorant in the light of wisdom. I have been gluttonous in the light of self-surrender. I have been vanity in the light of the mirror.
I have fallen to the deadly sins. I will have to try and redeem myself.
You seek me out in my daily stroll of the grounds a few days after Christmas Day, when the festivities have finally begun to wind down. I see you, I sense you, I hear you, all of my sensors for Eleanor Gryffindor have remained on full alert but I block you out. I will not fall. I will not fail. I will not flounder. Loving you is not right, correct, proper, I know that and I shall remember that.
‘Helena, Helena, Helena,’ your voice chimes through the icicle filled air. No, I will not respond to your cries. I will not submit to your charm. I will repent and ask for forgiveness and hope that God finds it within his heart to grant me that.
That is all I can ask for as I am sinner who remains sinning.
‘Helena, why do you ignore me? Why do you ignore my cries and shouts? Helena, listen. Please.’
Your voice taunts and teases me. I run to the depths of the forest, trying to flee from the root of my joy, my lust, my desire. Aunt Helga is right. I must not think only of my life now, the life of the present but the one of the future too and what will happen to my soul there. I may even do Mother proud in my decision, Father too. He was a man of the cloth, he will understand my decision.
‘Helena, who has said that what we are doing is wrong? Who has warned you off of the path of what is right for us, what is virtuous for us? Helena, you must not listen to their poison, their venom. Helena, you have to see the world is a place of dual thoughts, meanings, perspectives. What may be wrong for them is right for us. Please accept that. Please don’t give in.’
I cannot listen. I cannot answer. I raise my hands to my ears and begin to whisper what Aunt Helga said to me. On and on the words go, floating around my mind. Providing me comfort in this time of isolation. For I am not alone when I say these words. I do not need you, Eleanor, however much my heart yearns, begs, cries for you. I will live on without, you, Eleanor. I will do that.
I think of your soul, your future too, though. I do not want it to perish away in the curls of charcoal where all the other sinners slumber.
I manage to evade your ethereal presence for the rest of the walk. I manage to evade it again whilst having supper, as I choose to isolate myself on the solitary Ravenclaw table and sup with a book by my side. It pleases Mother anyhow as I see she smiles down at me as I pull it out from beneath the table.
I do not, however, evade you during the stroll back from Aunt Helga’s chamber. We had been saying our evening prayers together as we both find that when they are said in the company of another they contain even more power than otherwise and the Lord may be more likely to answer our wishes then. As I bid her farewell and goodnight and secure the door shut behind myself, I see you then.
‘Helena, talk to me. I beseech you. Please do not turn from me again. I cannot bear it. I cannot bear being without you. Please, listen to what I have to say.’
I am lost. I cannot give in, I cannot, but the solid thump, thump, thump of heart does not slacken in its pace, only grows to be faster and faster for every second that I stand here. I want to listen to you. I want to be with you. However, I equally wish not to be damned.
‘You may speak. You may whisper the words which have been burdening you, but I will not turn. I will not see you for then my soul may be safe, may not be as damned. I cannot simply think of now, Eleanor, I must think of beyond that. I must think of the future of both of us.’
‘Helena, do not tell me that you honestly believe that we could be damned for what we may be about to do? Do not tell me that you think the words found within the Holy Book are the sincere truth? Do not tell me that is what you believe? For it is fool’s words, a trickster’s, a joke. Yes, there may be an Almighty Lord who will come to judge us one day but there is no evil, no sin, in what we’re doing. God gave us these feelings, he gave us these emotions, he gave the world you and I, so do not believe that what you feel is wrong. He made us like this.’
‘Aunt Helga said-'
‘What Aunt Helga said may be true for some,’ you say, swiftly cutting me off, ‘For murderers, for beggars and robbers, but not for us as it is only love we feel and is that really evil? Is caring for one another a crime? Answer me that, Helena, answer me truthfully, from your own heart, is that a crime?’
I pause, the words spinning round and round, so fast I almost feel nauseous. Round and round they go, an increase in tempo, a change of direction. One, two, three, one two, three, I count the rhythm in my head. God, love, sin. God, love sin. What do the words mean? What do they really mean?
‘I do not know, Eleanor. I do not know what is truth, what is false, what is a carnal crime or what is even a crime. I do not know a thing. I am a fool.’
‘I see…’ you murmur softly, your voice swirling off down the corridor, disappearing into the wisps of darkness. ‘I see how it is. I see what you’ve decided. I shall accept that then. I shall have to.’
‘But…’ I sigh, if I am to commit a carnal crime by uttering these words, so be it. ‘I do know that I love you.’
The words spill out of my tongue like the fumes of a potion spilling out into the air. Uncontrollable, untameable, they spill out. They continue to do so, running and running down the corridor as if the whole word will know my most intimate secret, the secret of my heart. They will know how I feel. All will. Even Him, up above.
‘You do, you really do…’
‘Yes, I do.’
And an ocean of calm washes over me. I feel as if I have been plunged into the lake and that my body has been wiped clean and I have been born again with a purer life, a purer mind, a purer heart. Happiness washes over the melancholy. This is what it is to be.
Author's Note: Sorry for taking ages to update, September was the craziest month ever for me in terms of school work and then October I had a load of personal issues to deal with, so the next chapter had to wait until November but I hope you enjoyed it nonetheless!
The quote at the top and in the title comes from page 421 of Selected Works of Virginia Woolf by Virginia Woolf, Google Books Edition, and again, thank you, Virginia Woolf, for being a massive inspiration!
If you have time, please review as I would love to know what you think, and thanks for reading! ♥
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