by MelWil

"When did you begin learning about magic?"

Willow tucked her legs closer and turned her head away from her healer. There were horses outside, amongst the trees. Horses and riders -- a lesson of some type.

"When did you first begin learning about magic?"

The question never changed. Same question, same tone of voice, same patient silence as Willow refused to answer. It had been three sessions now. Or maybe four. She couldn't remember anymore.

"I don't remember."

"When did you first begin learning about magic?"

The carpet was red, with green and brown through it. She followed the patterns. "Why don't you ask Giles?"

"I would prefer to hear the answers from you."

She should wear sneakers again. She wondered if Giles could get her some sneakers. Maybe she could go riding then. She might like horses. Tara like horses. Tara . . .

"May I go now?"

The healer sighed and nodded. Willow uncurled herself and walked out of the stuffy little room. The house was quiet, as usual. Everyone was busy behind closed door or out in the yard. Willow wandered down the stairs, past the smells of the kitchen and out into the quaint little courtyard. She sat on one of the stone benches, wondering how long they could keep her in England if she refused to talk.

"Do you like the roses?"

Willow looked over her shoulder. A woman -- a girl -- stood behind her, her hair tangled and covering her eyes, her clothes dull and ill-fitting. Her hand was curled around a rose. "I'm sorry?" Willow said.

"I like the white ones the best." She twisted her hand to the side, snapping the flower from its stem. The girl brought the flower up to her face to smell the rose.

"I like red ones," Willow offered. "And yellow ones."

The girl nodded, her hair falling further across her face. "You're new here."


She smiled. "I've been here for three years. I'm supposed to be getting better."

"Are you?"

"I haven't quite been able to work it out." The girl laughed, her hand curling into a fist, crushing the rose. "What kind of magic do you do?"

"I, um, I mean . . . what do you mean?" Willow pulled her legs up, tucking her knees up under her shin. "I just do magic, you know."

The girl lifted her head and stared at Willow. "Do you use a wand?"

Willow shook her head. "I just use my . . . mind," she said feebly.

"I used to have a wand." The girl sat down next to Willow, a little too close for comfort. "They took it away from me when I came here. I have to learn to control my magic."

"Right," Willow wondered if she should inch away from the girl. "Control. Is a good thing."

"Can you do potions?" The girl leaned her head against Willow. "I like potions."

"Um, well, I like chemistry, I guess." Willow looked toward the courtyard entrance. One of the healers was standing there, a heavy book resting in her arms. Willow nudged the girl and pointed at the healer.

"I think she's waiting for you."

The girl nodded and stood up. She looked tired, Willow noticed, as if all her energy had disappeared during their conversation. "Can I talk to you another time?"

Willow nodded. "I'd like that," she said, not entirely believing the words as she said them. She watched as the healer led the girl away.


Giles was waiting for Willow as she returned to the house for dinner. He was dressed casually -- a sweater and jeans, dull colours. His bruises were beginning to disappear.

"Lita said you wouldn't talk to her."

Willow shrugged. "She asks me questions. I'm not sure of the answers."

"She wants to help you."

Willow led Giles through the hallway and into the bright dining room. "I met a girl in the courtyard." She spoke softly, even though the room was empty.

"Which one?" Giles pulled a seat out for her and settled himself across from her.

"She didn't tell me her name." Willow looked at the table. "She said she used to use a wand. She sounded like she knew a lot about magic. She said she'd been here for a long time and she didn't feel like she was getting better."

Giles nodded. "It sounds like Hermione Granger. She's a trained witch. She was given a wand at the age of ten and sent to a boarding school to learn about magic. Apparently she was the best student they'd had in years."

"What happened to her?" Willow looked up at Giles.

"The coven isn't sure. There was some form of battle. Good against evil. An apocalypse of sorts. Hermione's power became too much for her to handle. She came to the coven half crazed."

Willow felt a shiver go through her body as she thought about the girl. "Is she safe?"

"The coven believes she is." Giles smiled at the young maid who placed a plate of sandwiches on the table. "They still have work to do with her, but she's as safe as you or me."

Willow wrapped her hands around herself. "I don't think I'm a very safe person to be around."

"You have to work with your healer, Willow. I can't stress enough the importance of that. It's the only way you're going to improve."

Willow nodded and looked out the window. She could still see the horses.


"When did you begin learning about magic?"

Willow looked out the window. The sun was shining through the trees, leaving patterns on the ground. Joyful, dancing patterns. Like the time she was with Tara . . ."


She looked at Lita. "I'm sorry. I was . . . I'm sorry."

Lita left her rocking chair and knelt before Willow. "Tell me what you were thinking."

Willow bit her lip. "Don't you want me to tell you about when I began learning magic. Because I think I might be able to help you there now."

Lita shook her head. "I think we need to try something new. Tell me what you were thinking."

Willow looked at the lamp above Lita's left shoulder. "I was thinking about Sunnydale. There was a demon who made everyone sing. And we were under the trees and she sang to me."

"Who sang to you, Willow?"

She pulled her sweater over her hands and balled them tight, hugging her arms to her chest. She didn't want to talk about Tara, didn't want to share her, didn't want to let her go. "There was a teacher - when I was a Sophomore -- there was a teacher who did magic. Miss Calender. Jenny. I think that was when I learned about magic."


"I thought you would be here."

Willow looked up from her book. Hermione was standing at the courtyard's entrance, a bunch of roses clutched in her hands. Her hair was pulled back from her face with a thick black ribbon and she was wearing some sort of fancy black dress, and there were shadows under her eyes. She shuffled across the courtyard and sat next to Willow. "I talked to Lita and she said she gave you some books to read. I thought you would come here to read them."

Willow nodded. "I like it here. It's quiet. Peaceful."

"It's easier to be in control here, isn't it?" Hermione sat on the stone at Willow's feet.

"Yeah," Willow looked away from Hermione. There was a pair of bees flitting around the red roses, and she resisted the urge to chase them away. "I suppose that's a good way to put it."

"They let me get dressed up today." Hermione pointed her flowers at her dress. "This is what I used to wear when I did magic. Before I got sick."

"That's . . ." Willow searched for the appropriate words. Hermione unnerved her, threw her off balance. " . . .very nice."

"I've got visitors coming. Friends. They come to see me once a month." Hermione thrust her bunch of roses at Willow. "I picked some flowers for them. But I thought you might like them better. They're just boys."

Willow took the flowers from her, holding them between her fingertips. The stems were covered in nasty looking thorns, with little dots of red on them. She dropped the roses onto the seat next to her. "Show me your hand," she ordered.

Hermione placed her hand on Willows and uncurled it slowly. The skin of her palm and her fingers was covered in tiny spots of blood. Willow ran her finger across the bottom of her hand and the girl flinched, pulling her hand away. "I'm fine," she said, hiding her hand in her dress.

"You're bleeding," Willow protested.

"Only a little bit." Hermione stood up, stepping away from Willow. "I wanted to give you some flowers."

"But, I mean, thank you. But don't you know . . ."

"Hermione!" A man's voice drifted across the courtyard, interrupting Willow.

Hermione's eyes grew wide and she looked like a small child. "They're here," she whispered.

Willow turned to look at the courtyard entrance. There were two man standing there; a tall one with red hair, standing in front of a shorter man who had hair like Xander's and a pair or round glasses. They came no closer, just waited as Hermione shuffled over to them. They put their arms around her, as if they were protecting her from Willow, and walked away. Willow wondered if they'd see the blood on her hands.



She was staring at nothing. An empty entrance, no one there. Giles was standing behind her. She could feel him there, hear him there. She didn't want to turn to look at him.

"They took her away, Willow. The boys took her away."

"Why would they do that?" Willow rubbed the edge of her finger over the stem of the rose she was still holding. Over the thorns.

"They didn't think she was getting any better here. They said there was a hospital. A place for people like her."

Willow's thumb drifted over the point of the thorn. She pressed down hard.


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