I wince in pain as I stir in the bed, but when I try to move my hands, I cannot. I feel breath tighten in my throat as I realize where I am, and what had happened the night before.
I feel lips meet the back of my neck. ( Sleep well, beautiful?Collapse )
This morning I can barely drag myself along the far edges of the lake with Terry. We're roughly 2/3 done mapping the Hogwarts boundary within the outlying areas, and it seems as if we'll never finish. The wet reeds continuously slap at my arms and face, and I gave up long ago on wearing my shoes, so the two of us are wading barefoot at the moment.
It would have helped if I could have gotten some sleep last night, but I stayed up the entire night, elbow deep in Arithmancy texts. Somehow, between Justin's dark mark ceremony and my encounter with Neville where he'd used the Transmorgification torture on the ferret, a little kernel of an idea had started to form in my brain. It seems to me we are so limited with the curse that we practice. I can't help but wonder if they could be altered, bettered. The killing curse, per se. Effective yes, but how much better it could be if it killed the person slowly, without their knowledge even, so that by the time they died the killer would be far away, kind of like a poison. The thought intrigued me. So Sunday, after a long night in which Justin and I stayed up late talking, I woke up after he had left for the castle and buried myself in the library.
After hours, I was no closer to where I started. This was going to take time, and an intimate knowledge of the curse itself, perhaps hidden in a simpler, innocent looking spell, a charm of some sort. A Cheering Charm...
So I began slowly breaking down the arithmatic components of the killing curse. Reseach, pure and simple. Once I started, it was hard to stop, even when Justin came home. He stuck his head in the library, took one look at me surrounded by quills and parchment and ducked out quickly. He convinced me to take a break, of course, but after he fell asleep, I came back down and worked by candlelight unitl I was too tired to carry on.
So I slogged through the marshy grasses while Terry babbled on about Professor Lupin. My thoughts were full of equations and incantations, when suddenly something Terry said made me pick up my head.
"So... apparently they had a fight, Professor Snape and Remus. Remus is worried he might not make his potion this month.
"Really?" I ask, with wide eyes. "That's terrible, just terrible." I break off a reed in my hand and crush the stalk, the milky juices running through my fingers. But it gives me such a wonderful idea.
How I'm feeling:
What I Hear: Terry talking about "Remus"
I spend the morning with Terry, slogging once again through the depths of the forbidden forest. The bloody light better be grateful for our latest contribution, as the two of us saw the Biggest Spider I have ever seen. We wisely went the other way, and it seemed to be sleeping or ... something.
We haven't seen the Centaurs at all, which is probably for the best, as I know they certainly wouldn't take kindly to my jaunt into their territory. Terry could charm them perhaps, but still, I'd rather not risk it. We've been mostly skirting the edge though, so it's not too dangerous if you discount the massive biting flies.
We mutually decide to skive off for the rest of the aftenoon, so I decide to go back to the castle and look for Justin. I'm well aware I have a twig or two in my hair, but at the moment, it really doesn't matter. He's not in the kitchens, and I ask Megan and Ernie if they've seen him I get a rather uneasy stare and an angry glance. That doesn't bode well, or perhaps it does, depending on your perspective.
I just stare back at them. "Well, if you see him, tell him I stopped by." Ernie makes a motion that could be almost considered offensive, but then just shakes his head.
"I'm sorry, Padma, just had a difficult couple of days."
"Tell me about it," I groan. "If I have to see one more tree, I think I'll go mad. Do you know the size of the spiders in that forest?"
He laughs, but the sound is a laugh in name only. I look at him with thoughtful eyes. Something must be going on.
"Do you want to go have lunch or something?" I ask him.
He looks up at me in surprise, then after a moment nods decisively. "Sure."
He grabs a couple of sandwiches and a flask of Pumpkin Juice, and the two of us walk upstairs and back outside. I squint against the sun and motion over to a nearby shaded area of the gardens. "How about over there?"
It's a bit uncomfortable at first, but eventually Ernie looks up from his sandwich. "Padma? Can I ask you something?"
I raise an eyebrow and nod, and he continues quickly. "Is Justin okay? He seems different lately."
I chew my sandwich carefully. He looks worried. I wonder what Justin's been up to. I swallow finally. "Different? How?"
He shakes his head. "I don't know. More agitated maybe. Distant. It's hard to say. Have you noticed anything at home?"
"Nothing." I tell him, looking at him thoughtfully. I make my expression worried. "Thank you for telling me, Ernie."
He blushes. "No problem it's just ... I know you care for him, and if something's bothering him, I wanted you to know about it."
I smile at him. "Thanks. You're a good friend." I squeeze his hand, and we go back to our sandwiches, talking about inconsequential things. Inside though, my mind is racing. What has Justin been doing? He needs to be careful around his friends. They are more perceptive than he knows.
My thoughts also turn back to my conversation with Blaise last night. If I had to choose between Justin and the Dark Lord, there is no question in my mind what the choice would be. It's the fact that the choice could lead to the death of both of us that frightens me. I wonder sometimes if I am doing the right thing. Sometimes, I wish I could be like Blaise, to be upfront about what I am, to let go of the pretext. But then again, I wonder why they haven't hexed him yet. I suspect the only reason may be that he is claiming sanctuary from The Dark Lord. So despite wearing his mark for all to see, he is lying to them the same as I am.
I was wrong last night to accuse him of disloyalty, but it bothers me that he is so protective of Neville. That doesn't bode well. If I could kill my own sister in service to the dark, why should Neville really matter to Blaise? I don't buy his story that he's concerned for my safety. Pansy may be strong, but we were always equally matched, and now she has a new weakness, two actually. Neville and her baby. I wonder how I can exploit that?
Ernie's voice interrupts my thoughts. "So are you ready to go in?"
I look up at him and nod. I talk with him about the flying group Idiots... how do they think that could possibly help?, but inside, my thoughts still whirl.
How I'm feeling:
What I Hear: Ernie babbling about something
I spent the day out with Terry in the forest, and by the time we're done, I'm having trouble walking. My legs are going a bit numb, and there is a shooting pain down my spine. The mediwizard warned this might happen, so after we plot out the latest changes to the perimeter on our maps, I decide to go home early. I haven't seen Justin all day, except a brief glimpse of him helping Susan with some crates.
I need to talk to him.
As I am headed out of the Great Hall, I see a notice about a meeting. The numbness is now almost complete, and it is a chore to put one leg in front of the other. I just need some rest. Despite my devotion to the Dark Lord and knowing I really should attend the meeting, I ask Terry to pass on a message to Lupin that I won't be there, as he is going up to see him with our preliminary drawings. I also ask him to tell Justin I'm leaving. If he can pry him away from Susan for long enough... I can always meet with Neville later, I'm sure I can get him to bring me up to date.
I Apparate back to our flat and take some of the muscle relaxant potions from the healer. Almost instantly, I feel better, but a long bath helps as well. I look at the clock... It's getting late, and Justin still isn't home. I can't help but wonder what's going on with him. He's been silent the past few days, and came home last night after I'd gone to bed. I just hope he isn't with Susan, or that if he is, he has a damned good reason.
I slowly climb into bed with a book. Tonight I'm waiting up until he gets home.
I sit in the bathtub, resting my head against the cool porcelain as the warm water swirls just under my chin. I spent the day trekking through the forest with Terry today, mapping out the perimeters. It will probably take weeks for us to finish the job, weeks of biting flies and hot June weather.
I close my eyes. My back hurts so much still. The day's activity only illustrated how far I have come, and how far I have yet to go. I mull over in my mind all the gossip I learned from Terry.
The least of which is that Neville and Pansy seem pretty close. They make my work so easy for me. Terry had teased me to no end when Justin had brought lunch, but had seemed grateful for the sandwiches and soup.
"So, things are working out for the two of you?"
I kept my eyes on my sandwich. "Seems like it."
His eyes had followed Justin as he walked away. "He's got a nice ass, I'll give him that."
I choked on my soup. "TERRY!" He laughed when I growled. "Keep your mitts off my man."
The rest of the day was spent companionably. I sometimes forget how close the two of us always were. It was always us against Anthony and Micheal.
Days like this make what I'm doing harder. I need to stop toturing myself like this. I'm a Death Eater. It's time I face it.
I sink under the water and hold my breath until I have to come up for air. I look at my dark mark shimmering under the water. This is who I am.
|» Back to Hogwarts|
After one last final visit to the mediwizard, I finally have clearance to go back to work. Not that I couldn't have told them that a week ago... Justin and I have spent the past few days working on improving his skills ... I'm pleased at the progress he's made ... of course I expected nothing different. I beleive in him, even if he doesn't. I also told him as much as I could about the Dark Lord, about how to behave around him, about what to expect at Death Eater gatherings. I think some of the things I told him turned his stomach, but he has to know. Soon he will be taking part in these things, better that he be prepared.|
I went over to Hogwarts for the afternoon and checked up on how the rocky old pile has been faring in my abscence. I was completely reassured to observe they haven't appeared to make any progress whatsoever on anything. Things are the same, if not worse...
Justin and I talked about this the other night ... and frankly, as I have thought before, it looks more and more as if Voldemort's side may be the winning one.
I reinforced the wards, with Terry's help. He, at least, was happy to see me, and filled me in on the latest gossip, including the fact that Tonks and Kingsley have gotten involved, and that he has his eye on a certain someone. I spent the rest of the time reactivating the cleaning charms in the dormitories and halls. It's disgraceful really, how can they bear living in dust and decay? I did all the initial cleaning and set the charms, all that's needed is a bit of maintanence.
I'm tired when I get back home to the flat. The more I think about it, the more I think I'd like to continue living here and go back to the castle as needed ... I'll have to discuss it with Justin. We would have more freedom here, but there we'll be in a better position to serve our Lord.
I decide to try and surprise Justin with dinner .... so I go into the kitchen, put on an apron, and owl for Thai takeaway. Alas, cooking is such hard work. I start to clean the kitchen as I wait for Justin, and the food, to arrive.
|» Nothing. Absolutely Nothing.|
Justin and I spend the day doing nothing. Well, that's not entirely true, perhaps better to say we didn't leave the room. Things seem better after our conversation last night, but I know that only time will tell. |
Midafternoon he goes down to the kitchen to get something to eat, and I decide to catch up on some work. Now that I'm feeling better, I know I can't delay my return to Hogwarts much longer. I have duties there, as well as my duties for the Dark Lord. I need to keep a close eye on Neville and Pansy. I know they're already together, but I haven't told the Dark Lord yet. When the time comes, when I know she's carrying the heir, that's when the information will be most useful to him.
With that in mind, I sit down to write some owls.
|» Sound of Silence|
Since our evening with the Dark Lord two nights ago, the sound of silence has echoed throughout the flat. We came back that night, and neither of us really knew what to say to the other. Justin ended up sleeping on the couch, and I spent the night in a too big bed, awake until just before the sun was about to rise. He shouldn't have done it. I can't believe he did it. I had intended originally to recruit him to the Dark Lord's side, but somewhere along the way it became so much more than that. I blame myself, and I can't help but feel that I have wronged him.|
It's too late now, however, now the wheels have been set in motion, now I can only sit and wait, and beg whatever Gods are listening that I don't lose him because of this.
He spent all day yesterday somewhere, I don't know where really. I understand though that he needs to be alone, he needs to process what has happened. It angers me that the Dark Lord set this up. He had Third bring Justin, to force him into joining. The Dark Lord knows how to play to people's weaknesses, and I played right into his. Now, I suppose, all I can do is accept my loads and follow the path I have chosen. Whatever that may be. At least I will not be alone. I can take some comfort from that.
I spent the day yesterday quietly, playing with Batu, doing the exercises the doctor showed me, catching up on some reading, trying not to think. It didn't really work.
Today I find myself at the door to the studio. Justin is out again, and I hear Genna in the kitchen cooking something. I slowly walk in and close the door behind me. I clean my brushes with turpentine until they are soft then rub them dry on a cloth. The familiar odor of the paint soothes me. I stare at the bare canvas for a time before gently touching my brush to the palette. The painting will be what I make it, but here, at the beginning, anything is possible.
The mediwizards decided to keep me one more night. They said that way I would't have to come back in the morning for a recheck, instead, I could come back in a week, or go to see Lavender in the infirmary. This morning I can hardly wait. Justin left, saying he had things to do before he came to pick me up, and I sit up in bed waiting, already dressed, playing idly with the wrist band that identifies me, trying anything to keep from thinking of the summons from the Dark Lord that could come any time now. I've been twisting the band back and forth with my fingers for days, but only now do I really look at it. |
Padma Finch-Fletchley The words make my eyes widen.
I hadn't really given much thought to the subject since we opened the presents from Ernie and Terry, but now I wonder. We've never bothered to deny it to anyone. Half of St. Mungos thinks it's the truth. Probably half of Hogwarts too. Should it bother me that I don't mind people thinking that, that I actually rather like the idea?
Still though, the thought that the Dark Lord awaits troubles me, not because I fear punishment, I expect that, after all, I did attack people I thought were Death Eaters. But I am fearful because after waking up, I feel this strange sense, as if I am forgetting something important. Something I am supposed to do. Everytime I think of the Dark Lord I get this sensation. Perhaps it has to do with Justin? He has said he will stay by me. What does he mean by that? Would he truly side with the Dark to be with me?
I look at the flowers beside me in the vase. Their petals curl out, white and pure. I lay my hand over my arm where the Dark Mark lays disguised. So different, these two sides of me. I don't know if I can even tell them apart anymore.
Today I get to go home. The mediwizards keep putting through my paces, and although I drop back into the bed each time, exhausted, I am always eager to get up when they come back the next time. The braces help a lot. It's still an effort to move my legs, and I am very unstable on them, but they say that with time, they'll come off, and I'll be normal again. Justin's mother has been wonderful. She's been in and out, talking to me, bringing me books. It makes me wistful, really. I know Justin appreciates her, but he also resents sometimes when she is with me. I don't understand why exactly. But something happened when I was unconscious, that much is certain. |
I'm sitting in the bed when I receive an owl. Luckily I am alone, because when I read it, I feel the blood drain from my face. He knows I am getting released then. He wants to see me soon, to call me to task for my actions that night. Now, of course, I know our attackers weren't Death Eaters, but at the time, I thought they were. And I attacked them to prevent them killing a Muggle. The Dark Lord will not be pleased. But, I believe I know what to tell him to sway his anger, or at least somewhat.
Justin walks in then, and before I can stop him, his hands sweep over the letter from me. His features brighten. "This is terrific, Padma, he really wants to see you?"
I look to make sure the door is locked, then look up at him, "It's not from my father, Justin," I say in a low voice. "It's from him."
He stares at me in confusion, then his eyes widen in understanding. The paper drops from his fingers, and he sits on the bed next to me. "I won't let you. I won't let you go."
I shake my head at him and whisper, "It doesn't work like that. I have to. When he calls I have to answer."
His arms go around me. I can feel the tremors going through his body, but he says nothing, just strokes my hair and kisses the top of my head.