March 1, 2015

Ashley sat on a bench in Hyde Park, just thinking over… everything. Teresa walked along the path, stopping when she saw Ashley up ahead. She wondered if she should try to talk to her, or if she would just get a mean snap for interrupting Ashley’s thoughts. She continued to walk up the path, giving Ashley a little wave when she got close.
Ashley looked up. “Hey, Teresa.”
Teresa gave a short nod, watching her. “Hi.”
“Want to sit?” Ashley offered.
Teresa debated for a moment- then decided it probably couldn’t hurt. “Sure.”
As Teresa sat down, Ashley wondered why she had made the offer. She guessed she was just feeling a bit lonely, since Lily hadn’t spoken for days, and Teresa at least knew what was going on.
“How are you?” Teresa asked.
Ashley flexed her muscles. “I’m doing okay.”
Teresa nodded, her gaze calculating.
“I mean, it sucks, everything that’s been going on. But I’m handling it okay.”
Teresa nodded again. “Of course.” She put on a bit of a smile. “I heard you were being accepted back into the Aurors.”
“I’ll be a support Auror first,” Ashley said. “Trying to earn back trust and such. It was real nice of Ferlen to give me a second chance,” she added, remembering that Ferlen was Teresa’s husband.
“That’s Ferlen for you,” she replied with a small grin. She paused. “Is Lily… still in there?”
“She is, but she’s weak. Hasn’t spoken for days.” Her voice took on a bit of a growl. “I wish there was something I could do to help her, but there’s no help to give. She’s dying, it’s about as painless as we could wish, and that’s the end of it.” She sighed. “But I understand now. I understand how she simply needs to be free from all the horrible things she’s done- no matter how pure the motivation for it all.”
Teresa nodded in acknowledgement. Her emotions were in check; but that didn’t mean her thoughts didn’t wander back to the connection she saw between herself and Lily. “Lily lost her focus when she lost the people she cared about?”
Ashley nodded. “That’s what she said.” There was guilt in her voice; she had been one of the people who had left.
Teresa was quiet, thinking about what Ferlen had said to her… how he would always be there for her, love her, and protect her no matter what. The old debate came up in her head, how to protect him and how to be honest with him simultaneously.
After a few minutes, Ashley interrupted her thoughts. “So… you can block the Cruciatus Curse, huh?”
She nodded. “Yes, I can.”
Ashley looked like she was trying to suppress a grin.
“Just remembering when you couldn’t even stand the sight of blood, or really bad injuries.”
“And look how far I’ve come,” Teresa replied with a bit of a sigh.
“Hey, it’s not a bad thing to have that skill, you know. It could’ve saved your mind that day. And since you weren’t under it, you were able to Stun that Emily woman.” There was a bit of frustration in her voice as she continued. “And unlike you, I could barely stand it for a few seconds before I collapsed.”
“It takes lots of mental training to be able to block it completely. And if you can’t perform Occlumency or resist the Imperius Curse, you have no chance of blocking the Cruciatus Curse.”
“I can practice Occlumency, but I’ve never tried resisting the Imperius Curse before,” Ashley replied, her voice holding interest.
Teresa shrugged; she didn’t want to continue talking about that. The guilt was beginning to demand her attention, and she needed to shut down quickly.
“Did you, um, have any plans this weekend?”
Ashley’s question startled Teresa. She looked at her, studying her features. “Nothing set in stone.”
“Would you want to come over? To my loft?”
Teresa was surprised. “I wasn’t under the impression that you particularly liked me,” she answered slowly.
“And I didn’t think you liked me.” She paused. “You started avoiding me ever since Ferlen took me to that ball over a decade ago.”
“I never really understood you before that,” Teresa answered.
Ashley nodded. “And I never understood you. Maybe we could give understanding each other a shot now?”
If Ashley was asking Teresa to her loft, Teresa figured Ashley must be feeling lonely. Forming a lasting friendship was unlikely, to say the least. But she could understand feeling alone, and her smile was a bit soft as she answered her. “Sure.”
“Great. I’ll see you this weekend.” Ashley stood. “Better get back to the office.”
Teresa nodded. “See you.” As Ashley walked away, she stared out at the frozen lake, lost in her thoughts and the guilt she was finally turning her attention to.