"You're ok now, you're fine," Sirius murmured into my bloody hair as I trembled, still biting back sobs, clinging to him for dear life. After what seemed like half and hour I pulled away, nearly slumping over in exhaustion before I caught myself.
"She tried to make me do it," I choked, hastily wiping at my eyes, a bandage wrapped around my hand and wrist soaking up the moisture. "Bellatrix was in my head, I couldn't do anything, and she tried to make me kill him." I looked up to see Sirius change instantly from sad to furious.
"Did she make you do it?" He asked quietly, and I shook my head, taking a deep breath and looking away, unable to look at him any longer. Over and over again I could feel myself walking forward, wand arm rising; totally out of control. It made me shudder, to think of what would have happened if I hadn't been strong enough to fight her off. For a long time we sat in silence, me sniffing occasionally and mopping off my face, trying to get out of my haze of pain and exhaustion, trying to shake the memories. Each time I dabbed my face dry, blood came off. Madam Pompfrey hadn't healed the cuts yet- she was so busy with others.
"Why aren't you below with everyone else?" I asked finally, my voice almost gone from screaming and crying. It was hoarse, raw. Sirius blinked, as if emerging from a dream and looked at me.
"I can't stand death," he said quietly. Unsure of what to say, I leaned back on the pillows, wincing and gasping when I let all my weight be supported. Bellatrix's cuts weren't healed yet, and they were still stinging, open wounds. Sirius looked at me sharply, hearing my gasp of pain. "I'll get Madam Pompfrey," he said, going to get up, the furious look on his face again.
"I'm fine-" I insisted, but the doors to the Hospital Wing opened, interrupting us. Luna was helping Neville along, who looked like he had the flu. Two men I didn't know were carrying Bill Weasley inbetween them. Bill looked like he'd been mauled by a bear, his face was covered in gashes and cuts. My friends were following them. Hermione and Ron were leaning on each other, both of them with red eyes. Harry looked like a walking Inferi, minus the blood and gore. His grief looked like it was beyond words.
"Sarah-" Hermione whimpered, and broke away from Ron, dashing over and embracing me, making me inhale sharply as she tightened her grip. "We saw you but we couldn't help you-" she ranted until Ron pried her off, looking just as concerned. The look on his face made me quickly look away, glad for once that hair was hanging out of my braid and hiding my face.
"Are you ok?" Harry and Ron asked at the same time as Bill and Neville went past.
"What happened?" I dodged their question, my eyes following Bill and Neville, worried yet exhausted, trying to remember parts of the night that were escaping from my memory. Everything was fuzzy. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my friends exchange glances at the sound of my voice.
"Fenrir Greyback got to Bill, and Neville tried to get past the barrier blocking the stairs." Ron explained in a flat voice, and I instantly looked into my lap, trying to keep myself from crying. This was my fault. If Dumbledore had prepared for this, if he didn't think that Draco wouldn't do it, then maybe, maybe Bill wouldn't be injured, Neville wouldn't be hurt, and I wouldn't have almost been made a Death Eater. "Sarah, are you ok?" Ron pressed when I didn't say anything or look up. Unable to say it out loud, I flipped my left arm over, the tattered remains of my sleeves flopping open, the top of my torn shirt sliding down my shoulder with the movement, revealing more cuts. Hermione almost shrieked and I heard the boys gasp as they saw what Bellatrix had done to the mark.
"Oh, Sarah." Hermione whimpered finally as I slowly turned it back over, burning with shame. I stared at the blankets, realizing now that my friends deserved the truth. At this point, I didn't think that I could feel or look any worse in their eyes, and that if I could tell them now, I might be able to tell them more about the future, something I'd wanted to do for the whole year.
"I knew this was going to happen all year long. I knew Dumbledore was going to die, and that it was Malfoy's job to let the Death Eaters in and then kill Dumbledore. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I couldn't tell you-" I hiccupped a sob, hating myself more and more with every passing second. Everything I'd been holding back all year, all the fear and injustice of it all had arrived and I couldn't handle it. Dumbledore had been wrong, I wasn't strong enough to do this, and I couldn't do what he wanted. It should've been me who was murdered this year, not him. I was a horrible, horrible person. "And he promised me," I cried, my voice breaking on the word 'promised'. "We confided in each other- trusted each other- and he-" Sobbing unashamedly now, I buried my face in my hands, cuts burning in the salty tears. My friends let me cry, and I didn't blame them- I'd lied for the whole year. When I got a hold of myself and finally looked up, my friends were looking at me sadly; not mad, like they should've been. "I'm sorry," I croaked, dabbing tears and a bit of blood off my face, looking away.
"Sarah, it's ok." Harry said quietly. "No one blames you. We knew something was wrong at the beginning of the year. It's ok."
"Really. Harry suspected that Dumbledore had given you a mission." Hermione added. Looking back at my friends concerned but understanding faces, I felt even more worthless. They shouldn't have accepted this- they should've been angry, they should hate me.
"What happened?" I asked softly after another moment, glancing again at Bill and closing my eyes, feeling sick at how much hurt I'd inadvertently caused.
"I think we'd all like to know." Lupin's voice came from the top of the ward, and he and Tonks were quickly walking down to us, both of them obviously still grieving. Coming over, they pulled up chairs next to Sirius and sat down heavily. "Are you feeling alright?" Lupin asked, looking at me then back away. I obviously still looked like hell, and all of them were wondering how I'd been possessed and how I'd gotten out of it.
"Well…Ron, Sarah and I were just sitting in the Common Room, Harry was with Dumbledore, and…" Hermione looked at me hesitantly, unsure of how to continue. Deciding to just let it all out, I spoke up, even though I didn't look up.
"I knew instantly when the Death Eaters were in the castle. Bellatrix attacked me as soon as she could. With all of them here, I didn't have a chance against her, and she possessed me. I was conscious of what she was making me do the whole time." I barely spoke, but I knew everyone heard me because of their reactions. Tonks said some very not nice things at almost the top of her voice, Sirius and Lupin stiffened, and my friends shifted, uncomfortable. I wasn't about to describe what it was like- they'd had a general idea.
"Erm, well, Sarah had warned us to get you guys right before her seizure, so I went to do that. On our way through the castle, we saw you. I called out to you, but you didn't respond, so I knew something was wrong. We went after you." Ron told me, and I gave him a weak smile. If it wasn't for him seeing me, the Order might not have found the Death Eaters.
"I got the remainder of D-Dumbledore's Army together to help." Hermione tripped over his name, one of her hands tightly holding one of Ron's. "But once Bellatrix put up that wall, we couldn't see what was happening up there." Hermione's voice got fainter, and Ron gave her a light squeeze.
"Malfoy cornered Dumbledore at the top of the Astronomy Tower. I was there, under the Invisibility Cloak- but Immobilized." Harry said, his voice like ice. I saw him glance at me, and I realized with a jolt that he'd seen everything. "He said that he let the Death Eaters into the school through the Vanishing Cabinet in the Room of Requirement." Staring at the blankets, I listened bitterly as Harry described how Draco was too afraid to kill Dumbledore and how Bellatrix tried to make me do it. As he spoke, I only got angrier at myself for trusting Malfoy. He was one hell of an actor. I'd only got one thing right about him- he was a damn coward.
"What happened on the grounds, Sarah?" Tonks asked, voice quiet but full of authority; she was in Auror mode. As if waking from a dream, I slowly looked up at her, unwilling to speak but knew I had to.
"It was her intent to take me with her, wherever they were going." I started, voice cracking. "But she stopped to get her revenge." Smiling bitterly, I looked out the window. The sun was rising over the grounds, shedding light on the scene for me when all I wanted to do was forget it. "Then she started to change the mark into a Dark Mark."
"I heard that, I was there, but farther away, trying to catch Snape." Harry's voice was strained, obviously remembering it. "Why didn't she finish it?" He asked, his thoughts catching up to him, and I tensed.
"Malfoy told her I was a Mudblood right before she did it. Bellatrix freaked out and did this." I gestured to my face, the cuts, struggling to keep my voice neutral.
"I'm going to kill him." Ron snarled, going to stand up, but Hermione yanked him back down.
"That's enough, shoo!" Madam Pompfrey suddenly appeared, her nose still red from crying, forcing everyone to scatter. She yanked the curtains shut almost viciously, then crossed to me. She worked in heavy silence- she was obviously transferring her grief into her profession. "Hold still, if you can. This won't be pleasant." She said stiffly, after helping me out of bed. Then she started finding every single cut and healing it as best she could. Every once and awhile, I hissed in pain as they closed or got smaller. After what seemed like forever, she let me sit to work on my face. There were only three cuts on my face, but they were huge. One started on the left side of my forehead, going all the way across it and my right eyebrow, ending at my hair line. The second started on the left side of my chin, cut across my lip and crossed with the first cut. The third was on my right cheek, straight across the cheekbone. Madam Pompfrey healed the ones that intersected, but after trying and failing, left the one on my cheekbone alone. "There, that's the best I can do. Here," she pushed two bottles of potions in my hands rather brusquely, "this is for pain, that one to help you sleep." And then she was gone, pressing a handkerchief to her mouth as she almost ran into her office. I picked up my wand, putting it into the waist band of my jeans considering the pocket in my robe was slashed, then pulled back the curtain.
"Aren't you staying here?" Lupin asked in surprise.
"No," I said firmly as I could, pushing up my shirt and robe as it slid down my shoulder again, fatigued.
"But, Sarah-" Harry started, then shut up, seeing the look I gave him.
"I'm leaving, that's final." I continued, sounding detached, even to myself. Trying not to limp as much as I wanted to, I left the Hospital Wing alone. Shuffling through the corridors of Hogwarts, I tried very hard not to cry. How could I have let myself be so stupid?! Thinking back on it, the relaxed conversations, the occasional hug, how he helped me through a seizure or two…it'd felt real. It had felt as natural as when I was with Harry, Ron and Hermione. Reaching Gryffindor Tower, I passed through the crowded Common Room without a word, wincing repeatedly as I went up the stairs to the girls' dormitory. Stopping at my trunk, I got a new set of clothes and dropped off the two potions, then went immediately to the showers. It wasn't hard to take off my robes and shirt- they were so torn I could've torn them off. As I dumped my pants on the floor, they crinkled. Pausing, hand still on the shower curtain, I turned back around, picking my pants back up. Fishing around in the pocket, I pulled out a letter of all things, stained with my own blood.
Mind fuzzy, I barely registered someone tucking something into my pocket. It crinkled, like paper. "I'm sorry," a familiar voice breathed, sounding anguished, and a cold hand lightly took the side of my face, a thumb brushing over part of my lip and my jaw before it vanished-
My hand clenched around the envelope, crushing the paper a little as I realized it was from Malfoy. Standing there, halfway in the shower, glaring at the envelope, I fought with myself. You should burn it on the spot. The fiercely angry side of my brain insisted, and I stepped slowly out of the shower, Summoning my robe and putting it on, turning the letter over and over in my hands. You should at least see what it says. The calmer side reasoned. Setting down my wand, I flicked open the seal with my thumbnail and pulled out the letter.