She had intended to follow orders. It was really just automatic at this point, after almost a year. The sound of the Commander's voice held the same steady, absolute authority for her that her mother's once had, and he had told her it was over now, the adrenaline of battle fading into a kind of numbness around which the chaos of the aftermath swirled like a strange, terrible dream in which her eye had taken to throbbing a deep, searing drumbeat.
A part of her, a very distant part, knew that it was beyond help. Demelza had felt the Death Eater's hand gauge deep, felt the terrible pop of the eyeball bursting, felt the sick wetness of more than blood pour down her cheek, but it hadn't truly come together yet into something that made sense as half blind, as forever, as disfigured or disabled. It was just a bad thing, lost in a torrent of bad things like a single droplet of water in a tsunami that had washed away everything about the world as she'd known it only a lifetime or a nighttime ago.
In the haze of the waking dream, her feet crunched on glass and stone, slipped in blood, stumbled around shattered stone and broken furniture and broken people. Somewhere far away, there was cheering and screaming and calling names and inconsolable tears. Robes of medical red and Auror green swirled here and there in what had been authority in the world before, and what was authority in the world now drew her mindlessly towards the greatest concentration of scarlet at the far end of the hall.
Getting something done about that eye.
A sudden, jarring something almost knocked her off her feet, and she reacted immediately, instinctively, swirling to crouch and fire, but she had long spent her last reserves, and the pop and spark of her wand was barely enough to char a faint, black smudge on the robe of the poor bastard who had backed into her. It was a moment of panic when he didn't go down, a surge of certainty that she had failed, that she was about to die, and there wasn't a damned thing she could do about it any more when hands closed over her shoulders that would surely close next over her neck.
She screamed, thrashed, tried to twist away, but she was too far beyond exhausted, and eventually, the words drummed through the bizarre reality that she was still alive. Calm down, love, it's all right, I'm here to help you, hush, hush...
Scarlet robes with a crossed wand and bone. Kindly, almost familiar eyes over a dust mask. Dark hair. Medic. She was supposed to be finding a medic. The gasps of panic had filled her lungs with too much of the smoke and stone, and Demelza doubled over into the still incredibly not hurting her grasp, coughing until the mess hacked onto the filthy floor was flecked in a little more red that hardly mattered in what had become the color of the world.
What's your name, love? I'm here to help you. Can you talk? I'm Dr. Corner, can you tell me your name? Are you all right?
To her. He was talking to her. Corner. They'd made Michael a doctor? Already? And this man had lines at the edges of his eyes, but they were so much like Michael's eyes, but he was young, one of them, blue robes not scarlet. It didn't make sense. Had the fight really gone on that long? It seemed like it might have, or at least, it didn't seem impossible. Nothing really seemed impossible any more. It was sunlight now but everything seemed dim, daytime now but she was shivering with cold. Victory and so many people were weeping.
She choked again, spat, shook her head and realized what a terrible mistake that was as it redoubled the growing inferno in the empty socket. Not me, she wanted to say, Anwen, Colin. Help them. Make them not dead. My sister. My boyfriend. If you're going to save something it's too late to save, if you want to give me a miracle, save my world, not my eye.
"Demmy." The word sounded utterly alien, a child's lost tone rasped out of the throat of a dying fishwife. "I think I'm hurt."
You're in shock. Here, sit down, give me the wand, let me look at your eye.
Shock. No. That didn't seem right. Shock was supposed to be something hard, impacting, brutal, the thrust of a hand into your eye that burst and destroyed. The explosions and flying glass and shattering stone and shattering people that used to be school. The scream of your sister as a spell tore her open. The wrongness of seeing her arm go spiraling away from her body through the air and her intestines gurgle out like the sickest possible parody of a canister of joke nuts. The futility of trying to put back too late and stop too far gone and watching eyes so much like yours fall empty.
That was shock. Shock was ugly. This was almost pleasant, this fading, numbing, graying slide away from what little reality was left with this man whose hands were gentle and eyes almost familiar.
Something pinched her arm where he had been holding it, and Demelza shook her head violently, forcing the pain, refusing to let this tempting drunken easiness take her, knowing it was too good to be true. He'd hurt her. Lied. It couldn't be over, wasn't over. It was a trick, a ruse, that's not how things were any more. Grownups in uniforms didn't come to fix things in the new world, no one helped but DA. But she'd failed the DA, hadn't she? Too weak to keep fighting, the Commander had sent her away, and now she was...what was she again? Did it matter? It was getting so much harder to think.
From a reserve she didn't even know she had, a last, surging bubble of strength and clarity broke the surface of her mind and body. She heard herself scream, twisted away and took the bastard by surprise, lurching to her feet and lashing out with a ferocious kick that took him across the jaw with hard-trained accuracy. Demelza almost escaped, made it a half dozen lurching, staggering steps away, then the floor was reeling up to meet her again and it wasn't right, because it wasn't hard and cold when she landed.
Someone had caught her, and in the blur of one remaining, increasingly heavy-lidded, tear-slurred eye it seemed to be scarlet robes and familiar eyes and a dust mask stained with blood and she'd gotten him, she'd hurt him, he was supposed to hurt back now, go in for the kill because she was too weak. Why wasn't she dead yet? Why didn't he just finish it? What kind of madness was this that would extend mercy on the vulnerable? Or was he just waiting for her to fall into what was taking her, to not be able to hold on any longer when she could feel her fingertips slipping away from the last crumbling edge already?
She was too far gone to speak, vaguely aware that the noises were uninelligable burbling murmurs, but it hardly mattered, because those she was speaking to were long past being able to hear. Please, just let me be dying. Let me be going to be with you. I don't want to be hurt any more, I don't want to keep fighting, but I don't remember how to live.