Chapter 33

Hope for the Hopeless

The Hospital Wing was quiet. Jewel, Echo owl, was pecking idly at a mouse she had caught, and the clock was ticking, but they were soft sounds, nothing compared to the commotion that would soon ensue.

The quiet was broken when the doors of the Hospital Wing banged sharply against the stone walls, as a figure covered in blue frost floated in and onto a bed. Echo followed behind, lowering her wand and kicking the door shut. With a deep breath, Echo pulled one of her bandanas off of the top of a white cabinet and wrapped her brown braids in its yellow cloth, sighing and looking down at the chilled body.

Vivienne was dead.

But not quite dead.

It was a bizarre exception. Echo had heard of it before: people being brought back from the dead. Logically, though, anyone who fell from the height Vivienne did would be dead by now, especially with a clear concussion and myriad broken bones. Yet when Echo placed her head to Vivienne’s chest, she picked up the faintest spark of life left in the sixth-year. A spark, half non-existent, of life. Vivienne could be raised again.

But where to begin? Echo surveyed the situation. She could bring Vivienne back to life, but would thereby risk her bleeding to death when her heart began pumping again. Echo could seal the wounds first, but the longer she took the more risk Vivienne was at once out of the suspended state she was in at the moment. As it was, Vivienne could be losing that super-thin thread holding her back from the light. With a deep breath, Echo decided to seal the injuries first. No point in curing her if she was just to die two seconds later.

Squaring herself, she took the freezing petrifaction off of the body.

The tiny shards of bone that stuck out of Vivi’s skin and clothes made Echo ill when she looked at them. Nonetheless, they had to be dealt with. Echo gingerly removed Vivienne’s clothes with a wave of her wand. Next swept the willow wand over the girl and said, “Recedo placabo.”

All of Vivienne’s bones slowly moved back into their original locations. Flesh moved as though it had things burrowing into it, as her cranium, ribs, and everything else shifted back into place. Blood once again began to pool in the pinprick holes on Vivienne’s skin. Echo, now forced to look, frowned and grabbed a roll of gauze, accidentally dropping and stepping on her wand. Wincing, she quickly cleaned up as much blood as she could before more bubbled up, then picked up the wand, flicked it over the wounds, and quavered, “Moraslichon.”

The spell spread over Vivi with a sizzling sound as it cauterized her wounds. Crude, but it worked. The hiss of contact and the smell of cooking skin made Echo flinch. Soon, though, the holes were sealed. So much for the bleeding to death.

Now came the issue of Vivienne’s brain. Echo raised her wand and said, “Neurostylophan.” There was a faint hum and a green glow. Vivienne would suffer mild brain damage…but the charm managed to fix most of it. And now the big issue came up. The resurrection.

Echo bit her lip and gripped the end of the bed. This was it. The spell would drain her physically and mentally. If she failed, or mispronounced one syllable, Vivienne and Echo could be dead for good. Echo nervously undid her cloak and let it drop to the green tiles. The stress was enormous, and thoughts raced through the young woman’s mind. What if she didn’t do it? What about the Quidditch teams? What about Vivienne’s family? What about her friends? She took a few calming breaths and tried her best to clear her mind as she whispered, “Bondo fermos,” and conjured strong bonds from the bed. She had to do it. All of her had to be put into this. Her blue eyes were steeled. She raised her wand.

Nosfero Illumivivos!” A brilliant white light, crackling with electricity, burst from the tip of Echo’s yew wand, singing it. It hit Vivienne with such force it almost blasted her off of the bed. It would have, if not for the bonds. The lightning streaks shot through the girl’s body, into her heart, her mind. Subsequently, Echo’s mind exploded in a blaze of white fire. Her eyes turned totally white. Bits of paper blew frantically about the room in the wind created by the powerful spell.

The electric energy continued to course through Vivienne’s body, making her twitch erratically as one having a seizure would do. Her body twisted more horribly, though, for the bones were about as sturdy as gelatin. They still held their place, however—the charm used on them was a strong one. Veins became visible on both the women. Echo paled; Vivienne grew more colorful. Then, one final ripping of white hot sparks rushed through the two. Echo now just desperately tried to breathe. The white grew more intense, brighter…

And then it was over. The last of the shocks flew into Vivienne with a final jolt, and the Hospital Wing once again became deathly quiet.

The yew wand fell to the floor with a clatter, and Echo collapsed, still gulping for air. The white in her eyes was fading, a pale blue returning. She remained there, swaying, gasping, looking through Vivienne off into space. Her insides burned, and a huge headache was approaching. But she had to know.

With great effort she picked up her wand and pulled herself over to the bed, catching her breath a bit. Vivienne lay there calmly, bound in strong rope. Echo laid two fingers on the girl’s neck. She smiled weakly.

Drawing herself off of the floor onto unsteady legs, Echo leaned up against the bed and laughed in spite of herself. With a flick of the wand, Vivienne was cleaned of blood and dressed in pajamas of her own. Echo removed the bonding charm and pulled the covers and a fleece blanket over the girl’s unconscious form. It was time for another muggle technique— the “IV”.

Perhaps the reason Bone-B-Good tasted so awful was because it could also be given intravenously. Within minutes, Echo had rigged up a drip that flowed Bone-B-Good through a needle into Vivienne’s arm. She also combined a strong healing potion with the brand-name potion. Once finished, she stood back and cast a quick bone-mending charm over Vivienne to be doubly sure. Then she smiled weakly again.

Vivi was unconscious, but she was at least she was alive.

In the corridors of Hogwarts, just outside the library, a dark-haired, sixteen year old boy sat against the wall, his eyes closed and his eyes focused on the ceiling.

He was a sixth year. How he’d ever managed to pass was beyond him. It was rare to ever see him in class. He figured he had to have done extremely well on the exams.

Glancing around, the boy, Alex Stone, wondered where everyone was. He had never heard the corridors of Hogwarts so quiet, except the one time he had stuck around for the Christmas holidays. He had looked around for Aiko, but couldn’t find her. Granted, he know he could have found her if he wanted to. Tracking spells weren’t hard when the person was in the same building.

Yet for some reason, and not even Alex knew what it was, he had been avoiding her. The reason he wasn’t looking as hard as he could have been looking was simply because he knew they all hell would raise when he did find her. Regardless of how beautiful he thought she was, or how nice she could be… no girl likes her boyfriend avoiding her.

Deciding it was best if he started the search again, he rose from his spot on the ground and turned to walk towards the Great Hall when he bumped into someone. This someone was rather short. In fact, this person was just over a foot shorter than he was. This person was a girl.

“Aiko,” Alex said, planting a smile on his face. He reached out for her hands and took them in his, a sly attempt to keep her from beating him with them.

Aiko had only just made it inside of the castle, taking a side route to avoid the grief stricken and horrified mass of students and teachers, when the unthinkable happened; she ran into Alex Stone. Her boyfriend. The boy who had abandoned her for an entire year, only to return the very day her best friend died. And he had the audacity to smile.

For some reason, that really pissed her off.

With a low growl the short girl ripped her hands from his grasp and slapped him across the face. “Don’t touch me, you son of a—”

Alex’s eyes grew wide. Aiko had never yelled at him before, much less use the selected name she decided to bestow on him at the moment. The hit he took didn’t matter. He doubted very much that Aiko could physically harm him. Nevertheless, he did slowly raise his hand to his cheek. The warmth there told him that he had reddened from the impact.

“Aiko?” Alex asked, moving his head so he could establish some eye contact. “Are you okay?”

Was she okay? Of course! She was peachy fine! Running through a gigantic bowl of ice cream, chocolate syrup between her toes fine! Climbing sprinkle mountain fine!

Biting into the cherry on top only to find out it was rotten and there was an army of PMSing wasps inside fine.

Aiko let out a mangled scream of frustration and rage. Stupid, clodding boy! She probably looked like a fright; her hair never behaved when she was frazzled, and she was certain her silk summer dress had gotten sufficiently stained from mud and grass.

And feeling ugly made the entire situation that much worse.

Completely foregoing her rant, she threw herself at the Slytherin. The small girl only reached his shoulders at best, so she wrapped her arms around what she could and buried her face in his chest. The warmth that emanated from beneath her cheek soothed the edges of her slightly justified, if untimely, anger and she nestled closer. Right then, it didn’t matter that they were standing in the hallway, and she hadn’t even gathered the courage for a second kiss yet. She was here, ugly but here, and he was here, clueless, but here, and Vivi was so very, very dead, but he was here.

Aiko gripped the sides of his robes and burst into loud, racking sobs. “Vivi’s dead!” she wailed, pulling herself closer to the now damp boy she had already latched herself to. “She’s really, really dead!”

Now things were getting weird. Alex watched her face as it changed from angry to sad to downright miserable. Okay, obviously she wasn’t okay. Her reason, however, made absolutely no sense. A look of utter confusion dominated his silver eyes. He hadn’t heard anything from Prince, and Hogwarts was definitely one of the most secure places in Britain. There was no way Vivs was dead.

“Erm,” he began hesitantly, “That doesn’t make any sense. Are you sure she’s dead? I mean… how?”

“Because she’s dead!” How could she describe that horrifying, heart-stopping moment when Vivi had toppled from her broom and fallen earthwards? The moment replayed itself in her mind with startling clarity; the cheers of triumph from the Hufflepuff stands, the mid-moment uncertainty as Vivi hung suspended in the air before gravity took its toll. It was like…splat to the tenth degree.

Aiko sniffed into his shirt. “She fell off her broomstick and she just…went…” Aiko’s mouth froze shut and she laid her head back down. She opened her fist and smacked it down on his chest. Her fingers spread out and she raised her head to give him a pleading look. And, in case he still didn’t understand: “I could see bones.”

“Aiko,” he said slowly, “Seeing bones doesn’t mean she’s dead.” He didn’t sound all that convinced himself. Alex was never much for seeing injured people. From the sounds of it, if she had fallen from that height and hit the ground, there was a very strong possibility that she was dead. But there was a chance that she was still alive.

It looked as if Aiko was about to speak again. Before she could, Alex placed one finger on her lips. “Look,” he said, trying to sound soothing. “We’ll go to the Hospital Wing to check on her. I mean, if she’s hurt that bad, she’ll be there. And I’m sure Echo can handle split bones.”

The Hospital Wing! So intent on her own misery, Aiko had completely foregone thinking in exchange for blind grief. The medics in the school were top at their art (though she had heard the Echo woman had some unorthodox powers). Naturally she would have taken Vivi’s body directly there. There was no way, of course, they could bring her wonderful housemate back, but perhaps her last memory of her wouldn’t have to be of a squashed pancake girl.

Suddenly, Aiko was very glad she had a reasonable boyfriend.

That didn’t stop her from wanting to ruin what was left of her proper upbringing and bite the finger that he shoved on her lips.

Bloody, blasted fool.

She was rather angry at Alex as well.

“I told you not to touch me,” she growled out, tears still pouring down her cheeks. With a dignified sniff she stepped away from his circle of arms and glared at him.

How dare he think she was stupid?

Aiko burst into reinvigorated wails. Now she was ugly, wet, stupid, and her best friend was splatted.

As much as he didn’t want to, Alex smiled. He knew it wasn’t the smartest thing to do. But at least she wasn’t crying. Alex could handle people being angry with him; anyone who remembered the Prince events was mad at him.

Still smiling, he stepped toward her and gently took her hand in his again and began to lead her in the direction of the staircase.

Men are universally hopeless, Aiko decided as she walked next to him, alternating between glaring at the smug smirk and wiping the continuous stream of tears from her face. What kind of guy smiled at a time like this?

Was he just asking for punishment?

Not that she could actually do anything to him. But that second kiss wasn’t coming for a long time if this kept up.

Kameko’s boots thudded firmly on the stone floors of the corridor leading to the Hospital Wing. She was still in Quidditch garb, and spots of blood marred her robes. It had not been long since the accident; so far no other students had filtered into the wing. Kameko had come directly from the game to the hospital.

She was going to see Vivienne Moor, dead or not.

Stopping in front of the doors to the ward, Kameko took a deep breath. Then, knowing it had to be done eventually, she pushed them open and walked in. There was no sign of the medic. But Vivienne was in one of the beds, tucked in. Kameko felt her eyes burning again, but she swallowed her tears. This would count as a goodbye and an apology.

I’m sorry for not being fast enough.

And then a breath. Kameko thought she saw a sliver of movement of the covers on Vivienne’s chest. It startled her so much she jumped backwards and tripped. Then she spotted Kiwina. Kameko asked cautiously, “Is… is she…?” As the girl stuttered her question, a dark-haired boy walked in through the door, pulling a short Asian girl with him. For once, that someone being pulled through the doors was not a patient. It wasn’t a straining pull, mind you. It was more of a guiding, “I’m here for you,” sort of pull. While he wasn’t smiling broadly anymore, Alex was grinning. Strangely enough, even the grin vanished as they crossed the threshold. There was something about the Hospital Wing that wiped a smile off of your face. “Come on,” Alex said to Aiko, looking around for Vivs’ bed. Echo was startled by the sudden arrival of three people. One was a boy and girl she had not seen before and the other was Kameko. Smiling gently at Kameko’s question, Echo answered, “If your question is, ‘Is she alive,’ the answer is yes. But barely.” She crossed over to Vivienne and took her pulse again. No improvement. “But she’s unconscious.”

Echo looked at everyone in the room, and then asked gently, “Kameko, could you come to my desk for a minute?” She was picking up some very tragedy-stricken thoughts from the girl. And a guilty conscience. Kameko pulled herself off of the floor and followed Kiwina over to the desk, very glad to hear Vivienne was, if not conscious, alive. The chair she settled in was comfortable, embracing. Kameko didn’t notice. “Kameko…” Echo began, “I know this is hard for you to understand, but this was an accident. You are in no way responsible for what happened to Vivienne. I know you’re feeling guilty right now for not grabbing her in time—Gudrenlio Butterbeer— but you tried. And that’s what matters.” The quick incantation had been said with her wand over a mug on the messy desk, and it filled with the warmish, golden-brown liquid. She pushed it across the desk to Kameko. “Drink up.” Kameko resisted the urge to scoff and roll her eyes. Accidents like that shouldn’t and don’t happen. She flicked a blue streak of hair from her eyes and sniffed sarcastically. She wasn’t ready to believe that she was not responsible. After all, as one who had trained herself physically and mentally for such an occasion, she had a near obligation to catch Vivienne. Bitterly, she watched as Kiwina filled a mug with Butterbeer and pushed it towards her. That was it. “What,” Kameko snarled, “this is supposed to make me feel better? Someone just ended up near dead. Why?” Kameko was leaning forward now. “Because I couldn’t catch her in time. I wasn’t fast enough. It’s my fault she’s like this,” she spat, waving a hand towards the bed. “And you give me goddamn Butterbeer.” She was standing. She scoffed sourly, and then glared at Echo. “Thanks a bunch. You know, I feel so much better.” Scraping the chair back, she turned and briskly walked out. Echo was startled at Kameko’s actions. She had expected the Ravenclaw girl to listen to reason and be flexible and understanding. But obviously Kameko was having some trouble with this. But she didn’t even try to stop Kameko when she stormed out. Instead she pulled parchment towards her, ready to write several letters. It looked as though she would be staying at Hogwarts for longer than she had intended to. This would be an anxious time.

In a small kitchen, many leagues away from Hogwarts, Mrs. Moor was washing dishes. She appeared entirely absorbed in her task, concentrating on scouring the grease from the numerous pots and pans, her yellow gloves reaching her elbows, her graying hair tied back. Yet every so often Mrs. Moor would look up at the palm pilot sitting on the window sill in front of her and frown. The palm pilot was a useful little thing. It had many functions, but the reason Mrs. Moor owned it was because it showed the time changes all across the world.

Mrs. Moor was not interested in what time it was in Hong Kong or Sydney. She was, however, very interested in what time it was at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in Scotland. Her only daughter, her only child, attended there, and the palm pilot made Mrs. Moor feel as if Vivi was not quite so far away.

“Stop worryin’,” Mr. Moor said from the kitchen table. He folded his newspaper and stood, walking over to Mrs. Moor. “You’ll here from her, Cadence.”

“It’s ten o’clock at night.” Mrs. Moor replied sharply. “She usually floos a letter right after her game. Right after.”

Instead of continuing to argue with his wife, Mr. Moor kissed the top of her head. “She’s fine.” He said, at the same time that an echoing whoosh swept through the kitchen from the recently installed fireplace. It was another innovation the Moors had introduced to keep in touch with their daughter. Floo powder was so much easier, and cheaper, than air fare.

“Oh thank heavens,” Mrs. Moor cried, flinging off her gloves and running over to the fire. She took a pair of tongs and pulled the letter that was in the fire out, and then stomped on it until the corners went out. Hastily she picked it up, ready to rip into it, and then Mrs. Moor paused, frozen.

“Lawrence.” She said, quietly, her voice strange and trembling. “It’s not from her.” The letter, while it was charred around the edges, was clearly more official than anything Vivi would send. The return address was hard to read, due to the flames, but the parchment was staunch and crème colored, and a slightly melted wax seal held it closed.

“She doesn’t use wax.” Mrs. Moor muttered, almost hysterical, as she tore open the envelope. In Vivi’s six years at Hogwarts, the Moors had only ever received six official letters from there, with school book lists, and all of those had come by owl. Only urgent letters were sent by floo. “She buys the…the…the ones ya lick.”

Unfolding the letter inside, Mrs. Moor read the first sentence before she fainted. Mr. Moor caught her, but barely. He slipped the letter from her hands, and read it, his own heart seeming to fall out of his chest.

After smelling salts and a bucket of water, it took very little time for the Moors to get ready to head to Hogwarts. After all, they really did not have that much time, as the letter they had received was a port-key. So, thirty minutes after finding out that their daughter was dead, both clung tight to their bags and the letter, and waited for…well, they really were not sure what they waited for.

The port-key seized both just as the hour changed and pulled them out of Saturday night and into Sunday morning, sending them spiraling towards a place they had only ever heard about, a place very, very few muggles knew about. When everything stopped twirling, they were in a corridor. It was much quieter than it normally would have been.

Mr. Moor stood, helping his wife up. Both adults were pale faced and tight lipped, and looked older than an hour before. Mrs. Moor looked as she might start crying at any moment. Mr. Moor just appeared stricken.

“Where’s my girl?” Mrs. Moor half asked, half demanded. “Where’s Vivi? Oh my gosh, where’s my baby?” Mr. Moor was the first to spot the door. It was several steps away, but it was clearly labeled: HOSPITAL WING.

“Go,” he told Mrs. Moor. “I’ll bring th’ bags.”

Mrs. Moor ran. She threw open the door and burst inside, her eyes scanning the room. They feel on a prone body, quiet and still, with black hair and closed eyes. “Baby.” Mrs. Moor whispered, not touching Vivi, not moving her, but kneeling by the bedside. She started to cry.

Mr. Moor entered. He saw Vivi, but he also saw a girl, probably a student. There was no one else in the room. “I’m Lawrence Moor.” He told the girl, as behind him his wife’s tears turned into full-blown, body-wrenching sobs.

Alex, one of the Hufflepuff Quidditch players, stepped forward, and looked up to the haggard man. She spoke in a small voice, “Want some help, sir?”

Lawrence nodded. “Th’- th’ bags,” he said, apparently distracted by his wife and his daughter, but determined to settle things here before he gave into his own grief. “Is there a side room? Near her— near here?” Behind him the sobs escalated into shrieks. He needed to go to Cadance, but there was nothing he could do. He just wanted to sit down, to sit down in yesterday, when this had not happened.

“If the doctor’s here I’d like ta see him.” For the first time he really looked at the girl. She looked young, and she was dressed in Quidditch robes.

Hufflepuff Quidditch…

Oh.

The girl had been there.

Mr. Moor did not know what to say, but even if he had, speaking audibly would have been difficult, as the sobs of his wife continued.

In the back room, the sudden cries of grief pierced Echo’s eardrums, and she whirled away from the door towards the sound. “Please don’t be a student,” she muttered to some unknown power and headed in that direction, her black yoga pants making a gentle sshhh as she walked. She also wore a white t-shirt. For a medic, her uniform was pretty unorthodox at best.

As she rounded the corner past her desk, Echo was surprised to come upon a middle-aged woman screaming in grief at Vivienne’s bedside. What on earth—

Her train of thought was interrupted by a voice near the door. A man, maybe slightly older than the woman, was by the door, talking to a small student from the Hufflepuff team. Echo turned towards him, a nervous, attempted smile on her face.

“The doctor is here,” she said kindly, remembering his last words, “and you can talk to her.” The man turned as she approached. “Who might you—” Echo cut off her words with sudden realization. The man’s face, and the twang in his voice…

“Oh.” This man was obviously Vivienne’s father. And the hysterical woman’s role was evident. Echo suddenly became more aware of herself and her very, very not-standard clothing. She flushed a bit with discomfort. “You must be Mr. Moor,” she began, after a brief break in words. “I’m Echo Kiwina, the school medic.”

She took his hand and shook it gently. “Is that your wife?” Without waiting for a reply, she crossed to Vivienne’s bed and dropped to her own knees beside the sobbing woman, placing a hand on her shoulder. “Mrs. Moor?” She waited until the woman composed herself a bit, and then continued in a soothing voice, “I’m Echo Kiwina, the Hogwarts medic. I’ll be talking to your husband at my desk. Would you be able to join us when you’re ready? In the meantime, please be careful not to jar the bed at all.” Vivienne was in a fragile state…that information could be told later, though.

Unable to discern any response, Echo stood up, her slippers squeaking dully. “Mr. Moor,” she said, beckoning with a quick flick or her hand, and then stepping to her desk. It was a litter of paperwork. Letters from the Daily Prophet requesting interviews about Vivienne; bills from her flat in Hogsmeade; newspaper clippings…brushing them all aside, Echo extended a hand towards the sink. Three clean mugs flew over and she directed them onto the table.

Sitting down in a plush chair, Echo offered another equally comfortable one to Mr. Moor. “Coffee?” she inquired, taking out her wand. She pointed it at her own mug and stated, “Gudrenlio Mocha.” The mug filled with smooth, chocolate, brown mocha, and she took a sip. Then, setting down her mug, she looked Mr. Moor straight in the eye.

“Mr. Moor, I am assuming you received a letter from the school via floo, correct?” Receiving a response in the affirmative, Echo continued, “I did not know this was sent, or what was in it. So I don’t know if you know what exactly happened to your daughter.” She sighed. “During the Quidditch match, Vivienne managed to grab the snitch, and it was an excellent catch. Then the clock tower struck, and somehow she managed to fall from her broom. Whether the bells’ vibrations knocked her off balance or whether she just fell, I’m not sure. In any case, she landed on the rocks lining the pitch.” Echo paused, before she continued, “One student, Kameko Li, did try to save Vivi, but there was no way she could have caught her in time. Your daughter broke almost every bone in her body. She also received multiple lacerations and a severe concussion. And,” she concluded, taking a deep breath, “her heart stopped beating. Clinically, Vivienne was dead.”

“Now,” she continued, looking into her coffee, “only under very special conditions can someone be returned to life from death. Muggles claim to do it all the time, but even with them the person is not truly ‘dead’. However, Vivienne was. But she still had the tiniest bit of life force in her. Though she wasn’t breathing and her heart wasn’t working, she was one of the rare few who have the chance of revival.”

Echo looked at Vivienne’s father, a man at least twice her age, giving him a small smile. “After bringing her in, I managed to bring her back to life using a very powerful spell. What you must understand, though, is that a spell can only do so much,” Echo frowned, sitting back down and taking a deep gulp of mocha. She felt like nodding off again. “Vivienne is in a coma.”

Echo almost winced at her own words, physically sensing far too extremely the pain the parents felt. She had the urge to break down in sobbing apology herself for not being better. Instead, she bit her lip and looked into the pile of papers and envelopes. “I don’t know when or if she will wake up,” she admitted, not looking up. She wasn’t going to create false hope. “If she does, though, she will have a long recovery. Her bones are in several small pieces, and will take a long time to heal. If she gets past that, she’ll have to go through intense physiotherapy, and there is the possibility that she’ll never walk again.”

She continued to stare at the pile of papers. Echo had had her share of hard knocks, but she had hoped she would never be the bearer of bad news. But here she was, telling the parents of a seventeen-year-old that their daughter could end up a cripple or worse, die. Vivi had once already. “Is there—do you have any questions you think I could answer?” she stuttered, feeling a bit ill.

“She’s alive.” The words were more a statement than a question, as Mr. Moor rubbed one hand across his forehead, swiping at his wispy gray hair. “Oh. Thank you.”

It was a lot of information to take in at once. There was nothing that he knew to ask, nothing that he knew to say, except to marvel at that one fact. Vivi was alive. It was a long shot into a small barrel, but it was a shot.

“They— the letter just said that she had fallen. It didn’t say…one way or another, but we thought…” He did not finish the sentence. It was clear what the Moors had thought. And as they had been very nearly right, Mr. Moor saw no reason to say it, for fear that saying it would speak it into being. He was not a superstitious man, but six years ago he thought witchcraft was a myth. And now…

He looked into his hands for a moment, as behind him Mrs. Moor stood, facing the wall. She composed herself as best as she could, dabbing at her eyes with her apron, trying to be strong. It was difficult. What made it worse was that she had questions, questions she needed the answers to but was almost not brave enough to ask. One burned particularly bright in her mind, but it would take all of her strength to pose it.

Maybe it could wait…

But would the waiting drive her mad?

Mrs. Moor knew that others had suffered like this before, that others shared her grief, but her own situation felt so much more desperate in this hour. Her Vivi, her baby, her only, the only one she had ever been able to have…

And there was the what if

“What if she doesn’t wake up?” Mrs. Moor asked, her voice quivering, as she eased into a chair beside her husband. She looked at Echo, an odd mix of hope and terror engraved on her face.

“Cadence—“ Mr. Moor said, stiffening. He had not known that she was listening, and he was not sure if he should feel grateful that he would not have to repeat the information on Vivi’s condition, or guilty because he had not been able to break it to his wife gently. Yet such emotions were replaced by an intense sense of dread as the implications of his wife’s question sunk in. Why did she have to ask? It was enough that Vivi was alive, that was enough for now, this was too soon…

“I have to know, Lawrence.” Mrs. Moor said softly.

She had to. She had to face the worst now, while she could believe it, prepare for it, before she felt hope again. And for Vivi not to wake up…that would be the worst. It was Mrs. Moor’s nightmares embodied, because she believed that she already knew the answer to her question. If Vivi did not wake up, she would have to decide. She would have to decide between life and death for her daughter, and no matter what she decided, it would haunt her. It would never be the right decision. It would never be what she wanted. Because she wanted Vivi to be alive, but she did not want that if it meant that Vivi would be fettered in a world she could no longer experience, a world that held nothing more for her.

Yet if Vivi did not wake up, what was the alternative? Remove the IV that gave her nutrition? Let her starve?

Cadence was the girl’s mother for goodness sakes, she could not kill her child.

But what if

Echo felt her insides clench and a bolt of cold air shoot down her spine when Mrs. Moor asked the one question Echo had been dreading.

The medic looked into her lap. She had hoped this wouldn’t come up. If she could have, she would have just answered, “I don’t know.” But she owed it to the comatose girl’s parents to at least give them some valid answer. The scared look on Cadence Moor’s face and the anxious one on Mr. Moor held her with some responsibility.

With a sigh, she looked back up at the mother, at least twenty years her senior. “If you mean, if she doesn’t make it,” she began, tripping over her tongue a bit, “then the answer is obvious. If you mean that she remains in a coma, or slips into a vegetative state—which I think is unlikely, mind you, but is still a possibility—then the choice is yours.” Echo wanted to hold Mrs. Moor’s hand, comfort her, tell her not to worry, everything would be taken care of. But this was not Echo’s choice to make.

“You can choose to leave her as she is. She would likely be moved to one of the more prominent hospitals, instead of remain at the school’s infirmary—though rest assured she is in good hands here. She would continue to be fed intravenously, and kept on some form of life support until she eventually passed on. Or,” she continued after stopping for a breath, “you could take away her life. I personally would discourage against this, as there is always a chance. However, as her parents, you would have to decide what is best for Vivienne. It’s entirely your decision, and a very difficult one. At the moment, however, your daughter is stable. So the question should not come up until she is in a coma for at least eight years, or until she shifts into vegetation. I hope the question will not come up.”

Mrs. Moor smiled bleakly at Echo through newly erupted tears (she was beginning to feel that she might never stop crying completely) and nodded. “That’s somethin’ at least.” Cadence said, not bothering to wipe her eyes this time. It was something, something that Vivi was stable, something that…that…that she did not have to decide that.

“Thank you,” Mrs. Moor finished, echoing her husband’s earlier sentiments. While she easily noticed Echo’s age and casual uniform, she just as easily dismissed it. It warmed her heart to know that this girl-woman had saved her daughter’s life, and the doctor’s honesty reassured her even more. It was hard not to trust someone when they were trying to do their best by you. Like her daughter, Mrs. Moor valued candor above many other traits, and Echo seemed sincere.

Echo smiled gently at the Moors, asking, “Any other questions,” as her eyes slipped beyond them to fall on the Hospital door. It was quietly opening to admit a student: Avery.

Avery, returning to the Wing after breakfast, was surprised to see Vivi’s parents. He understood why they were there, but they were muggles. It just seemed a bit…strange.

He didn’t want to interrupt Echo and Mr. Moor, nor did he want to interrupt Mrs. Moor’s crying, so he sat on an empty bed and stared blankly at Vivi and her mother.

As the doctor looked beyond the Moors, Cadence followed her gaze, and gasped when she saw who Echo was looking at. “Avery,” she exclaimed when her eyes fell on him.

Within moments, Mrs. Moor had caught Avery up in a tight, one-sided, motherly hug. “Oh poor baby,” she murmured into his shirt, completely ignoring the fact that she was not his mother, that he was more than a foot taller than her, and that he might need to breathe. This was Avery, the boy that her daughter was so enthralled with. That made him family; after all, maybe him being an actual part of the family was not that far off.

Cadence had hoped….

“Are ya, well, oh never mind,” she said, looking up at him. It was pointless and rather insulting to ask if he was okay. Of course he was not okay. Vivi was not okay, so Avery was not okay; his presence in the Hospital Wing proved as much.

As his wife smothered Avery, Mr. Moor sat pensive. But then he shook his head, and made to stand. “Thank you again, Echo. For givin’ her a chance.”

He motioned vaguely, saying, “We’ll be here till…well, for a while. Is there somewhere I could put th’ bags?” The Moors rarely traveled, so their suitcases were an odd assortment. Most of the toiletries were kept in an old hat box, while clothes and such had been tossed in a green trunk that was probably a survivor from World War I. It was hap-hazardous, but it worked.

So Mr. Moor with his quiet practicality worked to get settled in and Mrs. Moor with her loud sentimentality watched Avery. The sorrow of both parents tainted their very being, but it was infused with a sort of frightened hope. This was almost the very worst thing that could have happened, but it was not the worst. Vivi was alive. Maybe there would be a happy ending…

Maybe.

When Mr. Moor inquired about the bags, Echo leaned on her desk and pondered a minute. “You could stay in the Medic’s Quarters, just down the hall a bit.”

“Th’ Medic’s quarters will work,” Mr. Moor said, happy to be able to stay in the Hospital Wing, near Vivi. The parents would want to be on hand if…

Just if.

With Echo’s offer to take the bags, Mr. Moor accepted nodded and said, “That’d be great.” Under normal circumstances he would have insisted on helping to take the bags, on being polite, but normalcy had gone out the window. Now he wanted to be in the Hospital Wing.

So, as Echo disappeared with the bags, and Mrs. Moor released Avery, her eyes tearing up again, Mr. Moor walked over. He gripped Avery’s shoulder in a silent greeting, and then stepped back.

“Hi, son.” As soon as he said it, he half expected Vivi to admonish him for calling her boyfriend son. It insinuated too much, she had said when Avery has visited their house over a year ago. It would make anyone uncomfortable, she had said.

But despite the had-beens and had-saids, the memories, Vivi didn’t stir.

“Hey, Mr. Moor…” Avery said, completely ignoring the “son” comment. It creeped him out, but Vivs was in a coma and the only bit of her that he had left was her parents, who wanted to call him son.

If they wanted to, they could…at least until Vivi woke up. After that, he would tell her to mention the creepiness to them again…

“Mrs. Moor,” he said, returning her tackle-hug with a one-arm hug that was unenergetic and horribly weak. “How ya guys holding up?”

It was a dumb question, seeing that their daughter was in a coma after nearly dying, but he had to do something to avoid an awkward silence. More often than not, it was just him and Vivi, and he had to talk to himself to keep the silence from driving him insane. Now that there were other people, he was going to drag out a conversation for as long as he could.

Besides, they were probably physically and emotionally drained from constant panicking. They knew Avery and would probably appreciate some measure of familiarity…

…maybe.

“We’re,” Cadence blinked back more tears, “Oh well, ya know.” If anyone would know how they felt, Avery would. He had seen her. “She is just so pale,” Mrs. Moor whispered, while Mr. Moor followed her gaze. It was true. Vivi, who was naturally fair skinned, but spent plenty of time in the sun, was pale under her smattering of freckles. There was a wane look to her, like she was wilting from the inside, or fading at the edges. It was probably because that, as animated as Vivi was awake, it was strange to see her completely still.

Mr. Moor ripped his eyes away first and back to Avery, whom he was determined to try to call by his name. Vivi wanted him to.

“How long’ve ya been here, Avery?” He asked, glancing at the cot Avery had been sitting on earlier. “A while?”

Mr. Moor didn’t really need answer. Avery must have been in the wing all night, because he looked as tired as Mr. Moor felt.

Francisco Hardy headed to the Hospital Wing in need of headache medication after a long trip from his fiancée’s house. He had planned to arrive at Hogwarts in time for the Ravenclaw vs, Hufflepuff Quidditch game, as Vivi had invited him, but unforeseen delays meant that by the time he arrived it was Monday morning. Finally arriving at the wing, Cisco pushed the doors open and walked in. He opened his mouth to call for the medic, but then something else caught his eye: Vivi.

He rushed over to her bedside. Wrapping his arms tightly around her body in a hug, he wondered what had caused her to be forced into such a horrible place. Tears ran down his face. It was awful to see such a great friend in pain.

Mrs. Moor entered the Hospital Wing from the back hallway that led to her current room, having heard the door slam. She expected to see another visitor for Vivi, but what she saw was a madman trying to kill her daughter (again!) “No!” Mrs. Moor screeched, running towards Cisco. He was crushing Vivi! It had only been two days since the accident, and he would break every bone in her body again! Murderer! “Get off her, get off!” she continued to shout, bearing down on him with the newspaper. The first blows hit his back and shoulders, but Mrs. Moor continued to smack him wherever she could reach, protecting Vivi from this unknown attacker. She had hope for her daughter yet, and there was no way that this crazy person was going to wreck all of the work that the Bone-B-Good had done.

As Cisco let go of Vivi, Mrs. Moor’s breathing eased, but she continued to brandish the newspaper, stepping in front of Vivi.

Echo was at her desk, asleep again, when Mrs. Moor’s sudden shrieks woke her, and she bolted upright, her chair threatening to tip over backwards. “Oh no,” she groaned, pulling herself up and hurrying into the main room. Mrs. Moor was beating on someone who looked very familiar. Francisco Hardy, Echo was sure, was the receiver of the blows. Vivienne looked as though she had been picked up and dropped, and the Medic quickly discerned the events leading to the beatings.

Echo was just in time to see Mrs. Moor, still clinging to the newspaper, growl, “Who’re ya?” at Cisco. Cadence looked like an older, more dangerous, blue-eyed Vivi in a rage.

Turning around to look at his attacker, Cisco noted a larger, yet angrier, form of Vivi…Vivi’s mother?

She had asked who he was, so Cisco answered, “Miss Moor, the names Francisco Hardy. I graduated just last year. Vivi and I were very close friends. I wouldn’t dream of hurting her,” he said, wondering what had happened to Vivi.

“If it’s not to bold of me to ask, what exactly caused this?” he motioned towards Vivi lying in her bed.

Echo winced. That was not the best thing to say to a hurting mother.

“It was a Quidditch accident,” she filled in, reaching Mrs. Moor and putting one arm around her, the other on the nearest arm. She looked at Cisco with a frown. “Vivienne fell off her broom.” With a quick darting glance at Mrs. Moor, then back to the boy, she sighed. “You cannot touch Vivienne at all, Francisco. She’s in a very fragile state. Mrs. Moor,” she said, turning to the other side, “you must believe that he would never hurt Vivienne on purpose.”

Sudden anger coupled with intense grief is a volatile combination, and one that hit Mrs. Moor with full force as Echo draped her arm around her and the implications of Cisco’s question hit.

What had caused this?

Vivi had died. That had caused this.

As tears pooled in her eyes, she wiped furiously at them, gulping and trying to stay under control. “You’re- ya-ya…Cisco,” she said, not moving away from Echo. It was a sort of role reversal, with Echo as the mother and Cadence as the child, but she was comforted by the medic’s presence.

“V-V-“ she couldn’t say Vivi’s Cisco. The words wouldn’t come. “She-she,” more tears. “Oh I’m sorry,” she burst out, stubbornly trying to brush away tears, but the more she fought against it the more it seemed that the pressure descended upon her. She could never be a woman of silent suffering, so now she was crying again.

“I just c-can’t,” she hiccupped and more tears fell, and she was making a spectacle of herself, but it wouldn’t stop and she could not will it to. She was clinging to Echo, sobbing into her shoulder, rendering the medic helpless.

Echo felt her face flush as Cadence began to sob uncontrollably into her shoulder. It was caused by an odd mix of emotions. It was bizarre. Echo, despite having suffered greatly in her own short life, had never been comforted by an older person. Not a professor, not a medic, nothing. The only one who had comforted her was her sister, and her sister was dead. So suddenly having to reassure and hold someone twice her age…she felt a horrible blend of sadness, caring, and jealousy. Why should she help Mrs. Moor now, why should she be the motherly figure all of a sudden? But she knew why, and with a wrenching feeling inside, she continued to let Mrs. Moor cry on her shoulder.

“I’m sorry, I’m s-s-orry,” Cadence repeated as her tears slowed. “Oh, Cisco, she’s in, a, a coma,” she finally explained, breaking away from Echo, unaware of the Medic’s inner turmoil. She hugged Cisco, and then sunk into her chair at the end of Vivi’s bed.

Echo herself felt a little teary at the breakdown of Mrs. Moor’s composure. No one could keep up face for so long. As Cadence continued to sob, Echo looked at Cisco once again and took in a raggedy breath. “I’m afraid it’s true, Francisco. Vivienne is in a coma. She is fragile physically, but mentally stable,” she gulped in more air to sooth her burning eyes. “She should be all right, but as it is, we’re playing it as it goes.” Looking at Vivienne for a minute, Echo sighed.

This was causing far too much pain.

Wednesday afternoon. Four days had passed since the tragic Quidditch match, but Vivi had not stirred at all. She breathed shallowly, her chest rising and falling just enough to provide her with a minimum of oxygen, and her faint pulse beat away, but though the body was alive, the girl inside did not move. Her eyes remained closed, her face slack, and she never even twitched. She was entirely still.

Despite this, Cadence Moor talked to her daughter as though nothing had changed. She told Vivi about the weather, about the visitors she had, about how her cousins were doing back home. She talked about how nice the people at Hogwarts had been, and how she had actually seen a house elf, and how funny the little thing looked. She talked about innocent things, trying in vain to illicit a response, any response.

But Vivi stayed silent.

While his wife passed the hours with intermingled loud chattering, and when she thought he was not watching, quiet sobbing, Mr. Moor paced. He seemed unable to stay in the wing for long period of time (while his wife seemed unable to leave) and so he took long walks until he was lost. Mostly he walked outside, but he had not been to the pitch yet. He was not ready to face that. He did, however, find the library.

And so now Mrs. Moor had books to read to Vivi.

It was all very strange and backwards, to have muggles at Hogwarts, for Mrs. Moor to be reading from a magical text and Mr. Moor carefully avoiding the trick steps, but there was nothing for it. The parents would not leave, and it seemed no one had the heart to limit their interactions at Hogwarts, so the situation went unchecked.

“Do ya know, I never knew that about dragons,” Mrs. Moor said as she finished a short text on the habits of the Chinese Fireball. She looked at Vivi, then oh-so-carefully, tenderly, stroked one finger along her hand. She was afraid to touch her, afraid to hurt her, but maybe if she just touched Vivi’s hand…

Mr. Moor cleared his throat and Mrs. Moor looked up to see another young woman standing in the doorway to the Hospital Wing.

Crystal looked at the Moors, already wanting to leave. She never should have come.

You stupid, stupid person, she told herself. Of course her parents are here, just leave…leave them alone. Stupid stupid stupid. The Moors had not been here when Crystal had visited before, but that had been Saturday night. Now it was different…

Crystal found herself walking forward, her feet defying her mind. Before she knew where she was, she was at Vivi’s beside. She opened her mouth to speak, but no sound came out. Instead she stood, her mouth hanging open and her blue eyes drawn to Vivi’s cold, empty face. Crystal felt her cheeks turn red as she realized what an idiot she was being. Her eyes hurried to the ground, before slowly rising to meet Mrs. Moor’s gaze.

“I’m…I’m Crystal Lake. I was, I mean I am, the…the Quidditch Coach,” her voice was soft and stuttered, lowering as she almost whispered the word ‘Quidditch’. She dug her hand into her robe pocket and pulled out a large bar of Honeydukes Chocolate. “For when she gets better.” Suddenly Crystal realized that she didn’t even know if Mr. and Mrs. Moor were wizards or muggles. In fact, she didn’t really know a lot about Vivs.

“Quid- oh.” Mrs. Moor said, cutting her own sentence off as she met Crystal’s eyes. She looked quickly away, and her faced drained even whiter than it had been, with the exception of red splotches on her cheeks. Her expression was unreadable, but only because she did not even know what she was feeling.

Anger? Yes, there was some of that. This was the Quidditch coach! She had let this happen!

Forgiveness? Yes, there was there. It was not Crystal’s fault.

Curiosity? Certainly. What had happened? Why had it happened? Did she know yet? Would anyone ever know?

Crystal felt a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach as she looked into Mrs. Moor’s eyes. She knew that deep down the woman would blame Crystal for what happened, and deep down in herself Crystal agreed with her. She had been in charge of all the players on the pitch, they had been her responsibility.

But it had been foggy. So foggy.

It was Lawrence who saved the situation. He picked up the bar of chocolate, setting it next to the pile of library books, on a table at the end of the bed.

“For when she gets better,” he agreed, throwing a cautious look at Vivi. Next his gaze fell back on Crystal, his gray eyes familiar. They were the older, masculine version of Vivi’s own.

“The doctor said a student tried ta catch her. Would ya give her our thanks, if ya see her?” He asked, diverting the attention from his wife and onto something safer. It was too late to place blame, even if anyone deserved it, which he doubted that the coach did. What was done was done, and they were all sorry for it.

Crystal shook the thoughts from her head and turned her attention to Mr. Moor. She smiled softly at him as he mentioned Kameko. Not a cheerful, happy smile but a gentle smile, full of sympathy and sadness.

“Yes, Kameko. I’m sure she’ll be up to see Vivi soon, although she was very cut up about the whole thing. Everyone tried their best.”

Except you, said the little voice in Crystal’s head. Silently she told it to shut up.

Crystal turned her eyes back upon Vivi, forcing herself to look at the limp body. “So, what did the Medic say?” asked Crystal, immediately wishing she hadn’t.

“That she’s got a chance,” Lawrence replied. “Hard ta know now.” He found himself sizing up Crystal, wondering what kind of flyer she was, what kind of coach. He stored the name, Kameko in the back of his head for later, and then chanced a glance at Mrs. Moor.

She was slowly shredding a tissue, her eyes focused off to the side.

“Could…could ya tell us about the game?” Mr. Moor asked after a minute’s silence. “We know th’ basics, but not what it was like.”

Mrs. Moor dropped the tissue and stood abruptly as her husband spoke. “Excuse me,” she whispered in a strained voice, and disappeared.

Sighing, Mr. Moor looked expectantly at Crystal.

Crystal closed her eyes as Mrs. Moor fled from the Hospital Wing. She had no idea the pain that this woman was feeling. Slowly the turned to face Mr. Moor and opened her eyes. When she spoke her voice was heavy and resigned.

“Quidditch…Quidditch is a fast game, which commands great broom riding and tactical skill. Vivi…Vivi had both. She was a fantastic player.”

“She really loves it,” Mr. Moor replied, looking at Vivi with a touch of pride.

He had known that Vivi was an amazing player. She was his daughter, of course she was amazing. She was amazing at everything she did. But coming from the Quidditch coach, the assurance meant she was really a good player.

But it struck him that even if Vivi did wake up, so many things would be different. She might be disabled; she might never walk again, much less fly.

She was already so skinny, too. Once the swelling diminished, she would be even skinner. Vivi could not stand to spend weeks on an IV. She would lose all of her strength, all of her vitality. She would wither away.

So still, so quiet…she was already withering away.

“I think I’ll check on Cadence,” Mr. Moor said quietly. “Stay as long as ya like Crystal. Thank ya for coming.”

He stood and disappeared down the corridor, after his heartbroken wife.

A gentle whap of footfalls resounded through the halls as Kameko made her way to the Hospital Wing. A blue and silver envelope was clutched in her hand, with a snowflake seal on it, beside a gold-wrapped candy. It contained a short apology to Medic Kiwina for mouthing off. Kameko winced just remembering it. It was a throwback to the old Kameko—snotty and rude. That was something she had aspired to put behind her. She flipped the letter in her hands and stared down at it, mentally tracing her steps to the Wing.

Her clothes from the match had been burned— even her cozy, worn-in Quidditch jeans. Her broom, too, had gone with them, having broken when a dazed student stepped on it. And her bat was donated to charity. She wanted no recollection whatsoever of the game. None. It was her shame. She could buy new Quidditch things. That was the advantage to riches: you didn’t have to save painful memories.

Fragments of it still floated in her mind— a missed grab, a desperate dive, vomiting— she had been weak. But now she would be strong. Honorable. Enough of the self-pity.

Kameko was going to shut up, deal with it, and help. She may not have been great before, but she certainly would do her best now. A black ballet tee and a pair of deep green harem pants adorned her petite 4’10 frame. Her black-and-blue hair, sliced in a choppy, interestingly beautiful chin-length cut, was pulled into two low pigtails. Around the fourth year Ravenclaw girl’s neck was a tiny snowflake on a thin silver chain. The constant whap echoed from a pair of black kung-fu slippers.

Presently Kameko found herself standing before the doors of the Hospital Wing, which she pushed open with surprising strength for a girl her size. The sight of Vivienne’s prone form made her wince again, but she swallowed her guilt and stepped in. Kiwina was nowhere in sight. Kameko set the letter on the already cluttered desk, wrinkling her nose at its state.

With a sigh, she pulled up a chair and sat beside Vivienne. “Well, at least you’re not dead anymore,” she said darkly, making a feeble attempt at a joke to cheer herself. Popping the chocolate she brought along from the golden packaging into her mouth, she frowned and looked at Vivienne a bit closer. Right after the game, she had just had a glimpse. Now she got an up-close view. The Hufflepuff seemed peaceful: calm and quiet.

I wonder if people dream in comas? Kameko asked herself, gazing at Vivi.

As it so happened, Vivi was dreaming. She would never remember her dreams when she awoke, but as she laid still her subconscious kept throwing things at her, locking her in her slumbers.

The most repeated dream was the dream of falling. It was a terrible one, one she would be glad not to remember. But there were other visions…

She dreamed of flying, not falling but flying. She dreamed of people she knew, or had known, faces that seemed to float for an instant and then sink. There were whispers in her mind, of doubt, of fear, of contentment. She dreamed of sinking deep, far down into yellow, then bobbing back up again, and sinking, over and over. It was not the long tunnel so rumored, but a different, giddier feeling that perpetually teetered like a see-saw.

The most vivid dream she had was of green and gold. Green and gold gauze, and she kept brushing it away with her hands, but she could never see through it. This vision always emerged whenever she was closest to the surface, when her pulse grew stronger, but she would wear herself out trudging through the green, and slip back, back, back…

There was a creak at the door, and Kameko tore her eyes away from Vivi, serene, her hands folded neatly on top of her folded-down sheets, as two middle-aged people entered the room. From where Kameko was, she couldn’t make out their features that well. Just a man and a woman, both seeming tired and sad. Kameko had a lapse of stupidity and stood up, trying to get a better look.

“Oh,” Mrs. Moor murmured, seeing the latest visitor. Lawrence was with her, not touching her but close enough to comfort her. “Don’t stand,” Cadence said to Kameko. “We’re sitting.” She eased into a chair at the end of the bed, her blue skirt fanning around her.

Kameko heard the words, but still remained standing, nervous and rigid. Since the accident a little more of her “good breeding” had shone through her cool and happy exterior. She watched as the tired-looking woman sat down, and then looked at the man with her—evidently, her husband. They didn’t seem like your standard wizard couple. From this, Kameko deduced they were likely muggles. At Hogwarts?

“I’m Lawrence Moor,” Mr. Moor introduced, for what felt like the one-hundredth time in a day. For once he did not introduce his wife. She would be mum during this conversation, he guessed. Her face was drawn; she looked ready to collapse. He knew what she was doing. At first she had been all tears, but now she was all optimism during the day, trying to act as cheerful as she could, talk as though Vivi was just asleep. It wore her out, and the conversation with Crystal earlier had only upset her more.

Soon she would have to stop, have to stop pretending. But for now…

“Vivi’s father,” he finished the introduction, although it was unneeded. By now everyone in the school knew what the name, “Moor,” meant.

With the realization, Kameko felt a strange rolling sensation in her gut, and she tried her best to hold it still. How could she have not guessed they were Vivienne’s parents? Feeling ill, like she had to sit, she still remained on her feet. Strength would prevail. With any luck, the parents hadn’t heard about her yet.

“Oh,” she said plainly. “And you’re Mrs. Moor. How do you do?” she greeted Vivienne’s mother in a kind voice, turning to her and nodding her head slightly. Kameko’s hands were behind her back as she looked upon the parents. They seemed pained— what parent wouldn’t?—try as they might to conceal it.

She had to introduce herself. It was common politeness. “I’m—” she began, and then stopped to take a soothing breath into her lungs. The air in the room seemed to have thinned out. “I’m Kameko Li, one of the Ravenclaw Beaters.”

“Kameko—” Mr. Moor said, as though trying to remember something. Then the name clicked, recognition hit, and he looked at Kameko with new eyes. So this was the girl who had tried.

“Crystal and Echo mentioned that you were there,” Mr. Moor said, “and tried to save her. Thank you for that.”

Mrs. Moor sat up, now, listening. Earlier when the coach had been here, she had been too preoccupied to listen to names. Now she did, and she also looked at the girl. Short, strong, polite, probably feisty. Mrs. Moor would bet anything that Vivi had liked her, even though she was on the opposite Quidditch team.

There was something disturbing about meeting one of Vivi’s friends, but without Vivi. Something unreal.

Coming out of her stupor, Mrs. Moor seconded her husband, “Yes, thank you…for trying.”

Kameko froze. So they did know about her. And yet they still thanked her? What was wrong with everyone? There was a line from a “movie”, as the muggles called them, made back quite a ways. “Do or do not, there is no try.” Kameko had tried, but not done. It was nothing to be proud of.

“Err…no problem,” she muttered, newly embarrassed, blushing furiously and creating a contrast of bright pink on very pale skin. Her face was unbearably hot under the stares of Mr. and Mrs. Moor. “I… I’m really sorry about Vivienne,” she looked into her lap, and before she could stop them, words tumbled out of her mouth. “I tried, I really did, but I had turned around too late, and she—” Kameko’s voice caught, and her eyes began to sting.

Wonderful, she thought, just wonderful. First I’ll babble for a bit, and then I’ll start sniveling in front of the parents. Marvelous job, Kameko Artemis, she swallowed her tears and looked back up at them. Now for what she came here for. “If there’s anything I can do to help…”

“There’s not anything anyone can do,” Mr. Moor said gently, “except wait.”

A feeling of helplessness swept through him at the words. Nothing. Nothing they did would help, nothing anyone did would help, they could only hope.

How far could hope get you, exactly? Sometimes it felt as though there was not enough to last until the end of the day. Sometimes it felt as though there was not enough to last until the end of the minute.

It was with a glance at his wife that Mr. Moor wondered what happened when you ran out of hope. Nothing good, he decided, silently, as Cadence closed her eyes and looked down.

Nothing good at all.

The Saturday after the fateful Quidditch game, the Hospital Wing, previously mostly empty, filled up with many of Vivi’s friends and classmates. The sudden spike in visitation was due in part to the absence of classes and in part to the realization that the day marked a week’s time since Vivi had first entered a coma. She still showed no change.

Agatha quietly, gently, pushed open the door of the Hospital Wing. Despite the fact that it was far from empty, the place still had a hushed, white, sterile atmosphere.

Agatha, an angel of mercy, in a wrap over white Chloe top and white Ugg boots, clutched at a small bouquet of yellow flowers, beautifully tied and arranged.

It was obvious which one was Vivi, although she could not see her yet. Hers was the crowded bedside, the one where a motley variety of people, some of whom she did not recognize, seemed almost to be camped out around.

And he was there too. Of course he was. Where else? He did not see her, he was not looking, his head was in his hands. He was at some distance from the other mourners.

Agatha moved quietly along, her snowy boots silent on the gleaming floor. She got a better look at the people around the bed. The muggles could only be the Moors themselves and Agatha, social convention queen, felt it safest to address them first.

She laid her beautiful bouquet on the end of Vivi’s bed.

“Mr. and Mrs. Moor,” she murmured respectfully. “I was so sorry to hear about Vivi. I cannot pretend to you we are the best of friends, but I just wanted to tell you how truly sorry I am, but…I shall no longer intrude on your privacy. It was nice to have met you, I wish it could have been in more favorable circumstances.”

Mr. and Mrs. Moor nodded, acknowledging her presence before being distracted by other visitors, and Agatha smiled sorrowfully. It was her longest and certainly the only polite speech she had ever made to muggle parents of any sort. She felt very proud of herself.

Then she moved away and with a rush of genuine pain she saw what grief had done to him.

She knelt beside him and put one small, reassuring hand tentatively on his knee, to alert him to her presence.

Avery scowled when he realized that Agatha of the SPBBS was in the Hospital Wing. She laid her hand on his knee and he immediately knocked it off. “Never touch me again…” he didn’t look up. “Oh Avery,” Agatha said and there was a pain in her chest too as she looked upon him. “Oh, Avery,” she said, “I am so sorry.”

She wanted to hug him, to hold him, to stroke his beautiful hair, to make everything better.

She did none of these things of course.

Instead she waited.

“Tell me, Agatha,” Avery said, staring at a crack in the floor. “Is it your mission in life to make me more miserable? Or do you just get some sort of sick kick out of seeing me depressed?” After a few seconds of silence, he looked up at her. “Why are you here?”

Agatha’s heart thudded horribly within her chest. She wondered vaguely if he had any idea of the pain which he, in turn, had caused her, both now and over the course of many years.

She could have almost anybody she chose. And she chose rejection, pain and humiliation at the hands of Avery Berke. Again. And again. And again.

What was wrong with her?

Yet this could not all be in vain. It could not. Would not. She was prepared for it. But it hurt her just the same.

She looked at him, she returned his bitter glance with eyes which shone true. “Don’t say that Avery,” she said quietly. “I have just brought some flowers for Vivi, that’s all. I know Vivi and I are not friends, and I told her parents as much myself. I am not acting a part, but I was trying to make amends before this happened. Now…” she paused and tried to read his emotions in his well-known and beloved face. “I just wanted to say how sorry I was. To her parents…and…and…to you. I care a lot about you, Avey,” she whispered. “You are not alone, if you ever want to talk or…or a shoulder to cry on…or…or anything, then I am here for you,” she whispered.

She did not dare to push her luck by touching him again, although the urge to do so was almost impossibly strong. She looked down and closed her lips tightly together, suppressing whatever emotions she was feeling.

“You’ve made my life hell…” Avery said softly, looking again at the floor. “You’ve made her life hell. Now she’s as good as dead and you come in here and…a-and…”

He started crying again.

He didn’t want to admit it, but he loved Agatha. And Vivi. Those two hated each other more than, possibly, any other two people in the world. And Avery was stuck in the middle because of his history with both.

Over seven years at Hogwarts, Agatha had been the bitch who made him want to kill the world. Vivi had been the annoyingly chipper Huth that had annoyed him when he was angry at the world. Yet despite their extreme differences, he’d managed to love them both.

It confused him too much to think about it.

“Why does life have to be so confusing?” he said suddenly. “Why can’t it just be simple. Why do the Fates have to screw with everything…?”

Ignoring Agatha completely, he stood and walked out of the wing.

Agatha remained kneeling where she was for a moment longer, before she permitted herself to rise. She would follow him, naturally, but he also needed time and space to work things through. She could not take him in her arms and into her life with still those tears…not yet. Not yet.

He loved her still. She could not say why she was so sure of this, perhaps merely because to accept anything less would mean the ruination of all her hopes and plans. And yet it was more than this too. In amidst the long years of bitterness and hatred there had been moments–even whilst he was with the sniveler–moments when she had felt his eyes upon her, a feeling that he was watching and wanting an indefinable something.

There was a connection there that neither of them could deny. A bond which no chipper mudblood girl could ever get close too. It was a bond for life, together or apart; Agatha Swales knew her life was bound to that of Avery Berke.

Quietly, respectfully, she made her way out of the doors which swung noiselessly to in her wake.

He hadn’t gone very far.

Agatha was perhaps more lovely in her concern that she had ever been in her haughtiness.

“You don’t have to do this alone, Avie,” she murmured. “Don’t turn me away. You know I love you.”

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