Chapter 35


Gradually the first week of silence from Vivi passed, seeping into a second week and then a third. The flowers be her bedside wilted, to be removed by the house elves, and gifts from well-wishers piled, desolate, in the guest room occupied by the Moors. The flood of visitors slowly filtered to a trickle, as it became apparent that there was nothing to see, nothing to be done. Whatever hope remained for Vivi dwindled with each passing day.

But still she remained in a deep comatose state, entirely unresponsive, while her physical body healed. Her bones solidified; a feeding tube replaced the IV in providing her with adequate nutrition. Her condition remained stable, yet there was no disregarding the fact that most coma patients did not wake up past the fourth week.

But inside, Vivi was very, very much alive.

There was flat land and a blue sky. Vivi lay on her back, staring up at the clouds, warm in the sunlight streaming down from above. The sun here was never hot; the grass did not move, the clouds did not stir. The world hung, suspended, a landscape glued into place on a galactic collage.

“I like it here,” Vivi whispered dreamily, the grass soft beneath her head, like feathers. Her voice made no sound in the space around her.

“Maybe I’ll stay here forever.”

Mr. Moor entered the hospital wing, a queer glint in his eye, as though he was about to say something that he did not want to say. He eased into a chair beside his wife, eyes falling on Vivi.

“Cadence,” he ventured, “what’s today?”

“March 1,” Mrs. Moor answered promptly. “Almost spring.” In southern Mississippi it was almost spring, as temperatures soared out of their winter lows, leaving drab February behind in favor of sunny April. Of course the Scottish climate was much different, but that did not appear to register with Vivi’s mother.

“Right,” Mr. Moor sighed. “March 1. Three months after December 1. The…”

“Day of the accident,” Mrs. Moor finished. “Believe me, I know, Lawrence.”

He looked at her accusingly, aware that she knew what he was trying to say, but was stubbornly dancing around the subject. “Three months, Cadence,” he finally said, “You’ve read the books, you know—”

“There are exceptions,” Mrs. Moor told him. She had held on for too long now, hoped for too many days, to easily accept what her husband was trying to tell her: that Vivi might not be waking up.

“We need ta think about the future,” Lawrence finally said, rushing, “We can’t keep imposing on these people. And we can’t stay here forever, not with the store at home. We need ta look for somethin’ more permanent. A home, or a hospital, or some place she can stay—”

“Stop it, just stop it!” Cadence yelled at him, standing. She still held Vivi’s hand.

“We can’t stay here forever,” a voice boomed above Vivi. She jumped up, focusing on the sky. This was a new phenomenon.

“We need to think about the future!”

The future? Why? Vivi was perfectly happy where she was. It was safe, and warm, and a haven that offered absolute security. Pain could not reach her here. Nothing could reach her here.

But then the world began to tilt. The land was no longer flat; she was slipping along its lacquered surface, the slick green grass like ice beneath her feet. Then she was falling, falling, falling—screaming, screaming, screaming—there was an awful rip, like green, brocade curtains shredding—and Vivi landed with a thump, back in her own body.

She opened her eyes.

“You act like she’s not even alive,” Cadence condemned, unaware that her grip on Vivi’s arm was lifting the girl up some. Since Vivi had healed, there was no reason to worry much about breaking her.

“She’s our daughter! She isn’t goin’ ta a…a…a home!” But Mr. Moor was not listening. His grey eyes were focused not on Mrs. Moor, but on Vivi.

When Mrs. Moor caught his gaze she turned. She gasped. She backed away, as one afraid to believe.

Vivi blinked, her eyes focusing in on a spinning world. She blinked again.

And Mrs. Moor began to scream, wild jubilant cries of gratitude. She embraced Vivi, stroking her hair, kissing her cheek. Mr. Moor knelt, taking his daughter’s hands, tears shining in his own eyes when for once his wife’s were dry.

“Echo!” Mr. Moor called, his voice cracking with emotion. “Echo, come quick! Please!”

And as the Medic entered, attracted by the screams and the calls, Vivi blinked once more, dazed. She was limp in her mother’s grasp, so much malleable flesh, and almost before the miracle seemed real she slumped back into slumber.

But this time it was different. Vivi was not comatose; she was sleeping. Her state had been broken, and it could be predicated, with reasonable accuracy, that she would live.

And wasn’t there always something.

All week long Agatha had walked around school with a vague, dreamy smile on her face.

True enough, things were not perfect, indeed far from it. The most aggravating fact was, of course, the continued existence of the girl who should by all rights be dead. Who could possibly have predicted the survival of a brat who fell, smashed hundreds of feet below onto rocks and had lain in a coma for three months? Utterly ridiculous. Agatha had put time and effort, a lot of time and effort, into her removal and now here she was–back again. It was almost more than a girl could bear.

Secondly, Avery was not exactly as happy as Agatha could have wished. But since when had things been easy with Avery? And wasn’t that part of the pleasure? With Donal, with Matthew, things had always been too easy. Agatha was used to getting her own way. Not having it was a challenge she relished and rose to admirably.

It wasn’t that Avery was unhappy exactly. There were times when everything was absolutely and utterly divine, perfect even. When he and she were one, when she caught his eye and knew they shared the same thoughts, the same memory. Or when he sat next to her and placed his hand upon hers, and she felt the warmth of his touch and the scent of his body. Or when they talked. Just talked. Agatha had never felt this way before. Always she had required to be dazzled, wooed, bright lights, gifts and extravagant gestures. Now, to talk was enough and it secretly thrilled her days.

But there were other times when he was downright gloomy. When he pulled away from her, refused to talk, refused even to look at her. When she saw tears in his eyes and anger on his brow. And once, when she had, through pride and hurt, pushed the issue too far, he had yelled at her, denied all his feelings and declared it was all an error, a hideous mistake. Agatha Swales had tossed her haughty head of blond hair and left him, disdainfully. Left him to cry tears which none but Silka, her cat, saw. She did not try that particular experiment again.

He had told Agatha that he had confessed all to the sniveler. That the brat was devastated and that he did not know what to do. Avery may have been upset, but Agatha was delighted. She had not thought that he would have been so foolishly honest. Now the brat would hate them both, and hopefully leave them alone to be happy. If that were the case, almost Agatha would not regret her continued existence. A world where Vivi survived yet a world where they never had to see her, seemed a most satisfactory compromise. Yet one could never rely on Avery alone. The work that he had started needed to be completed.

The knife must be turned and the worm left in no doubt who had won.

Thus on the fifth day of her recovery Agatha Swales, false friend incarnate, set out to the Hospital Wing to visit Vivienne Moor. And she took no pains to conceal the small mark upon her neck. Indeed she wore a tiny black low cut Dior wrap around cardigan which highlighted both the startlingly whiteness of her hair and the little red mark emblazoned on her throat. In addition she wore a short beige pleated Chanel skirt and long black Choo boots, emphasizing her womanly form and offering, she hoped, a sufficiently startling contrast to the small weedy girl in the hospital gown.

Lightly she pushed open the doors to the Wing. Veruca was sitting up in bed with no visitors, not even the ghastly muggle parents. Agatha smiled.

“Hello Vivienne,” she said and her green eyes flashed dangerously.

Vivi did not stir.

She heard the voice, recognized it immediately, but did not move. Instead she lay still, staring at the ceiling with an empty expression, her eyes hollow, her hair splayed across the pillow like a dark and tangled cloud. In all truth she looked dead, or insane, or quite possibly both. It was as though a corpse had been resurrected from the Azkaban graveyard and laid to rest in the Hospital Wing.

Annoyed by the brat’s silence, Agatha crossed the Hospital Wing and stood at the side of the bed, looking down on her adversary, who appeared, she noted, sufficiently unkempt and uncared for. Agatha did not sit down. Height was always an advantage in the status game. “Haven’t we done the death act for long enough sweetie?” she asked with a nasty smile, “I mean, I think we need to talk about my boyfriend, don’t you?”

At further silence from Vivi, Agatha touched the corner of her white ash wand and raised one languid, perfectly plucked, eyebrow. “I am sure I could think of a lovely charm or two to aid and abet your recovery, however, if you find that you absolutely can’t respond, dear.”

Vivi stayed silent for another minute, with an odd, detached expression on her face, until she finally sighed, almost inaudibly, “Don’t threaten me.”

Agatha’s hand tightened on her wand. The thoughts of how she could make the brat sit up and beg, or possibly perform cartwheels down the hall, flashed through her mind.

But no. Sadly, she could not afford to have anything reported against her. Avery might get to hear what she had done to his ex. And it was never possible to gauge his reaction– his temper was, to say the least, a trifle unstable. So, not without a large portion of regret, she released the wand. There were other ways of provoking a reaction.

“I?” she said softly, feigning surprise and perhaps a deeper rooted hurt, that something so vulgar could be attributed to one so pure, “I, threaten you?” and there it was again, that twinge of hurt and surprise. “Why my dear girl, nothing could be further from the truth, I do assure you. I merely wished to clarify the situation we sadly once more find ourselves in. I mean, I am really here for Avery I suppose,” she purred, “He has been really upset over the last few days, thinking you would no longer wish to be his friend after he told you about us. I have obviously been comforting him as only I know how,” she paused a moment to let that reflection sink in, “But it would relieve his mind I think if you could let him know that you no longer blame him and that you may even find it in your heart to be happy for us. We are really happy together,” she said, finally a touch of genuine warmth in her voice.

Agatha stared down malignantly at the sniveler. She had to, had to get the idea now surely.

“Relieve his mind?” Vivi asked, the question portraying true disbelief in her voice, her expression incredulous as she looked up at Agatha, so very far above her. “No longer blame him?” She might have laughed if her throat had not hurt so much from the mere effort of talking.

“Don’t you understand, Agatha?” Vivi asked, slowly, “I know.” There was a pause that only the ticking of the clock filled up. “I know what happened at the game. I know what you did. I know what Avery did. Stop playing with me.” She reached for the metal handrails on the bed, gripping one in each hand and slowly sitting up. The effort was almost too much for her, but she managed, and then looked up once more at Agatha. With her hair tumbling around her shoulders and her grey eyes wild, Vivi appeared madder than ever, sinister almost.

“I might still die,” she whispered aggressively, recounting the thoughts that had swirled through her brain for a week, “or I might live. It doesn’t matter to you. Because once you leave, I am going to forget. Everything. I’ll forget you, I’ll forget Avery. You never existed. Avery never existed. He wasn’t ever real, anyway.”

She laughed then, high-pitched laughter that sounded like a small animal keening in pain. “Don’t you see, Agatha?” she asked at last, her laughter dying, her strength failing. “It’s over. You won. Now just leave me alone.”

“Where do I start?”

Vivienne Moor posed the question as she sat in the middle of her dorm, surrounded by sixth year’s worth of possessions, and haunted by as many memories. The door into her dorm room was locked behind her; her crutches leaned against it. In front of her was…home.

But it was not home anymore. It was something that she had lost, and Vivi had long since decided that living in a lost place was not a healthy thing to do. There were too many reminders around each corner, too much familiarity. She needed a change.

A permanent change.

Accio robes!” Vivi commanded, ducking as her closet doors burst open and her robes came flying at her like cursed specters. They landed in a messy pile by her feet, and Vivi, pitching them into her trunk.

Next in where her normal cloths: t-shirts, jeans, shorts. She left the dress that she had bought for Agatha’s party in her closet, pretending that she did not see it.

Hufflepuff scarves followed the robes; shoes followed the scarves; school books followed the shoes. Soon there was nothing left, except…

Vivi’s Quidditch supplies joined her black-tie event dress in the closet.

Her trunk was bulging by the time she finished, but Vivi was certain that she could shut it if she sat on it. It certainly beat actually folding things before she stuffed them in. Slamming the lid shut (and feeling immensely thankful for space-enhancer charms), Vivi pulled herself up on her stronger right leg and looked around the room.

Her side of the closet was empty, her side of the bathroom was empty, her side of the wardrobe was empty…what was she missing?

Oh yeah.

Vivi sighed as she remembered the only other place that she stored things: under her bed. Easing down again, she lifted the dust ruffled and reached under, pulling out a large cardboard box. It was where she kept items of sentimental value: letters, doodles…pictures.

With a fierce sense of inevitability (she had known that she could not get through with her packing without feeling like she had been kicked in the gut), Vivi opened the box. Photos spilled out, overflowing the confines of the box as soon as the lid was lifted.

The first that she saw was (damn inevitability again) of Avery, flopped against his favorite tree near the Quidditch Pitch. He raked his hair out of his eyes as Vivi watched, and turned to stare at he giant squid in the distance. Vivi flipped it over so that all she could see was the date and a short, scrawled message: 6/21 Avery’s O.W.L.S. are over!

Ignoring that picture, Vivi, almost involuntarily, looked at the next. This one, at least, was of Aiko and her, grinning at the camera. It was off center and out of focus, as Vivi had been both taking the picture and posing, but it was much easier to look at than the other picture. Vivi laughed out loud as her picture-self stuck out her tongue, and Aiko looked at her in mock disgust.

Cisco and Jamie were in the next picture, posing before a Quidditch game against Gryffindor. Brian, Kameko, and Vivi smiled for another picture after winning the Zacharias Mumps trophy. Donal, and Avery grinned and waved at her from the fourth, with Brian standing just out of sight, pulling his fork back to flick mashed potatoes at the others.

Vivi did not look at the rest of the pictures, although there were over fifty of them, spanning all of her time at Hogwarts. Well, she did not look at all of them but the last one, and she didn’t mean to look at it. It just sort of…happened.

But, accident or no, it still made her want to cry.

The picture had been taken on the Quidditch Pitch, like many of the others. Avery was standing, lifting picture-Vivi off of the ground as she grinned at Aiko’s face while she took the picture.

It had been hard to get Aiko to take that picture, as her oriental friend did not approve of Avery.

In the background was the sunset over the castle, with its stone towers and turrets, its gates, its flags and people and magic and the Hogwarts-ness that it always had, no matter what, because it was Hogwarts and it was where she belonged and it was, it was…

Vivi wiped furiously at her face, willing the tears not to come. They started to, but as Vivi looked up at the light, and took deep breaths, they stopped. She had already cried enough. Now she was leaving Hogwarts and it was for the best. She had worked it out so that she could be earn credit from home, and she would no longer be surrounded by all of the things she had lost.

Vivi shook her head and raised her wand. “Incendio—” she began, but then reconsidered. These were her memories of Hogwarts. They deserved to stay at Hogwarts. Putting away her wand, Vivi pushed the box back under her bed, where it belonged, and locked her trunk. It snapped shut as a knock sounded at the door, making Vivi wince.

Only one person would be knocking at the door to the Hufflepuff commons, and Vivi had not yet told that once person that she was leaving.

She stood and limped towards the door, praying that Aiko would understand.

Aiko knocked impatiently on the door to the room she shared with Vivi. The strap from her bookbag bit into her shoulder and she grimiced, readjusted the strap. With as few classes as she had opted to take this year, the bag should have been considerably lighter. But she wasn’t blind to her friend’s pain (even if she couldn’t pretend to be surprised at the cause), and understood the gloomy silences, and the locked doors.

Which is why, after a particularly rancid potion making session, she had escaped to the library’s more restricted sections. Romance novels were a fortunate discovery of her’s during her fourth year, and she had used her extensive knowledge of literature to pick out a few of best.

And by best, she meant smuttiest.

Vivs needed to be reminded that romance wasn’t just hurt and betrayal by not-even-that-cute Gryffidors. She needed to remember the basic, instinctual truth:

That it was possible to fall in love at first sight, be showered with love and lavish gifts by a stranger, and then be swept away to have some good, blood-rising, body burning sex.

Aiko knocked again, and, when an understandably pale looking Vivi opened the door, she swept through with a dramatic flair…

“So, are you more of a Dominique, a Rapheal, or a…”

…to a very empty room.

Aiko let her bag slide to the floor as she surveyed the room. Vivi, sweet, tomboy, athletic Vivi was many things. Neat had never been one of them.

Insane, hopefully, was not either.

Which meant…

“Please tell me the elves were particularly productive this morning,” she said, turning to face her long time friend with wide eyes. “Please.”

Vivi returned Aiko’s wide-eyed gaze with a pained one of her own, shaking her head “No.”

The house elves didn’t have anything to do with the unnaturally clean room.

“I’m leaving, Aiko,” she said, sinking down onto her bed and looking up at her friend. “Tomorrow. I-I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry. I just…” she finished in a very small voice, “I can’t stay here anymore.”

It was worse than before; worse than when she had though Vivi was gone. Because this time it wasn’t gone, it wasn’t losing, it was leaving. It was choosing, and giving in, and–

And it was all that Jerk’s fault.

That worthless, no account, piss of a man Berke. He’d broken her best friend’s heart and now the hurt was circling back to Aiko. The boy had a talent for hurt, that was for sure. It was a pity Vivi had cared so much for him, still cared, if this was any indication.

She looked so sheepish, and that was the hardest part of all.

“Ohhh…” Aiko could feel her eyes well up, and she sniffled. “Oooooh….”

Aiko stretched her arms out to her friend, to her wonderful best friend who had tried so hard for that worthless piece of crap.

Vivi fell into Aiko’s hug, trying very hard not to cry into her shoulder, but not doing a very good job of it. She hugged Aiko tightly, her chest tightening painfully.

Why did everything have to be so hard?

“There’s something I want to give you,” she said, wiping at her eyes. She sank down, pulled the box of pictures back out and took out the top one, the one of her and Aiko.

“Here,” she handed it to her and added fiercly, “We have to keep in touch. I don’t want to lose you too! Promise? I’ll, I’ll come visit, and you can come visit, and…and…”

But no matter how she said it, Vivi still knew that she was leaving. Leaving Hogwarts, leaving Aiko, leaving everything she loved and hated at the same time.

Damn Avery Berke. Damn him! Damn him to hell!

Why did he have to ruin everything for her?

Aiko swept her best friend back into a hug. It was a wet sort of embrace: two girls crying pathetically into each other arms.

Aiko sniffed and pulled back a little. Vivis looked a fright: disheveled hair, splotched skin, and swollen eyes. Aiko couldn’t imagine she looked much better.

“I’ll write you, of course I will,” she told her, sniffling. “And I’ll come to every single game you every play in, even if you’re just sitting on the sidelines.”

But watching wasn’t what she wanted, what they had had. They had shared six years together; six years of crying over nonsense forgot in the morning, sneaking into the kitchens once a month to satisfy chocolate cravings, waking up late, then skipping classes to spend the day reading magazines.

And it was ending, all of it.

Aiko reached a hand up to straighten Viv’s hair, then let it fall with a sad laugh. “You need help with your bags?”

“No,” Vivi sniffed, “But thanks. The house elves are getting them for me.”

She didn’t have the heart to tell her best friend that she wasn’t playing Quidditch anymore either. She couldn’t even begin to explain how much she would miss Aiko. It was like leaving a part of herself behind.

If she could have bottled up all of the good times they had had together she would have. But she couldn’t. She had to leave them behind, with everything else.

“I’m going to miss you,” Vivi said simply. She had never said anything more true.


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