a punch to the gut

by renegadekarma

She considered this; yes, she was angry. Tatiana Penvrane was furious with the endless war, with the persecution and constant threat, and the fact that even those she’d trusted could stab her in the back, albeit a bit sadly.

It was just a relief to finally be out of the forest; being in hiding had been an interesting experience, but she missed her flat and her cats, and now that she’d been reunited with both, she had no intention of leaving again any time soon. It was for this reason that she even preferred to invite people over to her house instead of meeting up with them elsewhere. Today’s visitor was none other than Cassia, who’d just graduated from her final year of school the week before.

Tatiana was doing her best as a hostess – people skills, after all, had been what she’d excelled at, over Herbology or literature or anything else of the sort. She’d chattered as she invited her friend in, pulled up a place at the table, and inquired about the younger girl’s future plans as she set a kettle for tea onto the stove.

Distantly, she was aware that something was off; it was her doing most of the talking (which wasn’t too unnatural, except that this was Sia and their conversations had always had a consistent ebb and flow to them). At first, she merely chalked it up to post-graduation nerves, but after a few moments of stilted conversation, Tatiana was convinced. There was something very wrong about today’s visit, and she was going to figure out what it was.

Cautiously, she placed the steaming mug in front of her friend and sat across the table, cupping the matching mug in her hands. “Are you still upset about Lachlan?” she guessed after a moment, the concern in her tone softening her features.

Cassia had reached out to take the mug, but she made no move to drink out of it. Instead, she stared into the scalding liquid inside as if she wished to drown in it. For several seconds, there was no answer, and then the girl finally sighed, closing her eyes briefly. “I have to tell you something,” she added abruptly.

Across the circular table, Tatiana took a cautious sip from her mug and then nodded, perplexed. “Go ahead,” she urged.

It was then that Sia glanced up, her eyes startlingly wide with conflicting waves of innocence and guilt. “I sold you out.”

Confusion remained etched across the lines of the darker brunette’s face, and her lips settled into a baffled frown. “What?”

“I told the Ministry about you. A man who worked there came into Hogwarts and questioned me about some of the people on the Wanted list and, well, one of them is your grandmother so when he asked about you, I told him. What you worked as, who you lived with, where you lived.” Cassia’s gaze was almost too bold now; the older girl thought she detected some guilt in it, but no real regret. The younger girl had done what she believed was right, even if it had potentially hurt a friend.

“Oh.” For a moment, the healer was so surprised that she placed down her mug and drew herself back in her seat, wrapping her arms around herself defensively.

“Your grandmother’s a criminal, Tatty, I was just doing what was asked of me. I was Head Girl, I couldn’t let the Ministry down,” Cassia plowed forward as if she thought the older would interrupt her. Almost absently, her fingers seemed to curl around the mug, knuckles whitening.

Finally, Tatiana broke her silence. “My grandmother, contrary to the nonsense that the Ministry’s been publishing, is not a criminal. But yes, that’s what I imagine they’d tell you about her.” She leaned forward, her hazel eyes questioning, “Do you mean to tell me that you told the very people I’ve been hiding from for the last year about where I live?”

The other seemed to stiffen slightly at her accusation but added, her voice slightly thin, “They know about Benj, too.”

At this, Tatiana let out an exhale, clasping her hands and lacing the fingers together as she pressed them toward her mouth, her gaze drifting to her boyfriend’s room in the flat. Her guilt about his involvement in her situation was boundless; she’d thought that she could never atone for practically having dragged him into hiding with her, but now the target that had been over her head, as the grandchild of a vigilante, had now extended to his. She couldn’t allow this to continue.

There was a pause in which Tatiana thought, and in this time, Cassia had raised her gaze slowly. “Are you angry with me?”

She considered this; yes, she was angry. Tatiana Penvrane was furious with the endless war, with the persecution and constant threat, and the fact that even those she’d trusted could stab her in the back, albeit a bit sadly. “No,” she answered firmly after a moment, glancing at the other.

“No?” This seemed to be such a surprising reaction that Cassia too placed down her mug in confusion.

“I’m disappointed in you. I thought our friendship implied trust – but the truth is, I’ve never had a younger sibling before, and you’re the closest I have to one. I can’t be angry with you, not really. You were just doing what you thought was right – and now I have to do what I think is right,” Tatiana informed her friend, her tone monotone and her gaze distant.

As if on cue, she heard the front door open and her boyfriend enter, shrugging off his coat and blinking at the company. He waved amicably to Cassia, a greeting she returned with a shaky smile, and then noticed the grim expression on Tatiana’s face. “Darling? What’s wrong?”

“I think…” Tatiana shot a last glance at Cassia and then turned to her boyfriend. “I think we should consider moving.” And, if the other’s tip-off had come early enough, perhaps it was time to go back into hiding.