display | more...

Thereafter Sparrow had less trouble sleeping than usual.

Which was to say, not entirely without trouble. There were times when her dreams were tinged an unsettling shade of green, if they were not punctuated by images of burned buildings. And her days were likewise troubled, considering all she had seen, all she had learned – it was easy to cling to Jocasta, then, as if to make sure she would not go anywhere.

But Jocasta herself wished to go to Miranda’s greenhouse, as ever. So Sparrow did need to let her go. And what to do in the meantime? Cling to Jill, of course, but if Jill wished to keep up her broom practice, then the most Sparrow could do would be to watch from a distance, or keep flinging herself into the air.

But there was always Cormac, except for the fact that he wanted to spend more time alone with Violet.

And yet there was one person who did wish to meet with Sparrow -- one person who she had not expected to see beckoning to her from around a corner. And so on a Sunday afternoon, Sparrow found herself sitting under a square recessed light, in the midst of green pillars, at a square table, opposite Percival Bulstrode.

"You wished to speak with me," said Percival. "Something about a letter?"

Sparrow nodded.

"Ah. Well, my apologies for keeping you this long. I have been busy. With my studies. Got to get ahead of the final exams, and all that. Never mind, never mind. Let's see this letter."

◊◊ OH! I AM SORRY, PERCIVAL. I DO NOT HAVE THE LETTER ON ME. I SHALL BE BUT A MOMENT. ◊◊ Sparrow rose from the table and dashed out of the room.

As it was a Saturday without classes, the hallways were somewhat crowded, and it took longer than normal to traverse them. Yet they were not so crowded that the source of a familiar voice in Sparrow's mind should have been invisible. HEY THERE, SONGBIRD. I'M READY TO TAG ALONG WITH YOU AGAIN.

◊◊ SORRY, JOCASTA. I HAVE PRIVATE MATTERS TO ATTEND TO. ◊◊ And Sparrow did not wait for an answer, but sped away as best she could, finally reaching her common room, finally reaching her regular dormitory, opening up her trunk and digging through it to reach the letter she had stashed at the bottom.

"Come on," said Jocasta. "You know you like having me around."

Sparrow whirled around to find Jocasta standing there. ◊◊ THAT IS CORRECT, MY DEAR. BUT I MUST HAVE A CONFIDENTIAL CONVERSATION. AND YOU SHOULDN'T LET YOURSELF BE SEEN IN A HUFFLEPUFF DORMITORY ANYWAY. ◊◊ Once again, she did not wait for an answer, but sped out of the dormitory, out of the common room, through the hallways and up the stairs to the Room of Requirement.

Within a few minutes Sparrow was sitting at the square table, catching her breath as Percival read over her letter.

Percival handed it back to Sparrow across the square table.

◊◊ VERDICT? ◊◊

"Nothing too incriminating," said Percival. "Athought you need to lose the bits about the Headmistress being gone on a mission. Wouldn't want to be letting that get out, would you? You might compromise her operations."

◊◊ AH YES. LOOSE LIPS SINK SHIPS. THANK YOU FOR CATCHING THAT. ◊◊

"Also you might want to avoid explaining too much about the details of your suspension. The situation still looks like favoritism to me. To someone even less charitable it looks like you're getting off scot-free."

◊◊ I HAVE TO BE HONEST TO MY PARENTS. ◊◊

"And that means you're being transparent to anyone who intercepts this thing. Next time you see them, set up some kind of secret signal or letter code or something so that you can hide a message in an ordinary letter."

◊◊ INVISIBLE INK? ◊◊

"If you magic the ink to be invisible, someone can use a counter-charm on it."

◊◊ NO, NO. I MEAN THE MUGGLE VERSION. ◊◊

"The...muggle version. Muggles can make ink disappear?"

◊◊ NO. YES. SORT OF. ◊◊

"How?"

Sparrow winked. ◊◊ SECRET. CAN'T HAVE YOU BLABBING TO WIZARDS, NOW CAN I? ◊◊

"Ah. Ha. Ha. I see. You are getting more cynical after all. Although I suppose I could just ask another muggleborn about it. Not a very secure secret. Although...neither is the Wizarding World, really. If it's possible for muggleborn children to write home with details of the castle, without a bit of censorship, then I can hardly believe the Statute of Secrecy hasn't shattered to pieces by now."

◊◊ MAYBE THAT WILL MAKE THINGS MORE CONVENIENT FOR ME. ◊◊

"The opposite."

◊◊ HM? ◊◊

"If Muggles can find out about us so easily, if they know there's something like us going on, and they don't investigate, then...maybe they're not interested. Maybe if you offer them something wonderful, they won't care about it."

◊◊ I MUST DETERMINE THAT FOR MYSELF, REGARDLESS OF THE RESULT. I MUST BE HONEST WITH MY INTENTIONS AND WILLING TO ACCEPT WHATEVER VERDICT THEY GIVE ME. ◊◊

"Hm. That sounds more like idealism."

◊◊ I WOULD CALL IT MATURITY. ◊◊

"Fair enough. I wonder if I have my own idealism as well, here. I would see the Statute of Secrecy erased, will you or nil you."

◊◊ OH? ◊◊

"I have thought for a while now that the whole thing was a convenient excuse. A way for a government to legally get rid of people it doesn't like, by charging them with an accusation that makes everyone hate them even if it is never proven. So, I would see the statute end. Would you call that cynicism or idealism?"

◊◊ I WOULD CALL THAT SMOLDERING ANGER. ◊◊

"Fair enough."

"I would call it disappointing," said a familiar voice from behind Sparrow. She turned to see Jocasta stepping out of the shadows once more. "I do not like to see Sparrow getting more cynical under your influence, Percival. And I would prefer that the role of cynical bastard fall to me, not to you."

◊◊ IF YOU WANT TO BE A CYNICAL BASTARD, JOCASTA, YOU COULD START BY ACTING MORE DISCREETLY. FOLLOWING ME INTO CONFIDENTIAL CONVERSATIONS AND THEN ANNOUNCING YOUR PRESENCE IS THE OPPOSITE OF THAT. IT IS ALSO VERY RUDE. ◊◊

"Fair enough," said Jocasta, and she departed the room without another word, leaving Percival to look as though he had no idea what just happened.

Sparrow was not certain if she knew either.

 

...

 

And so Sparrow found herself sitting at the central table in the dim Divination classroom, alone on a Sunday evening, with only the shelves full of books for company.

“Tsk tsk tsk,” said Professor Clearwater, as she appeared from behind a curtain. “I told you all to stay together.”

Sparrow shrugged. ◊◊ SOMETIMES WE EACH HAVE SEPARATE GOALS TO ACHIEVE. ◊◊

“And in those moments I can’t tell your futures at all.”

◊◊ OH I SEE. WE STICK TOGETHER FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE. ◊◊

“Precisely. And my convenience is part of your survival. Now, what manner of fortune could I possibly tell for you here, when you are alone?”

◊◊ NOT FOR ME. FOR JOCASTA CARROW. ◊◊

“You want me to tell…someone else’s fortune.”

◊◊ I HAVE BECOME EVEN MORE SCARED FOR HER IN RECENT DAYS. ◊◊

The Professor sighed. “Then I am sorry. It is as I have said. The fates may tell me in random moments of your separate perils, but elsewise I can only look to the moments when you are all together.”

◊◊ DO THAT, THEN. ◊◊

“As you wish!” Professor Clearwater sat down and raised her hand. Her crystal ball flew straight to it. She set it on the table.

◊◊ SO NOW WE…LET ME SEE IF I REMEMBER. CHANT SOMETHING? ◊◊

“That’s all theatrics,” said the Professor. “All you really need to say is the magic word.”

◊◊ PLEASE? ◊◊

“It pays to be polite.” Professor Clearwater motioned Sparrow to look closer. Together they leaned over the ball. “Alright, now, Mr. Crystal ball, if you would be so kind as to show us the events of the next time the Six Secretive Nitwits are gathered together?”

For a moment, Sparrow could see nothing. And then – two things. First, a glowing red heart. Then, an explosion.

“Damn,” said Professor Clearwater. “Doesn’t look good. Terribly sorry, Sparrow, your friends are going to explode.”

◊◊ DON’T JOKE. ◊◊

“My apologies.” The professor lifted a sleeve to cover her mouth. “I spoke out of turn. Now, you can see how much of the usual divination business depends on interpretation of ambiguous signals. In this case, I have one idea for what the two images mean. Have you a different idea?”

◊◊ I THINK…CONSIDERING THE SEASON, IT MUST HAVE SOMETHING TO DO WITH VALENTINE’S DAY. SOMETHING WILL EXPLODE ON VALENTINE’S DAY. A MAGICAL ACCIDENT, PERHAPS? OR AN ATTACK? ◊◊

“It’s when you’re all together,” said the Professor. “Not likely to be a classroom accident. So…what sort of event would that be?”

◊◊ THE YULE BALL. SOMETHING WILL EXPLODE AT THE YULE BALL. DESPITE THE CAREFUL SAFETY PLANNING OF ALL THE TEACHERS. NO. SOMEONE WILL ATTACK THE YULE BALL. ◊◊

“Bit of a leap,” said Professor Clearwater, taking the crystal ball in her hands. “If we'd got three images out of this thing we would be able to triangulate. But, yes, considering the fact that you were a real loudmouth in December and January, I think an attack is likely. Some manner of explosion. But as to what...hm. One moment.” She vanished behind the curtain, and came back with a bowl full of water and a bottle. “This one might be harder to read. Alright, oil, would you please show us further details of what Mr. Crystal Ball showed us?”

With this, she tipped the bottle over the bowl, and poured in a measure of oil.

The result was a lot of scattered bits of oil on the water’s surface.

“Hm,” said the Professor. “Two ways to interpret this again. Either all the people in the room are scattered, or all the attacks are.”

◊◊ I WOULD SAY ALL THE PEOPLE. IT IS A DANCE, AFTER ALL. ◊◊

“I mean, during the attack. But I didn’t specify that to the bowl, did I? Well. I am afraid you did not get exactly what you want, Sparrow, but at the very least we are forwarned. I will do what I can to narrow down details, and tell the Deputy Headmaster to call off the dance.”

“Or,” said a familiar voice behind Sparrow, “you could assume that nobody will listen to vague divinations, and plan your defenses accordingly.”

Sparrow whirled around to see Jocasta standing there, looking about as serious as she did these days.

Sparrow’s eyes blazed golden. ◊◊ JOCASTA! I HAVE REPEATEDLY WARNED YOU ABOUT THIS BEHAVIOR! FOR GOD’S SAKE, AT LEAST HAVE THE SENSE TO AVOID BARGING IN IF YOU CAN’T STOP YOURSELF FROM EAVESDROPPING! ◊◊

During Sparrow’s tirade Jocasta had flinched and put her arms in front of her face, as if to shield herself from an approaching blow. When it was over, she regained her composure, and her expression was utterly blank. She bowed to Sparrow and said, “My apologies. I simply do not have the capacity to believe many people will heed warnings of peril, when it means missing an event they have looked forward to for months, and that if the warnings come from a source with a reputation for uncertainty there will be even fewer who listen.”

◊◊ THAT REMAINS TO BE SEEN. HOW ON EARTH DID YOU GET IN HERE ANYWAY? HOW DO YOU KEEP GETTING INTO PLACES? YOU TOLD ME YOU COULD NOT TRANSFIGURE. ◊◊

Jocasta straightened up and fished a small vial out of her pocket. “Hardly a lie,” she said, “but I did ask Miranda for a substitute until I could regain my ability. So, five-minute polyjuice potion.”

◊◊ PITY POOR YOU IF THE CONVERSATION TAKES MORE THAN FIVE MINUTES. ◊◊

“I have come to that conclusion, yes.”

“Miss Carrow,” said Professor Clearwater, "I assume you would not wish anyone to pry into your own business?”

Jocasta shook her head. 

“Keep that in mind if you wish to avoid alienating people. I am docking fifty points from Slytherin for your actions, but that is a light consequence compared to driving friends away. Now, I have my work to do, and you have yours, I presume, so goodnight.” She rose and disappeared behind the curtain without another word.

Well. At least everyone was forewarned.

Jocasta was down the ladder before Sparrow had even thought to open the hatch, and as Sparrow stepped off the end of the ladder she could see her girlfriend halfway down the hall already.

Sparrow’s dash to catch up with her was hardly silent, but instead of offering commentary, Jocasta attempted to walk faster.

◊◊ JOCASTA, WAIT. ◊◊

“I understand I am an idiot, but I do not wish to discuss the matter.”

◊◊ STUPIDITY IS NOT AN EXCUSE, JOCASTA. IT IS A WEAKNESS TO OVERCOME. ◊◊

“Oh, will you just – never mind.” Jocasta took another vial out of her pocket, downed the contents and disappeared, leaving behind her only the brief buzz of tiny wings.

Damn it all.

Jocasta did not come to bed that night. It was only Sparrow writing a new letter at a desk in the moonlight, and Jill sitting up in bed, saying nothing.

After a while Sparrow was finished writing, and Jocasta was still not there. Sparrow rose from the desk with a sigh, and tucked herself into bed, snuggling close to the one companion she still had.

"You miss me already?" said Jill.

◊◊ I'M A LITTLE SURPRISED YOU'RE STILL HERE, THAT'S ALL. ◊◊

"Should I not be?"

◊◊ I WOULD HAVE THOUGHT YOU WOULD BE RUNNING HELTER-SKELTER ALL OVER THE CASTLE LOOKING FOR YOUR GIRL, AFTER WHAT HAPPENED LAST TIME. ◊◊

“I will admit,” said Jill, “I am disappointed and a little scared. I miss my Jocasta. But I know how to reach her now, and she knows how to reach me. Tonight she is alive, if a little confused and a lot hurt. She says you yelled at her a few times today and left her behind. So now she doesn't know if she ought to be around you or not.”

◊◊ ALRIGHT, SO I GUESS I’M THE REAL IDIOT HERE. ◊◊

“Hey.” Jill wrapped Sparrow in a fierce hug. “Don’t ever call yourself an idiot.”

◊◊ BUT I AM ONE. ◊◊

“Nuh-uh. You told me to never call myself a problem. I’m saying the same to you. Alright? You can always do better if you want and if you try.”

◊◊ OH NO. MY OWN WORDS, THEY HAVE RETURNED. ◊◊

“Better these words than an insult, eh?” Jill let Sparrow go, though Sparrow remained on Jill’s lap, arms wrapped around her. “That’s what you get for being a sweetie-pie. You get more pie.”

◊◊ BUT I WAS NOT NICE TONIGHT. I BET JOCASTA DOESN’T WANT TO TALK TO ME AT ALL NOW. ◊◊

“I wouldn’t say that.”

◊◊ HM? ◊◊

“She’s willing to speak with you.”

◊◊ HOW DID YOU HEAR HER BUT I DIDN’T? OH NO. SHE MUST HATE ME A LOT RIGHT NOW. ◊◊

Jill shook her head. “Not like that. It’s just a little trick she and I worked out some time ago. If you keep her fixed in your mind, your conversation will be private. Give it a try.”

◊◊ ALRIGHT. KEEP HOLDING ME THOUGH? ◊◊

“I can hardly resist.” Jill wrapped her arms around Sparrow once more.

Sparrow closed her eyes, and let her thoughts fill with the memory of her favorite Animagus.

◊◊ JOCASTA. DID YOU WANT TO TALK? ◊◊

For a moment there was no answer.

Then, all of a sudden, the image of Jocasta in her head turned from a set of hazy memories to a faceless figure made of green light, and began to move on its own.

Specifically, it sat down in a high-backed armchair and then folded its arms and crossed its legs, as if Jocasta were a child preparing to hear a lecture from a well-meaning adult.

◊◊I WAS INFORMED THAT YOU WERE WILLING. ◊◊

THAT IS CORRECT.

◊◊ YET UNWILLING? ◊◊

HOW CAN I POSSIBLY SPEAK TO YOU? YOU DID NOT WISH TO SPEAK WITH ME TODAY, EXCEPT TO BRING YOUR JUDGMENT CRASHING DOWN UPON ME. BUT NOW YOU WOULD HAVE MY COMPANY AFTER ALL?

◊◊I ENJOY BEING ABLE TO CONFIRM THAT YOU ARE ALIVE. ◊◊

The image said nothing.

◊◊AND I LIKE HEARING YOU TALK. ◊◊

Still nothing.

◊◊ AND…I’M SORRY FOR EFFECTIVELY CALLING YOU AN IDIOT. AND FOR YELLING AT YOU. ◊◊

WELL YOU WERE RIGHT, WEREN’T YOU? I’M A RECKLESS FOOL.

◊◊ HEY. ◊◊

WHAT?•

◊◊ JILL TOLD ME TO NEVER CALL MYSELF AN IDIOT. BECAUSE I TOLD HER TO NEVER CALL HERSELF A PROBLEM. SO DON'T YOU DO THAT EITHER. DON'T CALL YOURSELF A FOOL. ◊◊

SO WHAT SHOULD I CALL MYSELF, THEN? •

◊◊ NOTHING. ◊◊

THAT SOUNDS A LITTLE COLD.

◊◊ NO I MEAN, DON’T CALL YOURSELF ANYTHING. DON’T GET LOST IN THE INSULTS. JUST THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU CAN DO. AND HOW YOU CAN MAKE UP FOR DOING DUMB THINGS. ◊◊

THAT'S WHAT I WAS TRYING TO DO WITH BARGING INTO YOUR CONVERSATIONS. I WAS GETTING OUT IN FRONT OF BEING CAUGHT. I WANTED TO TRY OUT YOUR APPROACH TO HONESTY. BUT IT TURNED OUT TO BE A DISASTER. I DON'T KNOW WHY YOU KEEP PUTTING UP WITH ME.

◊◊ WHY NOT? ◊◊

BECAUSE I'M AN IDIOT.

◊◊ HEY. WHAT DID I JUST SAY? ◊◊

NOT TO CALL MYSELF AN IDIOT. OH, I'M DOING IT AGAIN. AND I'M NOT LISTENING TO YOU AM I? I'M SORRY. YOU MIGHT AS WELL LEAVE ME ALONE FOREVER.

◊◊ WELL I DON'T WANT TO. ◊◊

WHY THE HELL NOT?

◊◊ BECAUSE I LIKE HAVING YOU AROUND. AND JILL LIKES HAVING YOU AROUND. AND MIRANDA LIKES HAVING YOU AROUND. ◊◊

WHAT, EVEN AMIDST ALL MY RECKLESS ERRORS? I ALMOST GOT YOU KILLED A FEW TIMES. AND I ALMOST GOT JILL KILLED. AND I KIND OF MESSED UP MIRANDA'S GOOD REPUTATION AND I GOT US ALL SUSPENDED AND --

◊◊ AND HOW MUCH WE HAVE LEARNED FROM THOSE MOMENTS! SOMETIMES ONLY A RECKLESS RAPSCALLION CAN MOVE THINGS FORWARD, BECAUSE ONLY THEY HAVE NO FEAR OF MOVING FORWARD. IMAGINE IF YOU HAD NEVER PROPOSED TO HELP ME BECOME AN ANIMAGUS. I WOULD NEVER HAVE THOUGHT OF IT. ◊◊

AND YOU AGREED TO IT. AND THEN YOU TIED IT INTO YOUR MAD SCHEME. MAYBE YOU'RE THE RECKLESS IDIOT. MAYBE WE BOTH ARE.

◊◊ SEE, WE'RE A TEAM. I AM YOUR MAD SCHEMER AND YOU ARE MY LADY LAWBREAKER. ◊◊

YOU MAKE ME SOUND SO HEROIC. ALL I SEE IN ME RIGHT NOW IS SOMEONE WHO KEEPS GETTING PEOPLE HURT. I DON'T WANT TO KEEP DOING THAT. I WOULD RATHER STAY AWAY UNTIL YOU CALL UPON ME.

◊◊ OKAY FINE. I'M CALLING UPON YOU NOW. ◊◊

NO, I MEAN WHEN YOU NEED ME.

◊◊ FINE. I NEED YOU NOW. ◊◊

OH, NO YOU DON'T. YOU JUST WANT ME NOW.

◊◊ YOU KNOW SENDING WILL ALLOW NO LIE. BELIEVE THAT I BELIEVE I NEED YOU NOW. I NEED TO KNOW YOU ARE HAPPY. I NEED TO KNOW YOU ARE SAFE. OTHERWISE I WILL BE VERY SCARED AND I WILL MISS YOU AND MAYBE I WON'T EVEN BE ABLE TO FALL ASLEEP AND NEITHER WILL JILL AND JILL WILL GET REALLY SCARED AND YOU KNOW HOW MUCH SHE LIKES HAVING YOU AROUND AND HOW MUCH SHE NEEDS YOU AND HOW MUCH YOU NEED HER SO IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE FOR YOU TO KEEP BEATING YOURSELF UP LIKE THIS. ◊◊

IT IS WHAT I DESERVE.

◊◊ OKAY, FIRST OF ALL, NOBODY DESERVES ANYTHING -- ◊◊

SURELY GOOD LITTLE CHILDREN DESERVE DESSERT?

◊◊ EVERYBODY DESERVES DESSERT. SECONDLY, BEATING YOURSELF UP DOESN'T ACTUALLY HELP ANYONE. EVEN YOU. ◊◊

SURELY IT IS PROPER PENANCE?

◊◊ NO! IT DOESN'T ACTUALLY CLEAN UP ANY MESS YOU MADE. IT DOESN'T PATCH ANYTHING UP THAT YOU BROKE. IT DOESN'T...CREATE ANYTHING. IT JUST BREAKS YOU DOWN. IT'S LIKE YOU'RE SERVING OUT SOMEONE'S REVENGE UNDER THE PRETENSE OF STERN JUSTICE. NOBODY WANTS REVENGE AGAINST YOU, JOCASTA. NOBODY WANTS YOU TO SUFFER FOR THE SAKE OF ANSWERING SOMEONE ELSE'S SUFFERING. ◊◊

THAT IS NOT TRUE.

◊◊ WHO ON EARTH WOULD -- OH. I SEE. ◊◊

YOU SEE.

◊◊ WHAT DID HE DO TO YOU? ◊◊

NOTHING I DIDN'T DESERVE. The space behind the chair began to glow dimly green. BUT AS FOR EVERYONE ELSE -- BUT I SAY TOO MUCH ALREADY. The green glow faded.

◊◊ FINE. FINE. I WILL PUT IT ANOTHER WAY. NONE OF THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE WANT YOU TO SUFFER. NOT ME, NOT JILL, NOT MIRANDA, NOT VIOLET -- ACTUALLY I CAN'T SPEAK FOR HER, SHE'S HARD TO READ SOMETIMES. ◊◊

WHAT ABOUT CORMAC?

◊◊ WHAT ABOUT HIM? ◊◊

I KIND OF SENT HIS FRIEND INTO THE FORBIDDEN FOREST AND ALMOST GOT HER KILLED.

◊◊ OKAY WELL IF YOUR REALLY WANT TO KNOW, HE TOLD ME TO KEEP MY REVENGE PROPORTIONAL. ◊◊

OH DID HE.

◊◊ AND THEN HE GOT REALLY MAD AT ME FOR BREAKING YOUR WRIST. ◊◊

I SEE. YEAH, I GUESS THAT TRACKS. HE'S NOT THE REVENGE TYPE. HE'S MORE LIKE THE LOYAL PUPPY DOG TYPE.

◊◊ AND SO AM I. IMAGINE IF YOU KICKED YOUR DOG AND THEN YOU GOT SO BROKEN UP ABOUT IT THAT YOU DISAPPEARED FOREVER. DO YOU THINK THE DOG WOULD BE HAPPY TO SEE YOU GONE? ◊◊

UM. MAYBE?

◊◊ I DON'T THINK SO. I THINK YOUR DOG WOULD BE SAD BECAUSE YOU WERE NOT THERE. THEY WOULD NOT KNOW WHY YOU WERE GONE. SO THEY WOULD SIT AT THE DOOR FOREVER, WAITING FOR YOU. I'VE HEARD STORIES ABOUT DOGS WHO SAT AT TRAIN STATIONS FOR THEIR WHOLE LIVES, WAITING FOR THEIR OWNERS TO ARRIVE LIKE USUAL, NEVER UNDERSTANDING THAT THE OWNER HAD DIED. I BET IF VIOLET DIED THEN CORMAC WOULD SIT IN THE LIBRARY ALL DAY EVERY DAY. IF YOU DIED I DON'T KNOW WHERE I WOULD STAY ALL DAY BUT I WOULD STAY THERE. ◊◊

YOU SURE MAKE YOURSELF SOUND LIKE A DOG. MAYBE THAT IS WHAT YOU WILL BECOME.

◊◊ WE SHALL HAVE TO SEE. BUT AS FOR NOW...IT IS AS JILL SAID, THAT IN LOVE WE SUSPEND JUDGMENT. IT IS AS I SAID, THAT YOU MUST NOT GET LOST IN THE INSULTS, BUT MAKE UP FOR WHAT YOU HAVE DONE. AKNOWLEDGE WHAT YOU DID WRONG, REPAIR THE DAMAGE, LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES AND CHANGE YOUR BEHAVIOR. THAT IS HOW YOU ATONE. NOT BY SCOURGING YOURSELF. ◊◊

CURIOUS. YOU SOUND PRECISELY THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT THE SCREAMS TELL ME TO DO.

◊◊ THEY TELL YOU TO DO STUFF? LIKE, NOT JUST SCREAMING? ◊◊

REMEMBER WHAT I TOLD YOU ABOUT BAD ANSWERS?

◊◊ YES, THAT WAS -- OH. ALRIGHT NOW I REALLY NOW I WANT YOU HERE. BECAUSE NOW I'M REALLY SCARED. MAYBE I GRAB YOU AND DON'T LET YOU GO AT ALL, EVER. FOR ALL I KNOW YOU'RE PERCHED ON A STAIRCASE RAILING RIGHT NOW. ◊◊

WELL, IF YOU SAY IT LIKE THAT, I WILL CONSIDER COMING TO YOUR BED AGAIN. DO NOT FEAR FOR ME RIGHT NOW. I AM SNUG IN MY OWN BED. AND ALONE. HMPH. THAT'S MY FAULT, I GUESS. TELL ME, HOW CAN I ATONE FOR TODAY'S MISTAKES?

◊◊ LET'S SEE...YOU CAN AVOID THROWING YOURSELF OFF A HIGH PLACE. ◊◊

CHECK. •

◊◊ YOU CAN HEED MY WARNINGS. ◊◊

CHECK. •

◊◊ YOU CAN SWEAR TO KEEP YOURSELF HIDDEN IF YOU'RE GOING TO BE EAVESDROPPING. ◊◊

YEAH, THAT SEEMS LIKE A GOOD IDEA. •

◊◊ ALSO I'M SORRY FOR BLOWING UP AT YOU. AND FOR DITCHING YOU TODAY. I WILL TRY TO COMMUNICATE BETTER ABOUT WHEN I NEED TO BE ALONE. ◊◊

WELL I CERTAINLY DESERVED TO -- NO, NO, NEVER MIND DESERVING. LET'S JUST SAY I UNDERSTAND WHY YOU WERE ANGRY. BUT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT MY ATONEMENT HERE. IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE I CAN DO?•

◊◊ WHAT ELSE, WHAT ELSE. AH, I KNOW. YOU CAN EITHER INSIST TO THE ENTIRE STUDENT BODY THAT THE VALENTINE’S DAY BALL IS A BAD IDEA – ◊◊

THAT'LL BE A HARD SELL. •

◊◊ OR YOU CAN KEEP YOUR WAND ON YOU AT THE BALL AND KEEP A SHARP EYE OUT FOR TROUBLE. ◊◊

EASIER. SEEMS LIKE A LAST-LINE-OF-DEFENSE KIND OF THING, THOUGH. •

◊◊ HEY. YOU KNOW WHO THE LAST LINE OF DEFENSE IS? ME. AND I DON’T BREAK. ◊◊

I WOULD NEVER FORCE YOU INTO SUCH A ROLE. THEN AGAIN, I WOULDN’T HAVE TO. YOU ALWAYS JUMP INTO IT. •

◊◊ YEAH, THAT’S MY PROBLEM. YOU HAVE YOUR PROBLEMS. I CAN HELP YOU WITH THEM, IF YOU WANT. OR I CAN TRY. ◊◊

I KEEP THINKING THERE’S NOT ENOUGH TIME IN MY LIFE LEFT TO RESOLVE THEM. AND YET...YOU'RE HERE. AND JILL IS HERE. •

MAYBE I DO HAVE MORE TIME NOW.•

The image of Jocasta slowly faded.

◊◊ JOCASTA? ◊◊

Sparrow opened her eyes.

Still no Jocasta. Just Jill.

For the next few minutes, Jocasta did not return, nor answer any further calls. Sparrow and Jill held each other closely, waiting, hoping nothing had gone wrong after all.

Then there was a small poof, and there stood Jocasta, setting a glass vial down on the nightstand and crawling into bed. She snuggled close to Sparrow.

◊◊ OH HELP. I HAVE BECOME A PIE FILLING. ◊◊

"That's because you're a sweetie pie," said Jill. "But I did not expect my other girlfriend to be here tonight. Couldn't stand to be away after all, Jo?"

“Someone couldn't stand for me to be away," said Jocasta.

"Ah," said Jill. "Well. That is definitely true."

"And I will admit that my being away was largely self-destructive."

"It did sound like that's what you were on about."

"And Mrs. Clearwater said we had to stick together.”

“Maybe we should all sleep in this bed then.”

“I think Miranda would object.”

“Around the bed then?”

“Yeah,” said Jocasta. “A real slumber part – I mean a – dammit.”

◊◊ IT’S FINE. AS LONG AS YOU TWO ARE HERE THEN I AM FINE. NO MORE LETHIFOLDS CREEPING INTO MY DREAMS. ◊◊

“Likewise,” said Jocasta. “And Sparrow?”

◊◊ HM? ◊◊

“Love you too.”

◊◊ WHEN DID I SAY THAT THIS EVENING? ◊◊

“You spent a fair few minutes on it.”

◊◊ AH HA. WELL THEN. GOOOOOOOODNIGHT. ◊◊

And Sparrow’s dreams that evening were tinted green as ever.

Yet for all she was physically alone as she wandered through them – she did not feel alone within them, anymore.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.