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Flicker and Fail: Part Two



I know I have a fickle heart,

And a bitterness

And a wandering eye

And a heaviness

In my head...

After their fifth year came to such a disastrous end, Leanne and Katie’s already fragile friendship was now held together only by a few strands of cordiality. Neither of them wanted to talk about Cedric, or about Katie’s confession of being, supposedly, in love with him; so, like so many of their past arguments, they buried it away and tried to forget about it.

In their sixth year, as well as the fact that Leanne was made a Prefect, they were taking completely different NEWT classes, and in the only lesson they had together, Defence Against the Dark Arts, they were sitting well away from each other. Professor Umbridge, with her silent “lessons”, consisting of reading the textbook and writing notes, prevented them from talking to each other at all, and this meant that opportunities even to greet each other -- if they wanted to, of course -- were slim. Admittedly, they had never had every lesson together anyway. But then, when they were that young, they had made every effort to see each other as often as they could. They didn't have a growing mountain of tension between them then, of problem upon problem, piled one on top of the other.

Therefore, when Harry Potter set up Dumbledore’s Army, Katie did not invite Leanne to join. In fact, the two of them did not talk for weeks on end, and when they did, they only managed to snatch a few moments of conversation before one of them, or both, had to rush off somewhere. Leanne was shocked upon finding out about this secret society, where spells were learnt and defence actually taught, but even more so, the fact that Katie was part of it. Katie had revealed this to her after the incident in the Department of Mysteries came to light in the paper, and Leanne tried to hide her irritation that she was not told about it. She suspected it had something to do with her mother, Angela, being in the Ministry, and the fact that Angela was good friends with Marietta Edgecombe’s mother, Beatrice.

Sixth year had been hard on Leanne without Katie by her side. At least in fifth year, they were able to talk, or they tried to, anyway. Now, Leanne was alone, and though she had other friends, she missed Katie. Katie had been there to chat to, to laugh with, to ask for advice, to gossip with... Leanne couldn’t do that with anyone else. She felt as if she was betraying Katie, somehow, by doing that with someone else. It seemed that they were simply not meant to be friends, let alone best friends, or anything more, and Leanne had finally accepted that as part of her fate. She resolved to stop fighting against it, because really, Katie and Leanne should have ceased seeing each other altogether from the age of twelve. Their gradual split was to be expected, Leanne kept telling herself. They had had it coming for years.


Leanne spent most of the summer of her sixth year working. When she wasn’t working, she liked to travel. Now that she was able to Apparate, she was able to travel a lot further; going far, far away meant she could be who she wanted and no one would know who she really was. No one needed to know that she was essentially a Muggleborn, or that she had no idea who her father was, or that she, in fact, was a loner, in love with her once best friend...

It was mid-August, on one of the few days she wasn’t working, and she was on her way to the shops when she heard screaming. She recognised that scream instantly, and she shuddered at the memory from over two years ago when she last heard it. Leanne went ran into the alley, where the noise was coming from, and sure enough, there she was. A man -- a Muggle, she presumed, judging by his clothing -- was pinning Katie against the wall, holding a knife at her throat.

At that moment, Leanne saw red. Without thinking, she immediately took out her wand and whispered, “Stupefy,” and with a loud bang, the man fell to the ground. She walked towards Katie, who was slumped against the wall, offering her hand to help her up, and Leanne couldn’t take her eyes off her as Katie got to her feet.

Her hair was much darker, tied in a messy ponytail and looking like it hadn’t been washed for days. Her eyes were bloodshot, with dark shadows under them, and her cheekbones were more pronounced than ever, as if she hadn’t been eating regularly. There was also a fresh bruise just under her left eye. Leanne stared at her, open-mouthed, wondering what on earth had caused such drastic changes on her appearance.

Katie winced, biting her lip to stop herself crying out in pain. “Stay still,” Leanne ordered, closely examining her neck. Sure enough, there was a long slash where the blade had been pressed, but thankfully, it looked fairly shallow, and Leanne quickly passed her wand over it, staunching the blood and managing to heal the skin. She silently thanked Merlin that she had gone on that pre-Healing course back in July.

“Better?” she asked softly.

“Much better,” Katie replied, speaking for the first time since Leanne arrived. “Thank you.” She tried to smile, but while her lips turned upwards, her eyes failed to light up like they had before.

What had happened to the old Katie? Leanne wondered. The Katie she knew, the one with a joyous smile and infectious laugh had been replaced -- by this stranger.

“Does it still hurt?” Leanne asked, concerned. Katie shook her head. “What’s going on, anyway? Who is he?” asked Leanne, gesturing at the unconscious man lying face down at her feet.

“No one,” Katie said quickly, looking down at him too.

“Who is he?” Leanne repeated. “Tell me, Katie. I’m not leaving until you do.” However, Leanne was quite worried; she had, after all, just Stunned a Muggle, and there was every possibility that he had friends who could come after her.

Katie hesitated at her question and tried to change the subject. “You’ve changed, Leanne. You’re... tougher.”

But Leanne quickly dismissed this. “Times change, people change,” she said shortly. She thought, briefly, of one of the reasons why she went on a pre-Healing course, which was designed mainly because You-Know-Who was back. The knowledge that he was out there, somewhere, along with Death Eaters and Inferi and God knew what else, had made her a different person. “Now, who is he, and why the fuck was he trying to kill you?”

Katie raised her eyebrows, but then she gave in and said, “His name is Anthony Marino. He’s a--”

“I know what he is, Katie,” Leanne snapped. “Why on earth are you messing with a drug dealer?”

Katie stared at Leanne, stunned. “How do you know--” Katie began, but Leanne cut her off.

“I live in London, Katie, in case you forgot. He’s in the Muggle newspapers all the time, but somehow, the police have never been able to get him. I just didn't recognise his face at first. Anyway, you’re -- you’re not using, are you?” Leanne didn't know whether to sound disapproving or scared, but the truth was that she was a mixture of both.

“They’re for my mum,” Katie mumbled. Leanne gasped, and Katie bent down, opened Marino’s coat pocket and took out a small package. She straightened up and stowed it away into her jacket, a defiant look on her face as if daring Leanne to admonish her. “We’re skint, and Mum needs something, so...”

“You were going to fob him off and just take the drugs?” Leanne asked lightly. “What is she taking, anyway?”

“Heroin.” There was a sharp intake of breath from Leanne, and Katie suddenly lost her composure, pulling at her hair. “Look, okay, my mother is depressed and ill and she needs a fix. Now. She’s never gone this long without taking something. She’ll go crazy if she doesn’t get it. She really will. Fuck, she’s probably insane already, the things she’s done, to me, to my family, to everyone this summer. No, not just this summer, for her whole fucking life, actually,” she spat, and the anger that flared in her eyes almost scared Leanne.

Katie’s hands shook before she clenched them into fists and continued, “Not to mention the things she’s made me do. And we can’t afford it at the moment -- all the money in my Gringotts account was taken out when this all started, after I came back from Hogwarts in June, and she owes practically all of her friends money, and we’ve only got a few Sickles and Knuts left in the house, and I had no choice, Leanne, really I didn't, and if I could pay this bastard, I would, but I can’t because the little money we have left is how food is put on the table, and Mum is in no physical state to come down to London and meet him, so--” Katie, realising she needed to take a breath, stopped and exhaled deeply, closing her eyes.

Leanne blinked and tried to appear calm in order to hide her shock at Katie’s words. She didn't know what to say, and her mouth opened and closed several times before she managed to speak. “How long has this been going on for?”

Katie shook her head, and suddenly, her anger seemed to dissipate. “Long enough,” she said quietly.

They both knew it wasn’t a proper answer, so Leanne pressed her. “How long?”

There was a long pause, and then Katie finally replied, “Ages. Two years, I think. But she started off with hash, which wasn’t too bad, and it was cheap too, and then I found out at Christmas that had she moved on to coke. Once I came back for the summer, she was on heroin.”

“And who knows about it?”

“No one.”

“How come you didn't tell me any of this before?” The words were out of Leanne’s mouth before she could stop herself, and only then did she realise how callous she sounded.

“It’s my problem, Leanne, not yours,” said Katie quietly. “It’s my heart. And my burden. And I would never bring you down like that*. Especially since, well, we haven’t been very close over the past year, have we?”

The past two years, Leanne thought regretfully. She didn't correct her, though, instead asking, “And why are you buying it from a Muggle dealer?”

“They’re cheaper,” Katie replied shortly. A damning silence fell between them, and it seemed to go on forever until Katie said, “Well, I’d better get going. Mum needs--”

“I’ll come with you,” Leanne interrupted.

“No, you don’t have to...”

“I want to.”

“Fine,” Katie said, sighing. “But I don’t know how happy Mum will be to see you there.”

“It’s not a problem -- but what about your dad?”

“He left Mum for good a while ago, in June,” she said, and her eyes were filled with that same bitterness Leanne had seen earlier. “Bastard. I tried writing to him, asking him for money, you know, not just for food, but books for school and stuff. Anyway, he actually replied, saying he’d drop by and take me to Diagon Alley and give me money. No fucking sign of him.” Katie’s hand was twisting the end of her ponytail again, almost unconsciously.

“Katie,” Leanne said, not liking how Katie’s words were becoming harsher and harsher by the minute -- but she got no further as Katie cut her off.

“Let’s not talk about it, all right? If you want to come, let’s go. I’ll take you.” Katie grabbed Leanne’s wrist rather roughly and twisted on the spot, and they landed in front of a squalid block of flats, a tiny park situated on their right.

They live here? Leanne thought in disbelief. After the Bells’ majestic mansion in Worcestershire, Katie and her mother chose this place to live in?

Katie used her key to get in through the main door. Leanne followed Katie up the stairs, carefully avoiding the piss on the steps and pinching her nose so as not to smell it.

“Mum,” Katie called as she opened the door to their flat. “Mum, I’ve got it.”

“It’s about bloody time!” Leanne actually flinched at how horrible and cracked Mary's voice had become. But that was nothing compared to what she now looked like; she no longer wore makeup, or made any attempt to hide her dry-looking lips and red-rimmed eyes, and her hair resembled a rat’s nest. Her clothes were hanging off her unnaturally thin frame, and her skin, covered in a thin film of sweat, had an unhealthy yellowish hue that was alarmingly unlike her normal pale complexion.

Mary didn't even seem to notice Leanne; instead, she almost lunged at her daughter, who hurriedly handed over the package. Sitting at the grimy table, she tore it open, her hands shaking as she did so, and she placed some of the heroin on the foil before lighting a tube. She waited for it to heat up before she inhaled, and then Leanne couldn’t watch her any more. Wincing, she turned to Katie. She gestured towards a room Leanne hadn’t noticed before, presumably the kitchen, and then she followed her inside before shutting the door.

“I would have offered you a drink, or something to eat, but there’s not really much...” Katie trailed off, embarrassed.

Leanne shook her head. “Don't worry about it. Tell you what, come to mine. You look like you haven’t had a proper meal in ages.”

“That’s because I haven’t,” she spat sullenly. Leanne’s face fell, and Katie quickly apologised. “Fuck, I didn't mean that. I mean, I did, but--”

“Don’t worry about it,” Leanne repeated softly. “Come on, then.”


Katie was sitting cross-legged on Leanne’s bed. She had showered and washed her hair, and she was wearing a pretty, knee-length black dress of Leanne’s, her stomach full. Angela, who had cooked dinner, had greeted her like an old friend -- which, Leanne supposed, Katie was. Leanne came in, levitating a tray with two mugs of tea on it. It hovered in the air; Leanne took one mug, sat down and directed the tray to Katie with her wand.

“I didn't know how much sugar you wanted, so...”

“Thanks,” said Katie. She spooned in three heaps of sugar and stirred, blowing the steam away softly. “So... how have you been?”

“I’ve been okay,” said Leanne, sipping her tea. “I’ve been working.”

“Where?”

“The Ministry, St. Mungo’s. I did a pre-Healing course for beginners, too. Just some training stuff, especially since -- since You-Know-Who’s back.”

“Mmm,” Katie said, trying to look nonchalant, but failing as her free hand balled into a fist.

Leanne continued. “We learnt some useful spells as well, like the one I used on your neck.”

“Thank you,” Katie said sincerely. “I just realised -- I never thanked you properly. You saved my life back there.”

Leanne shrugged and smiled. “No problem,” she said. “I know you’d do the same for me.”

“How did you manage to get jobs in all those places?” asked Katie.

“Mum helped me,” said Leanne. “She knows a few people here and there, so...”

There was a pause in which they both drank more tea, and then Katie let out a short, terse laugh.

“Something funny, Katie?” Leanne said, frowning.

“Not funny, no. It’s just ironic, you know, how your mum, the Muggleborn, the single mother who doesn’t even know who the father of her daughter is, is the one who society would expect to buy drugs from a Muggle drug dealer -- not my mum.”

“Please don't say that about--”

“And,” Katie continued relentlessly, “you’re meant to be the one, not me, to lock yourself in your room and cover your ears to try and block out the sounds of your mum screwing some bloke in the next room -- with the door open. The world expects that you hide your mum’s knickers from where they’re flung on the stairwell when your dad comes home. Not me.”

Leanne grimaced. “I still can't believe that my mum didn't realise she was supposed to be covering for Mary.”

“What?” said Katie, confused.

“When we were in our first year,” Leanne clarified. “That Christmas...”

“Oh. But Mum shouldn’t have been cheating anyway, and then she wouldn’t need a fucking cover story.”

“True. But still. My mum was best friends with yours,” Leanne said.

“Mum overreacted,” Katie said firmly. “And she expected your mum to go crawling back to her; she didn't think that little mistake would cost her their friendship. Would you do the same for me?”

“What?”

“If, say, I slept with someone I shouldn’t have--”

“That depends on why you shouldn’t have slept with them,” said Leanne. “And who you're sleeping with. If it’s because you don’t love your partner and you love the other person, then yes, I would. But if--”

“--if I was lonely and I wanted companionship, but I didn't love them?”

“Darling,” Leanne said (she had no idea why she was calling Katie that, and the word of endearment tasted strange on her tongue) as a slightly twisted smile formed on her lips, “we’re all lonely*. That doesn’t mean you need to--”

“But would you or wouldn’t you?” Katie pressed.

“Why does it matter, Katie? It’s not like you -- unless -- are you? Do you... do you have someone?” she enquired tentatively, trying to sound curious rather than apprehensive.

Katie shook her head to Leanne’s immense relief. “There’s no one. Not that I would have the time for it anyway. I just wanted to know. It’s just -- I know things would have been different between us if your mum and my mum didn't have that argument. We would probably still be friends now.” Leanne opened her mouth as if she was going to argue, that they were still kind of friends, but then Katie glanced at her watch. “Speaking of which -- I should go,” she said, making to stand up.

“No, why don’t you stay the night?” Leanne said without thinking. “Please, for old times’ sake?”

“What about my mum?” she asked.

“What about her?” she countered. “She’ll be fine. Besides, I’ve -- I’ve missed you,” Leanne confessed. “Please?”

It took a bit more persuasion, but eventually, Katie agreed to it, on the condition that she return to the flat and check on her mother. Leanne suspected that Katie did not want to be in that seedy flat any more than she wanted her mother to be a junkie, but now Katie was responsible for Mary, she couldn’t leave her by herself for too long. She quickly Apparated to her flat and checked on her mum, who, Katie reported, was sound asleep. Then she left some food, courtesy of Angela, on the table, and she returned to Leanne’s. Leanne insisted on sleeping on the camp bed, while Katie was in Leanne’s proper one, and as they sipped hot chocolate together, the conversation soon turned to Katie, and how she had spent her summer.

“I’ve been doing... errands,” Katie said slowly, the smile on her face disappearing. She had changed into her nightdress and was sitting on Leanne’s bed, while Leanne was lying, facing the ceiling, on the camp bed, thankful for the distance between them.

“What kind of errands?” Leanne asked nervously, not sure she wanted to know the answer.

“Making deliveries -- for Muggles. I’m a good person to use: no one -- the police, other gangs -- would suspect me. I’m just some scruffy blonde girl who wants a bit of cash.” She laughed humourlessly. Leanne did not join in.

“What was the sort of thing you had to deliver?”

Katie grimaced. “Drugs, knives, guns,” she said, counting them off her fingers, “even the odd body part when someone wanted to be extra cruel.”

Leanne looked scandalised. “Damn,” she muttered. “And you couldn’t find any better way of earning?”

“It’s quick, easy money--”

“It’s also stupid and life-threatening -- Katie, look at what happened today!” Leanne said. She sat up, ready to chastise her, but then she saw the expression on Katie’s face.

“You try funding your mum’s drug habit all by yourself when none of her posh and rich friends want to give a job to you, because you’re up to your fucking eyeballs in debt,” Katie said, suddenly angry again. “And you try putting three meals on that dirty table in that tiny flat every fucking day, and you have a go at living my life. Don't you think I would much rather stay at home and not earn a Knut, or at least sit behind a desk all day and be paid peanuts? Of course I would. Do you seriously think that I would get stabbed in the leg doing one of those deliveries not knowing what the outcome of it would be? Look--” She lifted up her nightdress, and there was a bandage around her thigh. Leanne visibly winced, and then she looked away. “Merlin, Leanne, you may have six more OWLs than me, but I’m not five, you know.” She took a deep breath, met Leanne’s eyes properly and said, “I’m--”

“No, don't be sorry,” Leanne said quickly. “Don't apologise. I deserved that. You're right. I didn't think.” With as much cheerfulness as she could muster, Leanne managed a grin and quickly changed the subject to Angela’s latest boyfriend. Soon, the two of them were talking and laughing and crying together, catching up on what had been going on in their very separate lives for the last two years. They finally fell asleep at three in the morning.



Comments

( 2 people spoke — Speak to meeeeeeee )
livejournal
Mar. 30th, 2012 08:34 pm (UTC)
{30 March 2012}
User xenoamorist referenced to your post from {30 March 2012} saying: [...] by - Natalia/Olivia. {Harry Potter} {updates} - Part Two: A Fickle Heart [...]
soraya786
Mar. 30th, 2012 08:53 pm (UTC)
Re: {30 March 2012}
Thank you for the rec :)
( 2 people spoke — Speak to meeeeeeee )