An hour later, Peter returned home, opening the door with its familiar scrape, as he had always done. Yet this time so differently.
“Peter, what have you done.”
There was nothing I could do. I felt like I was at a crucial moment. I had a decision to make, but I didn’t know what it was. Thoughts weren’t coming properly. If Peter was a Death Eater, then what was I? A Death Eater’s girlfriend, just like Narcissa Black or any of those others. I saw the endless years of fear ahead of me and I knew I couldn’t—just couldn’t.
“They threatened to kill you, Hestia. I had to—I don’t—I’ve never been brave. I had no choice. Please, baby, please.”
A thought struck me—had Peter killed anyone? I longed to ask him, the dejected mass taking shaky breaths in front of me, but I found I’d really rather not know what he’d done. Peter was the constant in my life. Having him shattered to pieces in my mind shattered most of me with it.
“Hestia, I don’t have anyone else.”
I closed my eyes, trying to imagine myself in his situation, threatened with the loss of everything I loved, under so much pain I couldn’t even—but I couldn’t imagine the pain, I never could, not once in the billions of times I tried to imagine it after that day. What would I have done in his place? I would never know.
I opened my eyes. I was hopelessly groping for some sense and reason that I could not find.
I did leave Peter, that very night, but it wasn’t out of righteousness, or because I couldn’t trust him anymore. I left because it was impossible to stay. And besides staying, there was nothing to do but leave. I had this distant idea that I couldn’t go on living with a Death Eater, so I followed it.
“I’m leaving, Peter,” I said, the very idea springing tears to my eyes.
“No,” he looked up, “Hestia, they would have killed you, just to get to me. Don’t you see—?”
I couldn’t bear looking at him in the face. In some perverse way he had sacrificed his dignity for me—become a Death Eater so I could stay alive. And here I was, living and breathing and leaving him—yet, how could becoming a Death Eater ever be the right choice? I looked around the flat, but rather hopelessly. How do you begin to pack up three years of living in the same five rooms?
The ridiculousness of the thing is I still trusted him. I knew that he wouldn’t hex me if I turned my back, and I knew that when I asked him to help me get stuff off the shelves that he would do it. He was in shock too, but neither of us was vengeful. For that painful hour I remained in the flat, we both cursed life more than each other, and though we didn’t speak much, we knew each other’s minds. I think we were both crying.
The last thing I packed was my potions stores, which were fairly extensive, though nothing compared to some of the Healers I worked with. I opened one box, slowly observing each ingredient. They were messily organized, and only some were labeled, but Potions had always been my best subject. I made some quick calculations and selected a scrofula fang. Without ceremony, I jabbed it into my lower left forearm, too late realizing I had just scarred myself in the same place a Dark Mark would go. This coincidence made the unreality of the situation even more overpowering. I felt lightheaded, whether from the effects of the poison or my mental state I did not know.
“Hestia, what are you doing?”
I quickly snapped the box and shoved it into my last trunk. It was Peter, coming from the next room. He looked horrible.
“Peter—“ I said, but there was no way to finish the sentence. His eyes and his mouth moved to start speaking, but nothing came out. I picked up my three trunks and headed towards the door.
But it wasn’t right. There was something I had to say or do—I couldn’t just leave him there, could I?
“I love you Peter, you know that, even if—“ I stopped.
I shouldn’t have said it, even if it was the truest thing I knew. It couldn’t help anything, and I think it made him accept the finality of what I was doing. Because much as we both knew that we could never see each other again, it was impossible to imagine.
He rushed towards me and fell to his knees, saying my name.
“I’m on my knees, Hestia,” he clenched a fistful of my robes and looked up at me. I looked away. No one should ever have to see someone they love like that. His expression in that one moment was impossible to forget, his smooth face fallen, his eyes screaming at me. “I never get down on my knees for anybody, Hestia, but I’m here now.”
“What am I supposed to do, Peter?” I tried to say it sharply. I tried to hate him for what he did. But all I could see in my head was a faceless man named Voldemort threatening to kill me if Peter did not serve. God, what hadn’t he sacrificed for me?
His hand reached up to my face and his sleeve fell down his arm, again revealing the blackened skull and snake.
I shuddered at the sight, “I’d rather be dead than see you like this,” I whispered hollowly. Though it wasn’t even true, really—all I could think about was how much I would miss him.
He crumpled and began to cry, which was even worse. I had never seen a person so pathetic in my life and it scared me to see that it was Peter, my Peter behind those shuddering robes and red eyes. My hand was on the door, but I couldn’t leave him like this. Still, I could feel the poison tingling up my arm—I didn’t have forever. I threw down my trunks, shrunk them to the size of matchboxes, and shoved them in my pocket, which is usually not the best idea. I moved to open the door, but Peter again threw himself at me, clinging to my robes.
I wanted to take him up and kiss him again—like that first time, when it had all been so easy, except now for the last time, but I didn’t dare make this harder.
“Hestia!” he was unable to look me in the eye, “Please.”
“What else can I do, Peter?”
“Stay. You can stay,” he choked.
“No,” I shook my head, “No.”
“You could. You don’t have anywhere else to go,” he said it like a sullen child. “God damn it, Hestia, I’m the reason you’re alive!” He stood up and seized my shoulders with a wildness I had never seen in him, “I’ll never regret it—never. You’re all I care about.”
I gave a great sob and flew out the door, slamming it behind me.
I Apparated to St. Mungo’s and my some miracle managed not to splinch myself.
“Hestia,” said Joanne from behind the front desk. She said my name so normally, as if my world wasn’t shattering, “You’re not on duty until Monday—“
“And you may as well cancel that, Jo.” I leaned against the desk. My breathing was becoming a struggle. “I’ve accidentally poisoned myself with a scrofula fang.”
She gave me a terrified look. She fumbled behind her and pulled on the red rope behind her, for emergencies only.
“You’re quite sure, Hestia? Quite sure? That’s six months intensive care—at least!”
“Yes I’m—beyond positive. My boyfriend—left it out—accidentally—“
Three Healers came running out of the double doors; Max, Lois, and Eleanor answering the emergency call. I tried to lift my hand to greet them, but found it heavy as lead upon the desk. I could see everything perfectly clearly, but my hearing was getting far away. I couldn’t move anything anymore. Slumping against the desk, I wondered far too late if I was doing the right thing. I tried to think of any other situation in which poisoning yourself was the right thing. I couldn’t think of one, but then again when you have your face mashed into a stack of papers, it’s not exactly the best of time for thinking. I needed to get away, that I knew, and I needed time. This was the only way I knew how to get it.
Someone’s hands, I think they were Jo’s, righted me. Her fingers felt like fire against my skin.
Graciously, someone Levitated me. I was floating through the cool, clean air, nothing touching me, nothing hurting me. My head lolled back on my shoulder. I couldn’t support it, so I watched the lines in the ceiling go past, observing the familiar bubbles of light floating along. I pretended I was one of them—unthinking, just floating, helping people by just existing.
But the calm could not last long. It was all too soon replaced by a crushing despair.
I was safe now, nothing could hurt me. There was nothing more to be done; no more to learn, no more to say. Completely safe.
But look what I was reduced to.
They let me down on a bed. My back burned at the contact. Max turned my head so that I could see him. His eyes, set deep back in his head, were staring at me anxiously. His full lips pronounced, “We’re going to put you out.—See you later, Bean.”
His voice was a distant echo, but I could read his lips. He graciously closed my eyes for me—I hadn’t been able to blink in at least a minute.
“Stupefy,” came the echo.
Thank you, I thought. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
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