Thanks, so, so much to my amazing beta, Sarah, for her fantastic and super-quick editing, and for giving me a much-needed kick up the arse :P And thank you to t'other Alex for being just as wonderful and looking over the revised version.
Disclaimer: I'm stating the obvious here - I'm not J K Rowling, though I can make a mean spag bol when I want to XD
I don't think it was ever mentioned who was Head Girl in HBP, so I took a liberty and made that person Leanne. (If it was mentioned, then sorry :S)
The title of the story is directly taken from Laura Marling's Flicker and Fail, and there are a few lines, marked with an asterisk (*), that you might recognise, although it's only very loosely based on it, really.
Finally, if you want any background music while reading this, I'd recommend Don't You Remember by Adele, which also inspired this fic along with Flicker and Fail. All the italicised lyrics and the chapter titles are from Don't You Remember - although I am neither Laura Marling nor Adele, and I do not own either song.
Leanne Starr watches Katie Bell anxiously as she awakens. She is waiting for that spark of recognition to flicker in Katie's eyes, but instead, they are dull and blank and confused.
"Do... do I know you?" Katie asks tentatively.
"Katie, it's me, Leanne," she says, trying to stop herself from breaking down there and then. She has been warned that this will happen, that Katie will not know who she is, and yet it still hurts just to look at her. Leanne grips the sides of the chair she is sitting in, next to the bed. "I'm..." she pauses, swallows hard at the growing lump in her throat and forces herself to go on, "I'm... your best friend."
"Best friends? Us? Really?" Katie asks incredulously. Then, her eyes, her beautiful eyes, fill with pity as she says, "I'm so sorry, but I think you're visiting the wrong person. Anyway, should you be at school? How old are you?"
"Eighteen," Leanne whispers. "Same as you. We go to the same school. Hogwarts. Dumbledore-"
"Who?" Katie interrupts, looking even more perplexed.
"Our headmaster," she says, her face anguished, "allowed me to visit you, just for today."
"Why just you? Where are the rest of my friends?" Katie looks around expectantly, as though she hopes they will jump out of the corner. "And why you didn't visit me before?"
When was the last time you thought of me?
Or have you completely erased me from your memory?
Leanne can't stand it a moment longer; she looks away from Katie, trying, fruitlessly, to hide the tears that have sprung from her eyes as she remembers how much she has had to argue with Professor McGonagall to allow the visit. She remembers the last time she visited Katie, during Easter. A Katie who didn't remember Leanne at all is only marginally better than an unconscious one, and Leanne wonders how long this - this amnesia will last. What if it goes on forever?
Katie, however, doesn't seem to have registered any of this as she peers at Leanne more closely, taking in her petite form, her dark hair and sweet face.
"I must say, whoever you are, you're very pretty," Katie comments, and now, Leanne blushes furiously. She isn't used to flattery. Not after so long. For a moment, her heart leaps at the prospect of the real Katie coming through, but Katie's eyes still seem blank.
"You think so?" Leanne replies, managing a watery smile towards Katie as the latter nods. "Thank you. You are, too." Leanne isn't lying, either. Katie - with her dark blonde hair splayed out behind her on her pillows, her eyes, which, striking as they are, do not recognise Leanne, and her features sharper than ever - is the most beautiful person Leanne has ever laid eyes on, and she tells her this.
Katie smiles widely, as if used to such compliments, but then she frowns in concentration, abruptly changing the subject. "What did you say your name was again?" Katie asks.
"Leanne," she says.
Katie sits up in her bed, her expression contemplative. "Mum didn't mention anything about a Leanne."
So Katie knows who her mother is, at least. That's something.
Leanne hesitates. "Do you... do you want me to explain?"
"Go on, then," Katie says with a shrug. She leans on her elbows and reclines comfortably against her pillows. "I've got nothing better to do with my time, and I could do with some excitement in my life."
Taking a deep breath, Leanne begins. "My mum, Angela Starr, was only a teenager when she had me. Our age, actually. She's Muggleborn, and she lived off benefits until she was well enough to work. When Mum was in labour with me, she struggled to get into St. Mungo's, and that was when she met a woman, who also happened to be pregnant and who was only going in for a check-up. Her name was Mary Bell."
"That's my mum," Katie tells her excitedly.
"Yes," Leanne replies. "Well, Mary helped my mother into the hospital, and because Mum didn't have any other family, Mary was the one who held Mum's hand when she gave birth, and soon after, they became best friends. They were... they are, I should say, very different people. At that point, Mum was a poor, Muggleborn teenager, and your mum was a pureblood in her mid-twenties, married to a rich man.
"Despite this, though, their daughters, Leanne and Katie, grew up together and were practically joined at the hip. They were loners, in a way, because they didn't like making friends with others much. They had a few, here and there, but it was nothing like what they had together. So that was okay. Because they had each other. And that meant their childhoods were blissful and normal - for the most part."
Leanne pauses, looking questioningly at Katie, who has opened her mouth as if she wants to say something. But then she shakes her head and folds her arms across her chest.
"Then what?" she asks.
"Then," Leanne says, "they went to Hogwarts."
It was nearing eleven o'clock on September the first: Leanne and Katie were saying their final goodbyes to their parents.
"Make sure you write," Angela whispered to her daughter, clutching her shoulders and kissing her forehead. "Every day. You have to write to me every-"
"Yes, Mum, that's the twenty-sixth time you've said that in the last-" Leanne glanced at her watch "-twenty-two minutes. That's more than once per minute. I promise I will."
"Please don't worry about her, Miss Starr," Katie put in. She was watching their exchange over her mother's shoulder as she hugged her goodbye. "I'll look after Leanne!"
"They'll look after each other," Mary assured Angela. "You'll be fine, won't you, girls?"
Leanne and Katie nodded eagerly. The whistle sounded; the students surrounding them began heaving trunks from the platform onto the train, older siblings helping, and there was a flurry of last-minute hugs, kisses and reminders from parents.
The girls boarded the train just in time, and as the doors shut and the train began to move, Angela called, "Leanne!"
"I won't forget to write!" Leanne stuck her head out of the window, waving as the train picked up speed. Angela's and Mary's faces became tiny blurs, and then, as the train rounded the corner, they disappeared altogether.
They shared a compartment on the train, munching on various sweets and chocolate bars provided by Angela, and speculating what Hogwarts would look like as they had done so many times before. Katie insisted, at one point, on saying hello to Cedric Diggory, who Katie knew from childhood and who was in the year above them, but she and Leanne had soon returned to their own compartment after Cedric had pointed out that it was time for them to get changed. Leanne got the feeling that perhaps, Cedric - or his friends, at least - did not want them there, but she didn't mention this to Katie as they pulled on their robes, nor when they were jammed together in a boat.
They gasped in awe at finally seeing what Hogwarts looked like, but Leanne became nervous when they arrived inside and the subject turned to Houses, amongst the gaggle of first-years closest to them. She didn't want to be apart from Katie.
"Mum's a Hufflepuff, so I might be going there," Leanne told Katie dully as they filed behind the other first-years into Hogwarts. "But I don't think I'm nice enough."
Katie opened her mouth to reply, but then a stern-looking woman appeared. She said, "Welcome to Hogwarts. I am Professor McGonagall, and I am the deputy headmistress. You will wait here for a few moments, and perhaps-" at this point, she shot a withering look at the slightly scruffy-looking boy nearest to her "-you should think about making yourself look presentable before the Sorting."
"Sorting?" Leanne repeated in a frantic whisper. "What's that? Are we going to have some kind of test, or-"
"Calm down," Katie told her soothingly. "It'll be fine. I asked Mum, but she wouldn't tell me; she said it would ruin the experience or something-"
"That's what my mum said."
"-so I asked Dad, and he said we just have to put this hat on, and it'll sing a song and we can talk to it and ask to be put in a House and then it'll tell us which one we'll be in."
"But - but how will it know?" Leanne said, her teeth worrying the tips of her nails.
"It just will," Katie reassured Leanne. "Stop worrying. And just because your mum's a Hufflepuff doesn't mean you will be. My mum's a Hufflepuff and my dad's a Ravenclaw, but I don't think I'll be in either House. I think I'll be in Gryffindor."
This did not comfort Leanne in the slightest, but she couldn't voice her protestations because, at that moment, Professor McGonagall returned.
"They are ready for you now," she told them primly, and the first-years collectively shrunk back a little. Then, they straightened and followed her, in a line, towards the huge doors that led to the Great Hall.
Leanne tried not to make eye contact with anyone, despite the fact that she could feel many eyes on her, and it was with bated breath that she waited, amongst the other first-years, for the Sorting Hat to sing its song. She was too distracted to dwell on what the hat was saying, and once it was finished, the name of first student to be Sorted was called out. The hat called out "Slytherin" almost immediately, and the boy sprang off the stool, looking unsurprised, and made his way to the Slytherin table.
It was a simple process. Katie was right. Nothing to be scared of. But Leanne's heart was still beating far faster than normal, and when "Bell, Katie" was called next, her pulse only quickened tenfold.
The Sorting Hat seemed to take forever with Katie, whose eyes were covered by the hat's brim. She was clutching the stool anxiously, and her shoulders sagged in relief when the hat shouted, "Gryffindor!"
Smiling, Katie headed for the Gryffindor table, giving Leanne a quick thumbs-up. Leanne was far too nervous to smile back as more first-years were Sorted, and before Leanne knew it, her name was being called, and she walked to the stool, trembling slightly.
Well, you certainly have an excellent mind, said a voice in her ear. Leanne almost jumped.
"Um, thank you?" she replied, trying to be as quiet as possible, not realising that her lips weren't even moving. "I don't really agree with you, but if you say so-"
Humble, too. Perhaps you are suited to Hufflepuff...
"I don't know about that."
But you are clearly opinionated as well, and eager to please. And I can see your brain; I can see that it is begging to be filled to the brim with facts and figures and spells and charms...
"Yes," Leanne agreed. That was certainly true. "Perhaps..."
Yes... perhaps... the place for you is...
"Don't worry about it!" Katie insisted when Leanne sidled to the Gryffindor table the next morning at breakfast.
"How can I not worry?"
"We're in so many lessons together, Leanne. It'll be fine. See - look at today. We have Potions and Defence Against the Dark Arts."
"That's true," Leanne conceded, and Katie smiled. "But it won't be the same... I wanted us to at least be in the same House."
"Maybe... maybe it happened for the best," Katie said slowly. "Maybe it means we'll make more friends this way. Mum did say that was better for both of us."
"But we'll still be best friends, right?" Leanne asked worriedly.
"Of course, silly! We always will be. Why would you even ask that?"
It was Christmas Day, and Angela and Mary had opened a bottle of wine while the girls had Butterbeer. They were both excited, having never drunk Butterbeer before, and they giggled together and rolled around on the floor, pretending to be tipsy, much to their mothers' amusement. Or, rather, Angela laughed while Mary painted on a fake smile, trying - and failing - to hide how tense she looked. Edward, Katie's father, was noticeably absent throughout the day, and he returned to the house just as the sun was setting, and Angela and Leanne were getting ready to leave. Edward walked in, smelling of alcohol, and Leanne couldn't help but be impressed with how little his words were slurred and how steady on his feet he was given how strong the smell.
Without as much as a greeting, he pointed a shaking finger at Angela and asked her, calmly, "Angela, last Wednesday, where were you?"
Angela, frightened by his abruptness, froze on the spot, gulped and quickly answered, "Leanne and I were in..." Angela quelled under Edward's stare, unable to look away from his cold grey eyes. Leanne, meanwhile, noticed how still Mary had become, and how she was watching the conversation anxiously, gesturing frantically to Angela behind Edward's back. But Angela didn't notice, and Leanne's frown increased.
"Go on," Edward encouraged, his voice still deadly calm. "Leanne and you were..."
"We were in Diagon Alley," Angela babbled, "b-buying Christmas presents for everyone. Then we... we went home together and L-Leanne finished her homework and I cooked dinner."
Leanne flinched as Mary's previously almost hysterical expression became an angry one.
"So it was just you and Leanne?" he asked. Angela nodded, and only then did she notice the look on Mary's face.
"And you went home?"
"We went home," Angela repeated, trying to smile at him. The wrong decision.
"You fucking bitch," Mary spat, and Angela's smile was wiped cleanly off her face as the other woman strode up to her and slapped her across her cheek. And then Leanne had understood; Katie's mother had fed her husband a story about being with Angela that day, and really, Mary had been doing something she shouldn't have been doing. With someone other than Edward.
"Thank you, Angela," said Edward curtly, acting as if his wife wasn't even there. "I think you two should go now." He gestured to the door, his tone dismissive.
"We'll see ourselves out," said Angela quietly, and though a bruise was already forming on her face from where she had been slapped, she did not touch it or in any way acknowledge that it was there. Instead, she caught Katie's eye - for she had been hiding in the corner, watching the spectacle - nodded at her and headed for the door with Leanne.
"Mum, why-" she began, but she didn't finish.
"Not now," Angela hissed.
At that moment, there was a shout from the living room that they had just exited. "Don't you ever come to my house again, Angela!"
Angela halted in her tracks, and after a few seconds, she said, resignedly, "I wouldn't dream of it, Mary."
From then, it became practically impossible for Leanne and Katie to see each other outside of school because of the issues their parents had with each other. Although Mary and Edward did not divorce, Katie reported to Leanne that her mum and dad didn't really talk to each other much anymore. Her father would leave the house for long periods of time, sometimes going away for "business" and almost always returning drunk and angry. At any rate, they no longer appeared to be a proper couple, and Mary blamed Angela for this.
And Leanne didn't understand why Mary held a grudge against Angela any more than Angela did.
"I thought you were best friends?" Leanne had asked her mum when they got home.
Angela smiled wanly and she said, "Best friends… they make mistakes sometimes. They do stupid things. This was one of them. I - I should have covered for her. I knew she was with someone else that day, but I didn't - I didn't think."
Despite this, Katie and Leanne agreed not to let their parents' problems get in the way. Even though Katie's parents had expressly forbidden her to be friends with Leanne, the girls had remained best friends.
And Katie's parents were too wrapped up in their own affairs (quite literally) to notice that Katie and Leanne had continued their friendship at school regardless. Though the girls had become very different people since starting Hogwarts, Leanne being a studious and quiet Ravenclaw and Katie being quite the opposite, an outspoken Gryffindor, they got along with each other very well, as they always had done. They did argue, but over silly, petty things not worth thinking about, and in fact, Katie and Leanne couldn't go very long without speaking to each other.
Strangely, Katie and Leanne didn't ever apologise to one other. After their rows, Leanne would simply stop talking to Katie, or vice versa, and then the next time they spoke, the argument was buried away and forgotten, not brought up again. That was okay, though, because seeing each other outside of lessons (and only in the ones they had together) was rather difficult as it was, being in two different Houses, so they took advantage of the time they were able to spend together rather than spending it arguing.
But most of all, Leanne loved Katie, and she had done since she was little, so for the most part, their first three years in Hogwarts were as happy as their childhoods were, even though they weren't allowed to see each other outside of school.
It was the first of September. Three years had elapsed since they first embarked on their journey to Hogwarts. Leanne, who had arrived at five to eleven, just about had time to say goodbye to her mother before the Hogwarts Express departed from the station. Then, once she had boarded the train, Leanne bent down, trying to lift her trunk and take it to the nearest empty compartment, but she dropped it several times, swearing as it landed on her foot.
"Watch your language, Leanne," said a laughing voice from behind her, and Leanne whipped around at the sound.
She barely recognised Katie.
No longer skinny and flat-chested like Leanne, Katie had clearly grown over the summer. She was taller now, her cardigan clinging to her tiny waist, and her skirt hitched far higher than the usual knee-length. Her hair was piled on top of her head in a carefully messy bun. Leanne squinted at her, wondering briefly if she was wearing eyeliner, but she couldn't be sure.
"What are you staring at?" Katie asked, waving in Leanne's face and bringing her out of her reverie. "Leanne!"
"Sorry," said Leanne, tearing her eyes away, shaking her head and lifting her trunk with Katie's help. "How was your summer, anyway?"
"Same old, same old," she replied. "You know what Mum's like. And Dad. How about you?"
"Mum and Michael split up, and she's been single for the last three weeks - record time!"
"Oh," said Katie, helping her lift the trunk into the luggage rack. "That's a shame - I thought he was actually quite good-looking."
"Katie! He's old enough to be your dad!" Leanne admonished.
Katie giggled, saying, "I know he is, but it's not as if I'm going to - I'm only appreciating beauty, Leanne."
"Beauty? Him?" she said incredulously. Leanne had never heard Katie talk like that - well, not about men of that age, anyway. What had happened to her?
They were interrupted, however, by a knock on the compartment door, and they both turned around to find Cedric Diggory standing in the doorway.
"Hi, Katie," he said, smiling at her and politely nodding at Leanne.
"Hey, how've you been?" Katie asked, grinning back. She squinted at his chest, spying the two brand new badges he was wearing. "Did you get-"
"Yep," he replied happily. "You're looking at the new Hufflepuff Captain. And I got made Prefect as well."
"Wow, that's amazing!" Katie gushed, and Leanne felt like she was pushed aside as Katie and Cedric spent the next ten minutes discussing their respective school Quidditch teams, and the matches that had taken place over the summer. Though Katie tried to include Leanne in the conversation as best as she could, it was difficult for her because Leanne had never cared for the sport, and it was with relief that Leanne half-heartedly waved Cedric goodbye a few minutes later.
It was only as Katie stood and embraced Cedric before waving him off that Leanne realised that she had not even hugged her best friend after not seeing her for two months.
As the school year begun, there was a noticeable change in Katie. Firstly, she was around Cedric a lot more. They were, admittedly, childhood friends, so they had always known each other - but, Leanne thought determinedly, Katie and Cedric's friendship was nothing like Leanne's friendship with her, of course. And while Cedric was always perfectly friendly with Leanne, and there was nothing wrong with him, really, she couldn't help but feel he was intruding sometimes. Leanne could no longer speak openly with Katie, not when Katie wanted to be with him and his friends half the time. And the other half of the time, Katie constantly talked about Cedric, about how bloody amazing he was, and Leanne began to feel irritated whenever she saw him because she was starting to feel overshadowed by him.
While Leanne had never really understood Quidditch, she had always supported Katie (she had done so readily in the case of the Gryffindor-Hufflepuff match - Leanne took any opportunity she could not to be on Cedric's side), even when Leanne's own House, Ravenclaw, was playing against Gryffindor. But it was only during the last match of the term, the one which would decide who won the Cup that year, that Leanne finally realised her feelings - it was only then, in fact, that she understood that she actually had any feelings towards Katie. There was something wonderful, something she couldn't quite explain, about how she felt as she watched Katie fly around the pitch. It was a cliché, yes, but the sight of Katie - looking perfect, radiant, as her blonde hair shone in the sunlight and blew in the wind - did indeed take Leanne's breath away.
When Gryffindor had won against Slytherin, Leanne joined the growing crowd around the team, pushed through, past Cedric, to find Katie and hug her. Then she kissed her. It was supposed to be on her cheek, but it ended up much closer to her mouth than Leanne thought. But rather than pulling away and laughing at her slip-up, Leanne - without thinking, or knowing what the hell she was doing - couldn't stop herself. Her lips moved of their own accord to Katie's lips, and she kissed her full on the mouth. At the sound of catcalls and wolf-whistling from nearby spectators, Katie didn't respond. She just jerked her face away, turned on her heel and left for the changing rooms without even looking at Leanne.
But even Katie couldn't ignore the sounds of jeering from the few onlookers watching their exchange. There had been rumours about the two of them being more than friends since third year, spread by some of the girls in their year who read too much into their linked arms, clasped hands and constant hugs and wanted to cause a stir.
"They're just jealous," Katie used to say to Leanne, rolling her eyes and laughing. "Gossipers don't do friendship, Leanne, and they love stirring things up because they have nothing better to do with their lives than spread lies about people." When Leanne hadn't looked convinced, Katie added, "We're best friends, Leanne. If they can't see that, well, that's their problem."
Normally, Leanne was able to laugh it off, just like Katie did, but after the incident on the Quidditch pitch, Leanne wasn't sure what to think. Because, as strange as it was to admit it, even to herself, she had felt something when her lips were on Katie's, and she wondered what she would have done if there weren't so many people around them.
What on earth did that mean? Did Leanne like Katie? As in, like like her, in the way Leanne heavily suspected Katie to like Cedric? Although, when Leanne had asked Katie if she fancied him, she had immediately denied it.
At dinner, after the match, Leanne was sitting next to Marietta Edgecombe, who was busy talking to Cho opposite her. Try as she might, Leanne was distracted all through her meal and only picked at her food, lost in thought. She couldn't stop herself from thinking what it would be like to kiss Katie properly. Alone. With no one around them. Her lips would be soft, and her tongue...
Stop, she told herself firmly. What was she thinking?
Leanne decided to talk about it with Katie. She needed to sort her feelings out, try to understand what had happened, and see where they could go from there. After she finished eating, she made her way towards the Gryffindor table. She was oddly nervous about seeing Katie, and she didn't know why; Katie had seen Leanne in her most awkward and embarrassing moments, after all. Her whole life, in fact. But Leanne even found herself rehearsing what to say to Katie, before she angrily reprimanded herself for doing so.
This is Katie, she thought. Only Katie. Your best friend.
She finally found Katie after craning her neck looking for her amongst the other Gryffindors, and she began to make her way towards her. And then Leanne stopped short a few metres away at who was sitting opposite her. Katie threw her head back with laughter at his joke, and then she dug her spoon into her dessert bowl and fed Cedric a spoonful of chocolate gateau.
"Mmm," Leanne heard Cedric say from where she was. "Gorgeous."
Leanne didn't know if he meant the gateau or Katie, but either way, Katie leaned towards him, running her finger up his cheek, looking like she was about to kiss him, and then Leanne gasped aloud. The students nearest to Leanne turned to look at her, including Katie and Cedric; without a word to anyone, Leanne, like the coward she was, turned and left the Great Hall as quickly as she could. She bumped into Marietta, who asked her why she was crying, but Leanne didn't answer, instead rushing out, past the doors. After the spectacle on the Quidditch pitch, it wasn't long before some students were able to put two and two together, and Leanne had a sneaking suspicion, later on, that Marietta was the one to fuel the increasing amount of gossip about Leanne and Katie's changing relationship.
The aftermath of that match marked the beginning of a gulf between Katie and Leanne that only widened over the summer of their fourth year. The two months in which they did not see each other at all meant that by September, their relationship became strained, the words Leanne so desperately wanted to say to Katie still hanging between them. Somehow - and it felt inevitable to Leanne - they didn't see as much of each other as they used to once they started their OWL year.
Leanne, afraid of endangering their friendship further, did not dare mention their kiss to Katie, and Katie also must have dismissed it as unimportant. Similarly, Katie did not mention Cedric again, and Leanne deduced from this that they were no longer together - or maybe they never were, and she had read too much into things. At any rate, Katie and Cedric did not seem to talk and certainly didn't appear to be friends anymore, judging by the fact that Katie was now spending most of her time with her teammates, Alicia Spinnet and Angelina Johnson in the year above.
Besides, Leanne knew, after the Yule Ball, that Cedric was with Cho Chang now, since the latter was Leanne's roommate. Any conversation Katie and Leanne had was stilted and awkward, and while they didn't have arguments, as such, both Katie and Leanne began to make excuses in order to not see each other. Leanne suddenly was swamped with homework and needed to go to the library almost every day, while Katie felt the need to fly around the Quidditch pitch despite the fact that the Inter-House Championship was not taking place that year because of the Triwizard Tournament. Most importantly, for Leanne at least, they had their OWLs to worry about now.
However, one of the rare times with Katie that Leanne always enjoyed was when they watched the tournament tasks together. It was impossible for them to make excuses not to go, since everyone attended, and during those times, it felt like it did before their friendship had become so awkward and sporadic. If they couldn't think of anything to say to each other, they could sit and watch the task in companionable silence - for the most part. But then Katie's shoulder would touch Leanne's, or she would clutch her hand anxiously, waiting for Harry Potter to surface from the lake, or she would accidentally drop something on the floor and when retrieving it, her hand would brush on Leanne's ankle, her head against Leanne's knee, and the unresolved tension between them would return. More than once, Leanne had to stifle a gasp or press her lips together to prevent a moan from escaping them, and she wondered if Katie realised what she was doing to her.
It was during the third task that Leanne's restraint nearly broke. The stands were packed, and they were jammed next to each other on a bench. Every time Katie made the slightest movement, Leanne's body tensed. Katie just couldn't sit still, and her thigh continued to brush against Leanne's as she was at the edge of her seat, sending shivers down Leanne's spine despite the summer heat, until - to her relief - Katie stood up.
Her relief was only temporary, however: moments later, the entire stadium had become deathly quiet, and Leanne also stood, frowning. She couldn't see anything, so she didn't know what was going on.
And then, a horror-struck, frightened scream punctured the bubble of silence in the stands. It was Katie's scream, and it was the most terrible sound Leanne would ever hear in her life.
"Katie," she murmured, but she wasn't sure her friend could hear her. Leanne extended a shaking hand to her shoulder, turning her around, and the look of terror on her paper-white face was unmistakeable. She drew Katie close, hugging her as tight as she could and looking over her shoulder, as if her embrace alone could negate the words echoing all around her, and the sight before her very eyes...
"Is he dead?"
"Cedric Diggory! Dead!"
"Katie..." Leanne whispered, squeezing her hand, "Katie, come on. You can't stay out here forever, you know."
The stands were still milling with students, the gentle summer evening breeze fanning across Leanne's face as she led Katie through the crowd, down the steps and across the grounds, into the castle.
"Wh-where are we going?" Katie asked, her voice shaky.
"I'm taking you to your common room."
"I'm sure I can m-make my own way..."
"No," said Leanne firmly. "I'll walk you there. You're upset, and I need to know you get there okay."
Katie nodded weakly before another wave of tears overcame her, and she tried her best to muffle the sounds of her sobbing as they finally reached the portrait of the Fat Lady.
"'M-mockingbird'," Katie managed to say, and the swung open, admitting her. Leanne stayed where she was, watching her anxiously.
"Come with me," Katie said. "Please-"
"I'm not allowed, Katie," Leanne replied, though part of her was thinking, sod the rules. "I would if I could..."
"Just quickly, please... I don't want to be alone, and I don't know where Angelina and Alicia are - please?" she pleaded, and she looked so close to tears again that Leanne gave in.
"Fine," she said, climbing through the portrait hole. Leanne attracted only a few stares from the handful of Gryffindors who had made it to the common room already, and she didn't care. Katie needed her, and that was all that mattered. "Where's your dormitory?" Leanne asked.
"Up h-here..." Katie made her way unsteadily up, still holding Leanne's hand for support.
"Where are the others?" Leanne asked, looking around the empty room.
"P-probably still outside," she answered. Katie sat on her bed, hugged her knees and said, "I can't believe that - that Cedric's..."
"I know," Leanne said, her voice hollow. She tentatively perched on the edge of Katie's bed, shutting the hangings and casting Silencing Charms around them. "It's so horrible... do you think it's true about... who killed him? It can't be, can it?"
But it was as if Leanne hadn't spoken, and Katie's next words were like knives aimed at Leanne's heart. "I mean, what did Cedric do to deserve it? To deserve death? And what did Cho fucking Chang do to deserve someone like Cedric?"
"Cedric was-" Leanne began, but Katie continued, her voice heavy with grief and eyes full of unfulfilled longing. In fact, Leanne realised, Katie's blue-green eyes - framed with long, glistening lashes - reflected her own: of suppressed, wanton desire and raw grief.
"He was so handsome and smart and brilliant at Quidditch and damn near fucking perfect, and I loved him and I told him that and he said no to me and went for Cho instead. And now he's dead." Katie rocked backwards and forwards, still holding her knees, tears streaming from her eyes again.
Leanne was speechless. So she had been right all along. Katie did have a thing for Cedric. Only it was clearly more than just a thing; according to Katie, it was far more than that. According to her, it was love. Love. How was this possible? Leanne wanted to say a multitude of things to Katie, mostly about how Cedric was an idiot for refusing Katie... but then she remembered that he was dead. And no matter what, Leanne would never, ever dare speak ill of the dead.
"He was a good person," Katie sobbed. Leanne nodded in agreement; whatever Leanne thought of him, she couldn't deny it. "Why did this have to happen-"
"Katie," Leanne said softly, trying to keep her voice steady, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry."
What was she apologising for? She didn't even know. It wasn't her fault that any of this happened. Was it for not being Cedric? For being a girl instead of a boy, for not being into Quidditch, for not being good-looking enough? For not being so unlike Cedric?
And then Katie sat up on her knees and leaned forwards, and for one wild moment, Leanne thought she might kiss her; but that was just a stupid, schoolgirl fantasy, a one-sided thing, because now she knew Katie had loved Cedric all this time...
And instead of kissing her, like Leanne so badly wanted, Katie wrapped her arms around Leanne's waist. Leanne tried her utmost to ignore the pain she felt as their chests were crushed together.
"It's going to be okay, Katie, don't worry," Leanne murmured, rubbing her back as Katie buried her head into her chest. And Leanne's pain became worse as she forced herself to pay no attention to her own increasing heartbeat, as she tried to pretend that she was not sitting on a bed with Katie, her face against her breasts...
"No, it won't be okay!" Katie cried. "Cedric is dead, and I loved him so much that it hurt!" Then she looked up and met Leanne's eyes, which were also filled with tears. "Leanne, do you have any idea how it feels to be in love with someone and have them be completely oblivious of you? And then have them ripped away from you? Do you?"
Yes, Leanne felt like saying, trying not to move. Only it's worse, because the person I'm in love with is within fucking distance of me right this second and I can't do a thing -
"No," Leanne said rather forcefully, more to quell her thoughts than answer Katie. "I - I don't."
Leanne held her, stroking Katie's hair, and that night, they shed more tears than they had ever done before in their lives. But while Katie's sobs were racked in grief, Leanne's cries were full of a year's worth of repressed longing.
Chapter End Notes:
I would absolutely love you to pieces if you reviewed.