A/N: Ok, so the less filler-y of the two chapters. Thank you for the review if you left one, enjoy the chapter :)
Chapter Forty Two
I honestly have no idea if this will reach you, but I hope it does. Sirius had to do a summoning spell to get hold of this owl, and it looks pretty wild to me. Sorry in advance if it bites you.
I've started to remember things. Things that Lady V did. It's mostly in my dreams that they come, but I'm attempting to hold on to them rather than wish them away. That way I can merge them with my memories, fill in the gaps. It's not as easy as merely explaining away everything she's done – more like looking at why she exists in the first place. The more I understand her the more I can integrate her back in. She's me, and I have to take responsibility. So: I'm sorry. I am so, so sorry for the things I said to you. It's filtering through in bits and pieces but I can make a good guess about the details. I can't – and I won't – attempt to justify my words or actions. I tortured James. I tried to kill Arthur Weasley, I did kill Sandra Shore. I would have killed you if I'd had even half the chance. There's no rhyme or reason for it because there can be neither. I want power just as she does, but only because it can make me stronger. I'm going to turn that power to better uses though, I promise you that. I only hope that you can forgive me. If you can't, then I understand. You've done more for me than I could ever deserve. If you ever do need me, I swear I'll be there. In a heartbeat.
Don't be an idiot, there's nothing to forgive. I've been doing more research into multiple-personality disorders, and understanding the reasons for the emergence of the new identity is crucial. I also think that the Dark Mark probably helped to spark Lady V. It's a link to You-Know-Who isn't it? And he clearly does have some ability to manipulate minds, otherwise he wouldn't have so many followers. Or at least I hope he wouldn't. It's not nice to think that many witches and wizards would joint him entirely of their own free will.
But leaving aside Lady V, how are you? Do you need anything? Does Padfoot need anything? I imagine he wants his broom, but apart from that? I know Minerva (no comments about the use of her first name please, I'm only just getting used to it myself) arranged for a continuous supply of food to … My goodness, Fidelus Charms are fascinating spells. I almost wrote down where you are, and then found I couldn't. Really interesting. Something to study when I have some free time. Maybe when my maternity leave starts? Anyway, let me know if you need anything.
James sends his love – as does the bump. As do I.
Thank you so much for the potions. It's been maddening stuck here without any access to any kind of magic. I know it's for the safety of both of us that I don't use it – at least for the moment – but I'm supposed to be expressing the emotion I feel, so there you go: FRUSTRATION! Hopefully we won't need the Blood Replenishing one any time soon. Lady V hasn't made another appearance, and my nightmares are easing. The memories of what I've done feel like proper memories now, although they're jagged and often leave me feeling sick when they do come. But I'm seeing it as progress, that I'm on the right road to getting whole again. There's that old muggle saying, isn't there, that applies here, "Physician, heal thyself." That's what I've got to do.
You hit the nail of the head – Sirius is pacing about like- Well, a wild dog that's been caged. He'd give anything to be out, up in the clouds. He sends love back to all of you too; so do I. How is the bump? Kicking and strong I hope. You must be showing really well by now, isn't your due date in about six weeks? I feel like I should offer to help in any way you need me to, regardless of the fact that I can't possibly be of any help whatsoever. How's St Mungo's? I'm assuming Olivia hasn't mentioned anything to you about my sudden absence. And how are the others? Moony I know can take care of himself, what about Peter? I hope he's not getting himself into too many scrapes. Let me know so I can worry pointlessly?
p.s. – Any weird cravings you've woken James up in the middle of the night for yet?
Sadly only one craving, and it hasn't been for anything that required James to get up for. I need Marmite. It's yeast extract, a sort of funny dark brown goop with a really strong flavor and smell. There's a permanent metallic taste on the back of my tongue and this is the only thing that gets rid of it. I've literally hated it all my life, but apparently the baby can't get enough of it. Normally people have it on toast, but lately I've just been eating it with a spoon straight out of the jar. James loathes the stuff – refuses to kiss me before I've cleaned my teeth! But presumably aided by Marmite, the bump is indeed well, and kicking about quite happily in there. My due date is in four weeks' time, and I'm bloody not going to miss the daily attacks on my kidneys. We still haven't got a name picked out yet, but hopefully when the baby's born he'll look like a James Jr or an Alfie. Just as long as he doesn't look like an Englebert we'll be fine! My sister's going to have a baby too, apparently. I didn't know she'd even got married, but now she's going to have a baby. They're considering 'Dudley' for a name, so her letter informs me. With any luck he won't look a thing like his back-of-a-bus father. Oh, that's cruel. But unfortunately true. I haven't written back yet.
Tell Padfoot I did try to get his broom sent out, but our illustrious leader said no. He said a letter between us every couple of weeks is one thing, but because sending a broomstick by post is rare (so it seems), it could attract attention. If it helps, James hasn't been able to do much flying either – at the office, Mad-Eye's got them working into the ground, and if he's not there he's at HQ with the rest of our merry band. Truth be told everyone's exhausted. It just never stops. Heaven knows what it's going to be like when the baby comes. A few levels above 'hectic' I suspect. We might actually have to employ a house elf! Or get babysitters, at any rate. I'm sure Wormtail wouldn't mind doing it, once in a while at least. Poor Peter, he seems more twitchy and nervous than ever. Every time you speak to him he jumps out of his skin. He obviously hasn't got used to being alert all the time – he might be ready for an attack, but I'm fairly certain that he'd simply run away. In which case, since he'd find a safe place for the baby that probably does make him a good childminding choice, I suppose.
As far as Remus goes, honestly James and I are worried. We hardly ever see him now, and he's even stopped turning up at the full moon. I'm a little relieved about that, I have to admit. A stag and a massive dog with a werewolf is one thing – a stag by itself? My overactive imagination can't help saying that's just lunch with antlers. But my relief James isn't doing that aside, Remus has been really distant. Whenever we pin him down for a conversation, he's evasive and doesn't want to talk about what he's doing or where he's been. We've had him over for dinner a couple of times, but even then he just bolts his food and comes up with an excuse to dash away. We think Dumbledore has him on some deep-cover thing. God, I hope he knows what he's doing. We can't afford to lose anybody else.
Everything at the hospital is fine; Olivia doesn't suspect a thing (I think she thinks I'm under the Imperius Curse) and I'm about to go on maternity leave. Sorry to end on such a gloomy note.
All my love,
That could be worrying news about Remus. It does sound bad but remember Dumbledore wouldn't have sent him on any kind of mission if he didn't think he could handle it. I'm sure you'll be terribly shocked to hear that Padfoot and I disagree on the issue, but I don't think Remus' lack of communication and openness should be cause for concern. We're fighting a war, and part of warfare is – always has been – intelligence-gathering. And with intelligence, the less of it people are aware of the safer they normally are. If the truth is terrible, then as his friends we'll all want to help – Prongs and Padfoot definitely without asking questions first. You've got a baby on way, we're trying to hold my sanity together … is it any wonder Moony might think we've got enough on our plates as it is? However, I enclose a note from Sirius which I'm sure will tell Prongs to be on his guard and watch for any sign of a turncoat. It saddens me deeply to know that's because of Lady V.
I'm reasonably confident I remember everything now. Enough to believe I should be arrested for murder. Even if I know I cannot be held responsible for the actions of a splinter personality, now that I remember doing it, that argument no longer convinces me. Please keep this to yourself. I haven't told Padfoot, since he would probably chain me up for fear of me handing myself in to the Ministry – and apparently there are some pretty bleak things being implemented by Barty Crouch. No trials, the use of Unforgivables on Death Eaters … I suppose even for the rest of you, the line between us and them must be becoming a little blurred. Or very blurred. Ends don't always justify means do they? I wonder how far the Ministry will go before they learn that though.
Well, now we're both gloomy. I apologise for that. But in looking for a bright side, I never have to look further than you. You, James and the baby are the light on the horizon, Lily, you really are. Knowing that no matter what else happens, there'll be a little witch or wizard in the world soon with loving parents who are fighting to make his or her future a happy and peaceful one brings more comfort than I can express. Without sounding like an idiot writing in to Witch Weekly anyway. We both miss you. Hopefully it won't be much longer before it's safe to come home.
The morning of 31st July dawned just as one might expect a summer morning to do. It had been a little chilly overnight, but the stars had been spectacular, and the last one winked out just as the sun rose. Helena woke without Sirius next to her, though that wasn't cause for concern. He'd been taking walks on the clifftop in the mornings, trying to get some exercise and fresh air, to shake off the restlessness. She knew how he felt. As the weeks passed and Helena's nightmares had eased, and Lady V had stayed quiescent, it was difficult to stop their thoughts from looking homeward. They'd done all they could. No one was attacking them, no danger was assailing them. And in love they may be, but stuck with one person for days and days at a time, with no other human contact? She knew things about Sirius now that she would have quite happily gone to her grave not knowing. It was no wonder the poor bloke needed to get out. Up until this morning, however, he had gone outside alone. There were protections on the cottage that she wasn't sure existed outside it. And even if the anti-apparition field extended to the whole of Northern Ireland, other magics might weaken. Voldemort could pierce them. Possibly. It was that risk which had kept Helena inside. Right now she didn't care – she had a permanent headache due to a lack of air, and she was going to step outside. She dressed and went after Sirius. Who, predictably, reacted badly when he saw her.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"I needed to, Padfoot, I was being driven mad stuck in there."
"I don't care, it's not-"
Ignoring him, she moved further from the house. The breeze danced over her skin, playing with her hair. Sunlight was brighter than she remembered, but not warm yet. It felt like it might rain later – but this being Northern Ireland, that was a strong possibility any day of the year. The sea crashed distantly on the bottom of the cliffs and lifted the noise of seagulls to her, brought the tang of salt to her nose. She spent a few minutes absorbing it all before letting Sirius finally grab her attention.
"Hellfire. It is not safe."
"And when is it going to be safe?" she asked reasonably.
"Well, when- I don't know. But it can't be now. Not yet."
"Why not? We're both bored, Padfoot. I haven't felt conflicted or outrageously angry – Lady V hasn't tried to come out. We have to start pushing the boundaries. It's sensible, you know it is."
"No I don't. What I know is that you're vulnerable and exposing yourself for no obvious reason. It's not time yet."
"If there's some kind of – of test coming, then I'm done with waiting for it. There's a war going on out there-"
"Do you think I've forgotten that?" he bit out.
"I know you haven't, and neither have I! What I can't forget is that our friends are risking their lives daily while we're stuck being less than useless in the back of beyond! We don't have the right to do this, Padfoot! Do we?" she asked, her tone softer but more helpless now.
He turned away, looking back over the sea. "No," he said finally. "We don't."
"Then we have to start preparing to go back."
He slipped his fingers through hers, lacing them together. "Yeah. I know." They were quiet for a long time, the morning passing slowly around them. "So. Welcome back to fresh air, Hellfire," Sirius eventually said, the smile back in his voice. "How is it?"
"Right. Any … feelings?"
"Not so far. Oh, one!"
He turned to her. "What? Is it Vol-"
"Hunger, Sirius. I'm hungry," she grinned.
"Oh. Well, I think I could manage breakfast."
"Good. It feels like a French toast sort of morning."
"You'll be getting a bowl of cornflakes."
"Bon. Et quelquefois-"
"Easy, Hellfire that was the limit of my French."
He rolled his eyes. "What? Not all of us had French grandmothers."
"Pfft. Not much an an-"
Suddenly, her left arm convulsed, pain running like a wire through the Dark Mark. She more than recognised the feeling that echoed back in her gut. It was a surge of mingled dread and excitement, the sensation not unlike a portkey in the way it tried to pull her forwards. She gripped her forearm and tore herself from Sirius. Who, of course, followed. He'd understood what was happening without having to ask.
"Fight it, Hellfire."
"I don't – want to," she ground out. "I want to-" She felt her eyes shift colour, though she didn't black out. She took a threatening step forwards. "- be free," she hissed. Helena wrenched herself back, physically and mentally. "Be brave, be brave … I want to go, but I want to-"
"Fight him. I'm strong enough-"
"If you're strong enough, serve him! If you're strong enough-"
"Then I'm strong enough not to," she gasped, still moving backwards and unaware of the cliff behind her.
Her shout burst into the sky, and was followed by silence. Helena opened her eye, her vision blurring and unable to focus on the grass in front of her face. She was on her knees – when had she fallen? The Dark Mark still hurt, but the compulsion had done now. It throbbed with the aftermath of pain. There was no Voldemort at the end of it.
She raised her head slowly – he was stood ten feet away, wand out. As soon as he saw the blue eyes, he lowered it and sprinted for her.
"I did it," she whispered when she got to her.
"I know, I know, you won, you-" he cut off, apparently overcome with positive emotion. "I'm so proud of you."
"I did it!"
They kissed, and carried on kissing, only to break apart and laugh, smile, and then kiss again. "He can't control me anymore. I'm free."
Sirius smiled, his face radiant with more joy than she'd ever seen there. Helena knew hers was exactly the same – the feeling of liberation was coursing through her, making her feel like she could fly right now, without the bother of changing her shape. She didn't feel fragile anymore. Laughing with delight, she threw herself back down onto the grass, rolling around and giggling at the sky. Sirius sat down too, though his eyebrows were definitely raised.
"You're a little bit mad, you do know that?"
"And that doesn't bother you in the least, I suppose," he said, putting one arm over her body.
"Not in the least. Now get down here and join me," she said, pulling him down without time for a reply.
Happily, then, there was only a gap of an inch or so between their lips. She closed it quickly, twining her fingers through his hair and arching her back slightly to help him get the idea. His fingers snaked under her top, the tops of them ghosting over her ribcage. For once, the only emotions she felt were happy ones, and she opened the gate to her arousal without once feeling unworthy of him. Clothes didn't prove a barrier for long, and soon they were naked under the open sky. It was hardly the first time they'd made love, but to Helena it felt like it was – for a long time. It felt like coming home after a tortuously lengthy separation from him. It was being presented with the opportunity to relearn all of him: the way the muscles of his back flexed and moved under smooth skin; the wand calluses on the heels of his hands; the taste he left on her tongue when he kissed her; the sensation of his frankly perfect cock filling her. She came undone with a moan of his name, the aftershocks of her orgasm enhanced by his.
Knowing they were alone for miles, there seemed no hurry for them to cover up, or do anything except bask in the warmth of the sun. When cognitive function had returned, he said, "Safe to say we can go back now?"
She laughed. "I'd say so. I'll write to Dumbledore."
"Come on. Let's see if there's any champagne in the cupboards."
A/N: Well, I hope that was more killer. And there will be more killer coming in the next chapter! Review please!