Love would kill her. Death would kill her. So Chastity would not fall in love, and she would not die. She didn’t have a chance for the first, and a bullet had lodged itself in her ribs. The redhead’s eyes widened as she watched the red blossom on her uniform, petals unfurling. So this was what it was like, she thought, watching herself die. There must have been shock in her bloodstream, adrenaline or God or something, because it wasn’t until she broke away from the thick of the battle that she screamed.
She didn’t want to. But it ripped itself from her throat, and the pain didn’t ebb or throb. There was no dull ache, there was no sharp sting. The wound screamed along with her.
“Hey, hey,” a pretty brunette nurse was before her, pressing something to her wound. Chastity was sitting. She didn’t remember sitting. Maybe her knees had given away. “You’re going to be alright. Just breathe.” Her hazel eyes hadn’t met Chastity’s yet, focusing on the sticky red, slender hands fumbling with the buttons. “You’re going to be alright.”
“Don’t make promises you can’t keep,” Chastity laughed outloud, and the sound was breathless. Still, she breathed because she wasn’t sure how long she could. It didn’t matter if she lived or died. Eventually the uniform would be peeled off and her short cropped hair would mean nothing.
Damn the revolution.
“I don’t,” the brunette told her sharply, eyes finally snapping up to meet hers. There was something in her gaze, recognition maybe, fear. “Chas,” she gasped out, eyes widening.
Terror would have risen into her chest if she wasn’t already so goddamn terrified. “How do you know who I am?” There was darkness creeping at the edge of the world, but she ignored it. She was already good at that, ignoring the darkness, the cold. She had done it all her life, and the one time she fought for the light, she was thrown back into the dark.
“You don’t remember me,” she murmured to herself and the way her hands traced her jaw was achingly familiar. “Stay still. I’m getting help. They’re coming.”
Chastity could hear footsteps and movements nearing them. It didn’t matter. She had always known a lost cause. “Maybe giving me your name would help,” she offered weakly.
The corner of the nurse’s lips lifted. “Tatiana Penvrane. Stay with me.”
That was what she did. She stayed with the nurse, ribs aching and throbbing. She repeated the name over and over again, feverish. She thought that maybe someone was saying hers too, desperate in a way they shouldn’t be. Heat had spread everywhere, and now she couldn’t breathe. The darkness was swelling over her eyes, but she held the image, thought of the kind hazel brown eyes and the faint smile on her mouth.
Maybe those lips were on her now – she thought they might be – gasping air into her mouth, and Chastity’s body shook, gasping air back too because she remembered –
– and now she was dead.
It was her wedding day.
The dress was strapless, backless, a pretty white thing that skimmed her thighs each time she moved. There was no veil, but she did wear a crown of flowers that might as well have been a crown of gold. It wasn’t the dress or the make-up or even the carefully arranged bouquet of flowers that Chastity was looking at her. The thing was, they were right, what they said. Brides glowed, and Tatty was blinding.
(She only wished Tatty was glowing for her.)
“Chas?” The brunette turned slightly, her smile brightening as her eyes searched out her friend.
Chastity bit down the ache (she was used to it by now) and put on a smile. “Someone cleaned up nicely,” she teased, eyes sweeping over the dress once again.
“You don’t look too bad yourself,” Tatty rolled her eyes fondly, but her compliment was genuine.
“I can’t believe you chose pink for bridesmaid,” she ran her hands down the folds of the dress. “Pink. Do you know what color my hair is, Tatty? Red. It was bad enough when Sen decided her entire guest list would have to wear pink. I thought this time I’d be free.”
“Chastity,” Tatiana interrupted her, amused. “You know it doesn’t even matter with you. Every color looks good on you.” She hesitated. “Can you lace me up? Seren was supposed to do it, but I think she’s seeing if she can get in one more time with Frankie before the ceremony.”
“I’ve got to give it to her,” Chastity remarked, stepping to the side so she was just a little to the left of being directly behind Tatty. They were both in the reflection of the mirror, the happy bride and her bridesmaid. It made a pretty picture. Goddammit. “Her flexibility and endurance is admirable.”
Tatty grinned. “I’m sure you can be a little competition there.” Her hands shook as she carefully untangled the lace, swerving it together. Her knuckles just skimmed the brunette’s bareback, lightning crackling through her at the touch. She wanted to ask. She wanted to ask if Tatty remembered conquering Rome. She wanted to ask if she remembered when the danced on top of the Eiffel tower, their champagne full of stars. She wanted to ask if she remembered the Victorian Era. She wanted to ask if she remembered how many times they had lost each other.
They kept losing each other.
Of course, she didn’t.
“Tell me it’s going to be alright,” Tatty’s hands were trembling too if for different reasons. Chastity reached out to close hers over it, giving it a slight squeeze.
“It’s going to be terrible,” she informed her. “You’re going to be trapped in a marriage with some sod where you can only sleep with one person at a time. It’ll be absolutely horrific.”
Tatty let out a short, kind of breathless laugh. “Thanks for that, Chas.”
Letting go of her hurt, but she did it anyways, hands slipping away.
“That’s what I’m here for.”
Flames twisted and spiraled in her hands, and it never stopped being amazing how she held fire in her hands. That there was dynamite in her bloodstream, matches between her fingers. There was a flicker of movement, and she seized onto it, slashing her hand forward, the flames following the movement. There was a gasp, and there was a crash as the other moved to the left. Avoidance, light steps – airbender tactics.
“You don’t know what you’re doing,” a woman’s voice called out, and Chastity vaulted forward, flames whipping towards her direction.
“I know exactly what I’m doing,” her voice was calm, gaze level as she quietly neared the voice. The room was dark, but the gleam of gold of the palace was still visible in the dimness.
Before she could move, the wind rose and knocked her off her feet, leaving her to crash to the ground. Chastity stumbled back to her feet, moving faster and harder. She tilted back her chin, hard green eyes up, and she roared, flames swelling into the air to light up the room, long enough to find the slender-limbed woman.
Hazel brown eyes. A blue arrow tattoo printed into her skin. Quick movements. Typical airbender.
Except for the dawn of realization in her eyes.
“Chas,” the flames she had been gathering in her fists flickered for an instance. “Please. Please just this once – remember me.” Fear sent her heartbeat to stammer even faster (and maybe something else too, something she couldn’t name). She thrust her arms forward, throwing a wall of fire at the other teenager. Sometimes it terrified her that they were fighting a war so young. Most of the time she was just tired of it.
“I have no idea who you are,” Chastity watched as the other kicked her leg, separating the flames with wind, “What I do know is that you’re part of the uprising. That you’re air while I’m fire.”
A stream of wind swerved towards the redhead, but this time she managed to cartwheel to the side. “I am part of the uprising, but we call it a revolution.” Her gaze was desperate, and there was a part of Chastity that hated the frown on her lips when there should have been a smile. “Fire needs air, and air needs fire. Without oxygen, fire can’t grow. Without the sun, there can’t be oxygen.” She lifted her chin a little. “I’m Tatty.”
“You’re wrong,” she sucked in a breath as a ribbon of flame snuck in, a more subtle attack than what she was used to but Tatty was too damn good. “Air spreads fire. Air makes fire into wildfire. It makes us uncontrollable.” She flicked her wrist up. “Lightning and air? Storms at sea. It’s chaos.”
Tatty cried out when the flames licked her ankles, but she was fast enough to use her wind to rise them up, sending them back to Chastity who only settled them down. Flames couldn’t hurt a firebender. “But you’re already wildfire, aren’t you?” She gasped out.
“And you’re already a storm.” Chastity wondered how she knew that. She drew her slender hands back into the air, heat spreading through her hands. She couldn’t let herself feel. The winds were slowly rising around her, but she ignored them. Her attack was lethal. She had to end this. Her heart was beating too fast, and there was something wrong about this.
As her hands came down, the air began to be sucked out of her lungs, wind moving so fast she could barely stay on her feet. But choking her would be slow, and she could see the tears in the other’s eyes. Tears were prickling in her own, and she told herself it was the pain, the ache of her chest caving in on itself.
Her hands came slamming down, and lightning shot out from the sky, splintering down to the teenager’s heart.
Chastity closed her eyes and found she could breathe again. And as she stumbled to the ground, landing breathless on her hands and knees, she wondered why it felt like she wasn’t breathing at all.
The Order had fallen. It had burned to the ground like the safe haven they had hidden in. Those with a feather tattoo burned into their skin had been hanged, burned alive, imprisoned. They did nothing to the families. There was no reason to. Watching their families crumble was enough. Chastity had to grip onto Tatty the entire time, watching her long-time friends tremble in rage, in fear and then in loss. They had watched her the entire family burn alive, and she was only thankful Tatty hadn’t taken the tattoo yet, that neither of them had.
Ariel had been imprisoned. It must have been of her surname. She was thankful for that too.
All that was left was scattered young adults and teenagers that should have still been at Hogwarts, all that was left of a rebellion. There had been a thousand times that Chastity wanted to give up, wanted to flee. She couldn’t though. Not when there were so many people she cared for. At first all they did was kept people in hiding, took people out of the country. They managed to break Benjamin Jameson from prison, but Ariel was kept under tighter watch.
Chastity blamed her boyfriend’s surname for that.
But as the fear heightened, they did too. They killed. They burned. They destroyed. They had to first raze Rome to lift it up again. Sometimes, Chastity wondered if there was a true difference between whatever they were and the Cadena. The redhead closed her eyes from the thought and bit her lips, keeping her silent watch, twisting her wand in her hands.
“Chas,” the name never stopped aching, not when it was that voice saying it. In some universes, she had time with Tatty. Usually never more than hours, at most, a year. But she had her. She did. In this one, she had confessed, but it came to nothing. She wondered why fate had cursed them with this. She wondered what they had done wrong.
She supposed it was more what she was about to do.
“You’re alive,” the brunette stated, almost in wonder. Chastity’s part of the ploy was risky, but Tatty didn’t know exactly how risky.
“I don’t think I look it,” Chastity traced a finger beneath the bruise-like darkness beneath her eyes.
“I’ll take it,” Tatty decided. “How’s the others?”
“Benji radio’d in,” he wasn’t in on it either. “Seren and Frankie are on their way back. Nate’s meeting up with us here, and then we’re all out.” Her gaze swept over the dark Door of Time.. “We’re burning down the Department of Mysteries. They won’t have it as an advantage any longer.”
As she said this, Nate stepped out of the darkness. If she didn’t look alive, he looked half-dead. He turned to talk to Tatty quietly but not before giving her a nod, his hands shoved into his pockets.
Then Seren and Benji. “Are we ready to go?” The blonde asked, slender hands skimming over the slight swell of her stomach. This would be her last mission for a while, but if all went well, it would be everyone’s last goddamn mission for a while.
“Where’s Frankie?” Tatty asked.
“Here,” Frankie gave them all a faint smile as he stepped up to join them. His hands reached out to lace in with Seren’s, eyes lingering on her stomach before meeting her eyes. That was why they fought. Because of love. And Chastity liked to think Seren and Frankie were soulmates too, soulmates that found each other in every universe.
She prayed for it.
“We have to go now though,” Frankie said urgently. They took off running, but she lingered. Nate and Frankie urged everyone forward, but they knew what had to be done. They knew they had to stop trying to save every life. She slowed, but Tatty noticed, lingering too when Chastity stopped altogether at the Hall of Prophecies.
“We have to keep moving,” she said, almost in a command, almost like she had been in Ancient Greece.
“I need to check on something.” Her lips took on a false grin. “I am a seer, after all.”
“Sure,” it felt like they were school girls again, Tatty rolling her eyes at the claim. But Chastity was. Not of the future, not always, but she knew their past. And today, she knew the future. She knew how this story ended.
“You need to leave,” she stopped trying to smile.
“I know you’re going to do something stupid,” Tatty said after a moment as they delved deeper into the darkness. “Seren said that Frankie had been pacing all day. Nate keeps looking guilty.”
Chastity didn’t admit it or deny it. “Leave.”
“You knew we wouldn’t ever let you do whatever it is that you want to do,” Tatty continued musing it over. “I – oh my – Holy Helga, what is that?” There was a rip in the floor, a break in the universe, a void. Seren, Benji, Tatty – they had all set the pieces of this move if unknowingly, but it had been Nate and Frankie that had set it to motion. And Chastity would be the catalyst.
“Don’t try to save me,” she gave her friend a wane smile.
“No,” she reached out for Chastity’s hand. “This is stupid. You don’t need to do this.”
“I need you to run now,” she gave an aching smile.
And – she knew it was wrong, but she had always been a sinner. Besides, she was about to die, and she was going to hell anyways. She reached out to clasp Tatty’s jaw in her hands, and she brought her lips crashing into hers, and Tatty remembered. She could feel it, feel that burn in her chest as the brunette remembered.
“Don’t do this,” Tatty breathed out.
“You remember,” Chastity said.
“I do,” she nodded.
“I wanted to come to your wedding,” she murmured, staring into the darkness below. “I wanted to be a godmum to one of your kids. I wanted to watch you grow old. I wanted a lot more, but that’s what I wanted from this life.” She laughed. “Fate’s never liked me. You wonder why I was never a big fan of it.”
“Forget fate,” Tatty shook her head. “This time, we have a choice. You don’t need to do this.”
“But I do,” Chastity hated this. She wasn’t a martyr. She didn’t play at sacrifice. She was afraid to die. Only she knew what had to be done, and she was willing to do it. Chastity was just a soldier, and she was following her own command. “Because otherwise there won’t be a wedding or children or anything. You know it. Think of Sen’s kid. Your godkid, probably.”
Tatty steeled herself. “I’ll run after. You’re not dying alone. Not this time. Not this lifetime.”
“Until we meet again.” Because in that, fate was kind. They always had a second chance. They had a thousand of them.
And she jumped so the whole Ministry would burn.
Fate was cruel.