Summary: Marlene has a choice now. She could change history and make things right, or she could let fate have its way and lose everything.
Warning: Titanic cross-over, so a bit of violence
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to J.K. Rowling, James Cameron and history, and nothing belongs to me, as always. If there are any historical errors, I do apologize for them! I don't make any money out of this story.
[HSWW] Assignment #9: Wandlore: Wand Woods / Task #5 - Write about a sacrifice
Word count (without the A/N): 15,558 words
Make it Wrong or Make it Right
She was lying down and breathing as deeply as she could to make the icy pain go away, holding his hands in hers. There was no fear in his brown eyes as he looked straight into her soul, and the words that tumbled out of his mouth were only of comfort.
"It'll be alright," he sighed, and his voice was still strong so she almost believed him.
"You can't say that," she whispered, and her voice trembled with every shake of her body.
"It will be. You'll see. You'll be alright -"
"But you won't," she cut him off. "Please, find something else, there has to be another way to save the both of us…"
He smiled slightly, and she didn't even notice that his thin lips were beginning to turn blue. All she could do was gaze into his eyes and pray. Beg for him to go and save himself as well.
"There is nothing," he said, brushing his lips against her knuckles. "Look around you. There is nothing."
She didn't even notice the slight tremor in his voice, but she did notice how his breaths shortened more each time he spoke. She tried not to show him the tears forming in her eyes (because he was right, there was nothing - how could he have stayed behind to help her?), but she knew it was pointless when he held himself up to be just a little closer to her.
"Do not cry," he told her, his voice empty of its usual mischievousness. "I am happy. Happier than I have ever been. These past few days with you… They have brought me nothing but a happiness like I had never known before."
She wondered how he could still speak without his voice trembling. Maybe he thought he should be strong for her, but she had already told him that he didn't need to be. That being strong was her job, and that he could show weakness if he wanted to. And yet here he was, far stronger than she will ever be; not afraid of anything, not even of death.
"Please don't die for me," she begged him once more. "Please, go away and find someone, something to help you."
"We both know I can't do that, love," he smiled at her.
This time, when she lowered her eyes in defeat, she saw the paleness of his skin, and she pressed a kiss to his knuckles.
"I am ready," he continued. "If that means you'll live… I am ready to sacrifice myself… and die. And I… I know it's not… what you want to hear, but it's… it's really what I think."
There they are, she thought almost absent-mindedly. There they are. Our last moments together. And she didn't realize how right she was until it was too late.
1981 - The Department of Mysteries
She was fighting alongside Lily, James, Dorcas and Moody, and they were forced to back down in that damn room. She knew they shouldn't have entered it, because now, if they did something wrong, it could have dire, very dire consequences.
She looked briefly around her and saw all the clocks (and it could have been beautiful or intriguing under any other circumstances), but what worried her the most was the huge Time Turner she was now standing in front of.
She focused her attention on Dolohov once again when she heard Dorcas scream her name. She barely had time to duck out of the way of his spell, but it hit the Time Turner instead and she heard the glass beginning to crack. It was a deafening sound for her, as she was the only one standing next to it and therefore the only one threatened by it.
She snarled at her opponent and slashed the air with her wand, throwing a wordless Stupefy spell at him. He laughed cruelly while dodging it and taunted her, "McKinnon… Is that really all you can do?"
She knew she shouldn't take the bait and be affected by his words, but she growled anyway and started fighting far more violently. Her stance grew more and more aggressive, and she threw curse after curse at Dolohov.
She ducked out of the way of one of his and knew then that she shouldn't have. She heard the glass shatter behind her and she turned around, her eyes widening when she saw the little grains spreading across the floor towards her feet. She stepped back, not caring that her back wasn't covered by anybody, and she didn't even have time to think before she saw a white, blinding light and she fainted.
April 11th, 1912: 16:30 - Aboard the Titanic
When she regained consciousness, the first thing she noticed was the silence. Well, it wasn't exactly silent. There were noises all around her, people talking in hushed voices that she couldn't really make out… But it was so quiet! The shouts of her friends throwing curses at the others… She couldn't hear them anymore, she realized, and her breath quickened. Where were they? Why weren't they here by her side?
She opened her eyes and a scorching light blinded her. She moaned and held a hand up in front of her eyes, and she took some time to adjust to the brightness around her (a brightness that made her realize she wasn't where she was supposed to be… at the Ministry, in the Department of Mysteries and in that damn Time Room).
The Time Room… She frowned, and it only made her headache worse, but at least she remembered now. The Time Turner, the white light…
She felt around her for her wand in the hope of doing something, and a gut-wrenching horror filled her when she realized that… there was no wand anywhere near her.
Tears formed in her eyes, but she fought against them with all her might. She was aware this, what had just happened to her, wasn't normal… even for them. But she had no idea how to change it back without at least a wand. It was beyond her comprehension… and maybe it would even be beyond Dumbledore's comprehension… if he even knew what had happened to her.
She shook her head. Forget about Dumbledore, she told herself. He can't help you. Only you can help yourself, and only if you focus. She took a deep breath and looked around her. She obviously was in a hallway, but where? And most importantly, when?
People were looking at her, others were downright staring her down, and she scowled at those. They watched as she struggled to get up, and they shook their heads and kept walking until a young, red-haired woman walked closer to her and asked her gently, "Miss? What are you doing here? Are you… lost?"
She almost laughed hysterically, but she couldn't show her weakness (it was one of the Gryffindor traits, being courageous). She just answered, "I… I guess you could say that."
Her voice sounded raw, like she had screamed and screamed and screamed, and she hated that feeling.
"Surely someone can help you," the woman told her. "You cannot be truly lost, after all."
"Well… No, not really," the red-haired woman answered (and the only thing she could think of was Lily, Lily, Lily).
"Though you are obviously not on the right deck," a man intervened, and she hated him already. So pompous and condescending…
She tensed and her fists curled at her side, but she controlled herself. She clearly shouldn't hit him, or that would cause a scandal.
And then she realized what he had just said. Deck…
"What are you talking about?" she asked him, trying to ignore her headache that was only becoming worse and worse. "What deck?"
"And she's drunk at that…" he sighed. He put a hand on the red-haired woman's shoulder and dragged her away. "Come with me, Rose. There is nothing to see here. She can find her way down to the steerage by herself."
When she spared her a glance over her shoulder, the woman looked full of regrets.
Marlene tried to smile to her, but it came off as more of a grimace because of her pain and she tried to ease her headache by pinching the bridge of her nose.
She looked around her and let out a sigh of relief when she saw an indication of a first class promenade. And when she finally found her way onto the promenade, the cold seized her. The sunlight was filtering through some open spaces, but it did her no good and she wrapped her arms around herself in an attempt to protect herself against it. She should have worn something other than a tank top, and she knew it now. She was also aware that the man with Rose, whoever he was, was right: they were on a ship, and she stayed still, admiring the clear water through the open spaces.
After a little while though, she grew accustomed to the cold, and she squinted and looked around her. The people walking around her were still looking at her like she had no place there at all, and she wondered where she would finally find someone who would not judge her by her strange clothes and messy hair.
She walked down the promenade hopelessly, until she almost ran into someone. The woman looked at her kindly and asked her, "Why are you wandering around like this, dear girl?"
There was no judgement at all in her voice, and she sighed with relief before answering, "I was searching for someone who could help me."
"Well, if I can do anything…"
"Just tell me where I can find someone in charge, please."
She felt sorry for interrupting the kind lady, but she did need to see someone who at least had a little authority aboard this ship. She needed to inform them of her… impromptu presence here, and to find somewhere to sleep, and she needed a lot of other information that only someone with knowledge of the ship would be able to give her.
"There always are Officers on the bridge, and I believe the captain could be there as well, Miss…"
"What way?" she asked her hurriedly.
"This way," the older woman pointed with a frown.
She quickly thanked her, and left without another word, not heeding the woman's warnings that passengers weren't allowed in this part of the ship. The first thing she saw when she arrived on the bridge (which didn't look like what she would call a bridge at all) was a man standing near a railing and looking out at the sea before him.
She walked as steadily as she could towards him, and he turned towards her before she could even stop next to him.
He immediately told her with a thick accent, "Miss, you can't be here."
Anger coursed through her body. Why did everyone need to tell her she couldn't be there? Obviously, she couldn't, she knew that herself. If anyone had told her a few days ago that she would be transported back in time by a fucking Time Turner (and how many years back, she still didn't know…), she would have laughed in their faces.
But right now, all she could do was snap, "This one I had already figured out!" She took a few deep breaths and pinched the bridge of her nose again, and then she continued, "I'll be on my way in a few seconds, but could you just please tell me where I am?"
"Where you are?" he repeated incredulously. "You should know where you are!"
"I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I don't," she retorted, glaring at him. She couldn't really throw it in his face that she came from the future, but oh how she wanted to! Just to see his reaction…
He looked at her, seemingly wondering if she was kidding him, but then he apparently deemed she was not because he sighed, "You're on the Titanic, Miss. The Ship of Dreams."
Well, at least that confirmed her doubts. She really was on a ship, and the name sounded strangely familiar to her ears. But why, and…?
Her eyes suddenly widened. She remembered why she had recognized the name Titanic. It was Lily… She always kept talking about it. She was so passionate about the history of that particular ship. Its tragic history.
She ran a hand through her blonde hair and messed it up more than it already was, and she started pacing around.
"Miss?" the man asked her, his voice laced with uncertainty for the first time since he'd spoken to her.
"I can't be here," she mumbled again and again.
"Miss," the man started. "You will have to stay here for a few minutes. Do you understand me?"
"So I had to leave, and now I have to stay?" she couldn't help but ask bitterly.
He glared at her and suddenly called out, "Officer Moody!"
A young man walked out of the covered part of the bridge almost immediately. His brown eyes widened when he saw her, but he decided not to let himself get distracted and he straightened his back and looked at his eldest right in the eyes.
"Watch over the lady here while I go and bring the captain here. He'll certainly want to hear what she has to say."
He strode away before she (or the other officer, for that matter) could say or ask anything else, and she found herself standing next to the younger man, who was now looking at her with a frown on his face.
As soon as he noticed her staring at him, he bowed and introduced himself more properly, "Sixth Officer James Moody, Miss."
"Marlene McKinnon," she replied distractedly.
She came closer to the railing and looked at the water far, far down below, and she realized how majestuous the ship really was. Perhaps Lily and the officers were right… Perhaps she did deserve the title of Ship of Dreams. But right now, she was too distraught to even think about the idea.
"You seem… perturbed, Miss," the officer continued.
She looked at him and laughed a little. His brown eyes did show kindness and worry, but all she could think about was going back to where she was really supposed to be, and she couldn't.
"I'm not supposed to be here," she repeated for the umpteenth time that day, and she saw him open his mouth so she continued before he could speak up. "I'm not supposed to be here, and I can't go back anymore… can I?"
"Well… We've left Queenstown a few hours ago, and there is no other stop before New York. I don't think we'll throw you overboard though. That would be quite extreme, since you've done nothing wrong."
She stared at him, her mouth agape, and saw the mischievous glint in his eyes.
"You -" she started, before stopping. "Now that I think about it, I think I did something wrong - except being on that ship when I shouldn't."
"And what would that be?" he questioned her, his brows furrowing.
"Well, I think I've scared some of these passengers - the rich ones - and I think they really must hate me now."
He stared at her, mouth agape just like she had been a minute ago, and he saw the little smirk on her lips that she was trying to hide.
"Yes," he continued before he could stop himself, "those first-class passengers can be easily frightened. Really, you don't scare much."
"You should have seen me before…" she sighed, so low that he couldn't hear her.
He walked a little closer to her, and straightened his back, his hands joined together behind his back. She looked at him amusedly and for the first time since she had arrived here, she smiled encouragingly.
"You can relax a little, you know? I won't mind, I promise," she told him.
He hesitantly put his hands onto the railing and looked out at the sea below them. There was a melancholic smile on his lips, and she wondered why. He was at sea, but perhaps it wasn't what he would have liked to do?
"Why such melancholy?" she asked him.
He didn't have time to answer before another voice boomed, "Mr. Moody, Miss."
She turned around and immediately spotted the man standing next to the other officer she had met earlier. The man in question had white hair that she could barely see underneath his cap and a kind look in his eyes, and he seemed rather old. It was something more than his white beard and white hair and wrinkles that made her say that: there was a wisdom shining in his eyes.
She smiled at both men and nodded to who she guessed was the captain. She had to be polite, like her mother had always told her to be. Thinking of her made her heart ache and her eyes water with tears, but she controlled herself. Maybe later, she promised herself. I'll cry and think later. For now, focus.
She turned towards James Moody (just another cruel reminder of those she had left behind - but it wasn't his fault). He was glaring at the other officer as discreetly as he could, and she could see the man had a smirk on his face and was looking at the both of them with raised eyebrows. He didn't say anything though.
The captain looked at her intently before introducing himself, "I'm Edward John Smith, the captain of the Titanic for its maiden voyage."
"Marlene McKinnon," she said with a nod before he could even ask her her name.
"Well, Miss McKinnon, Mr. Lightoller here told me I would like to hear your story."
"There isn't much to tell, really. All I know is that I…" She paused there.
In truth, she didn't really know what had happened to her before the Time Turner. Had she been knocked out by Dolohov? Had she been somehow put to sleep? Had she… No, she couldn't possibly have died, otherwise she wouldn't even be here, talking to these men.
She frowned when she realized they were all staring at her with raised eyebrows. She remembered then that she hadn't even finished her sentence, and she cleared her throat before rectifying, "Actually, I don't know what's happened to me before I woke up on that… first-class deck."
"Were you drunk when you got on the ship, Miss McKinnon?" Mr. Lightoller asked her suspiciously.
"I can never seem to get really drunk. Certainly not to the point of blacking out."
"How do you explain not remembering anything then, Miss McKinnon?" the younger officer asked her, looking perplexed.
She looked at him and finally answered, "I can't explain it, Officer. I just know that there's this headache every time I try to remember something, anything. So I'd rather not, if you'll excuse me."
He reddened and fell silent, not lowering his eyes and holding her fierce gaze.
"Will you need to see a physician then?" the captain asked her, his voice laced with concern.
"I think it will pass after I sleep a little."
They looked dubious, but still, Mr. Smith continued, "I will need to ask you a few questions, Miss. I hope you understand my prying, but I can't just let anyone aboard. Especially since you don't seem to have any tickets."
"Ask away," she sighed deeply.
That certainly wasn't polite, especially considering the captain was nothing but pleasant, but it was all she could muster after her headache had come charging back.
"How old are you?" Mr. Smith asked her.
"Where do you live?"
"I have an ap - a little house in London, but my parents own and live in a mansion in Kent."
"Don't you live with your parents?" James interrupted the questioning then, and he reddened slightly again and apologized profusely, both to her and the captain.
"You don't live with them either… quite obviously," she retorted, raising her eyebrows.
"That is completely different," he instantly defended himself. "I am a man, and I live at sea most of the time. Besides, I visit them as often as possible. You are not married, or engaged… as far as I can see, and therefore, you should be living with your parents."
"Well, you'll find I'm quite the independent woman," she teased with a little smile.
Mr. Lightoller still had his hands linked behind his back and he was still looking straight at her with his piercing blue eyes and his head held high, but she found something there that certainly wasn't before. Amusement. And the slight dimples on his cheeks were most certainly the sign that he was holding back a smile, or even a laugh.
Until the captain cleared his throat, and the three of them turned towards him. There weren't any more traces of amusement on their faces when they saw his glare, which they couldn't determine if it was fake or not.
"I am deeply sorry, sir," James apologized. "That was a highly unprofessional attitude I had there, and I apologize for it."
"Yes, a very unprofessional attitude indeed," she taunted him with a smirk.
They all looked at her and she shook her head.
"Sorry. I was being unprofessional as well, I know," she admitted.
"Well… An independent woman, to be sure," Mr. Smith finally laughed. "I like your spirits, Miss McKinnon, I will have to admit it. But please, in the future, don't use them on my officers."
"I promise, sir… But only if they don't come and find them themselves."
Really, she should learn to control herself and stop with her teasing… but the look on their faces right now was so priceless. She laughed and found herself forgetting all about the fate of the ship and more than half of the people on it, and even about her headache and her way back home… which she still didn't know.
That calmed her down, and she asked the captain, "Any more questions, sir?"
Surprised by her sudden change of attitude, he still nodded. "Why these clothes? They're… clearly a man's clothes. No, actually, it certainly wouldn't even fit a man."
He continued to ramble on about her clothes, and she lowered her eyes. Really, she couldn't find anything wrong about them. Her trousers were black, the white tank top she had put on that morning (perhaps not the best choice of clothes for their mission) certainly contrasted with them, and she was only wearing sneakers, but…
Before she could stop herself, she asked, "What's wrong with my clothes? Don't they fit me?"
She realized how she must have sounded and her eyes widened at such girliness, but before she could take her words back, James declared, avoiding her gaze, "That's exactly the problem, Miss. They are a little too fitting."
"Oh?" she asked incredulously. "Oh… Yes… If you're used to women in corset and such, I think you'll be surprised by me!"
The two officers sniggered, and even the captain laughed heartily at her words.
"Miss McKinnon," Mr. Lightoller started. "I think you'll find that having a clandestine passenger on board, with no recollection of what happened to her to get there at all, is quite surprising by itself. Your strange choice of clothes, I can assure you, is one of the least surprising things about you."
She stared blankly at him and saw that amusement shining in his blue eyes again.
"You will still have to change out of them, Miss," the captain intervened. "Perhaps we can find someone willing to help out with this matter."
"Yeah…" she sighed. "Guess these will make quite the shock out there. But I don't have any luggage with me, and…"
If only she had her wand… Perhaps she could just transfigure something into a suitable dress… But it was no use thinking like this. She didn't have her wand.
"We will find someone, don't you worry, Miss," James tried to comfort her.
She smiled a little, at least until the captain asked his last question, "Mr. Lightoller told me you didn't know where you were when you found him. I just want to be sure you know of the date."
"Of course," she grinned, and tried to think hard about Lily's rambling on the Titanic. When did she leave Queenstown again?
"We're on the 11th of April, 1912," she finally assured, hoping she was right.
"Right," the captain confirmed. "You are not truly lost after all."
It might have meant nothing to others, but those few words warmed her heart and she smiled plainly.
"Mr. Moody," the captain said more authoritatively. "Please, accompany Miss McKinnon to find somewhere to sleep."
He nodded vigorously and answered, "Yes, sir," straightening his back as he did so.
The captain bade her goodbye, Mr. Lightoller as well, they shook her hand, and as soon as that, they were gone. The captain went back to wherever he was before the interruption, and Mr. Lightoller stood tall again next to the railing, looking out at the sea.
She stared at the officer next to her and shook her head amusedly when she saw his extended arm.
"I'm no lady, you know," she told him quite seriously.
"You certainly act like one… most of the time," he answered teasingly.
She laughed a little and lowered her eyes so he couldn't see her tears. She could still remember how, when she was younger, her mother had raised her to be a proper lady, and she still remembered how miserably she had failed in all her lessons. Really, all she wanted to do as a child was climb trees to chase her friends and talk about gossips, not drink tea and permanently stay with her mother. But the latter had understood, one day, that it was no use and that she would never be a proper lady, and she had smiled and almost given up. And surprisingly, the few lessons she had taught her after that still burned brightly in her mind.
"Miss?" she suddenly heard, and she frowned.
She looked up and saw James Moody looking at her with wide eyes, seemingly perturbed by her tears. She wiped them away, took James's extended arm and exclaimed enthusiastically (a little too enthusiastically, and he realized that just as much as she did), "Let's go!"
They had to cross the same hallway she had woken in. She crossed Rose's path again and smiled a little at her, especially when the young girl seemed worried about her eyes, red with unshed tears.
She clearly wanted to stop, but her arm was linked to that of the man she had seen earlier, and she looked at her apologetically before continuing to walk down the hallway.
"You don't look fine, Miss McKinnon," James suddenly uttered.
"Well, not that it is any of your business," she declared icily, "but I was thinking about my mother. She wanted to teach me how to be a 'proper lady' when I was younger, and all this… I have to be so much more… formal than I was before. And it just made me think of her, I guess."
"I'm sorry you had to leave her behind to go to America," James told her honestly. "When I hear you talking, it does seem like you didn't want to leave her behind."
"That's clearly a euphemism," she sighed. "Well, we definitely need to talk about something funnier," she decided then. "Like your lack of professionalism."
"My lack of -" he repeated incredulously. "You were the one who teased me so much!"
"And here you are, taking the bait again," she smirked.
He stayed silent after that, but there was that amused light shining in his brown eyes and she laughed out loud.
His arm tightened around hers protectively as they walked down the hallway and the passengers started to stare at her and her strange clothes and disheveled hair. She didn't notice their looks of disgust though (well, it was more like she didn't pay attention to them - she had learnt not to care what people thought of her a long time ago).
He stopped at a corner and told her, "I feel like you don't belong here."
"Is that -?"
He must have realized what he had just said, because he immediately rectified, "No, I meant here in first class. You mentioned your parents owned a manor. They must be quite rich. Enough to repay a first class ticket to the White Star Line. And yet, I don't think you would belong here." He waved his arm a little to allow her to take it all in.
She looked around her with bright blue eyes, and came to the exact same conclusion as him. The ship was luxurious, she was magnificent even, and the first class area was even more so, but… This wasn't her.
"This isn't me," she agreed. "I already can't stand most of them."
He smiled slightly, and then led her down through the ship. They stayed silent until he told her they'd arrived in the second class area, and indeed, people here seemed much kinder and didn't look at her like she was an outcast.
"Sir!" James suddenly called out to a steward nearby.
The young man turned towards them and frowned almost immediately at her clothes. She sighed and wondered when people would just stop being awed by her.
"Please, sir, do tell," James continued. "Are there any free second class cabins?"
"Yes, there must be. Is it for the miss?" he asked, pointing at her with his chin.
"Yes, it's for me."
The steward hummed and called over a woman in a black dress, "Miss Jessop, please. Could you help the lady find a cabin. She apparently needs one just now. Let's relieve the officer and let him go back to his duties."
James tried to speak up, probably to say that his duty, given by the captain himself, was to see her safely to her cabin, but the kind smile on Miss Jessop's face convinced him that he could let her go safely.
"Good day to you, Miss McKinnon," he smiled and bowed, and she couldn't help but grin at his silliness.
"Relax, remember?" she exclaimed after him.
"I would, but I'm back on duty now," he answered quickly, and just like that he was gone, probably back at the bridge.
"Miss?" the stewardess called her. "Please come with me."
She led her over to a cabinet filled with keys. Some were missing and the others were carefully locked away in the little cabinet. Miss Jessop unlocked the little wood cupboard and took out the key of the stateroom D-41.
"Follow my lead," the woman encouraged her. "I'll get you safely to your room, Miss. Just know that it's a first class stateroom, despite your wishes apparently. You will be able to walk down these corridors and come to the second class area of the deck though, if you really want to."
Marlene nodded briefly. At least she now knew where she was going to spend the next few days, until they… Her mood visibly darkened when she remembered the fate of the ship, and tears welled up in her eyes when she realized her beauty would soon be lying at the bottom of the ocean. But she had always known how to hide her emotions, and the stewardess at her side didn't seem to notice her sadness.
She wondered if she could prevent it though, knowing everything that would happen. She decided against it though. It wasn't her place to change history.
"I will try and find more decent clothes for you. You must be really cold, and really, those are shocking," she continued while pointing to her tank top. "Too fitting, you know?"
"You have no idea how much I know," she sighed.
"Oh, I see people already told you," the stewardess laughed a little.
"Yeah. Officer Moody has, and the people in first class on the other floors were far worse than him in their disapproval."
Miss Jessop just hummed before she turned left into another hallway and she informed her, "I won't speak evil about first class passengers. They might be a little…"
"Pompous? Condescending?" Marlene offered with a smile.
A little laugh escaped Miss Jessop's lips before she continued, "Yes. They might be a little pompous sometimes, but some of them are very kind."
"Yes, I met one lady. I didn't even ask her name, but she was one of the only two people who actually dared speak to me. I felt like a monster back there. And trust me, I'm used to people staring me down, but it was nothing like this."
"I'm sorry, Miss. I truly am."
They finally stopped in front of a door, and Miss Jessop unlocked it before stepping aside. She stepped inside the room and watched as the magnificence of it all submerged her. It certainly was far more luxurious than her apartment in London!
"Are you satisfied, Miss?" the stewardess asked her, and she turned towards the door, nodding enthusiastically. "I'm glad then. I'll be going to fetch you some more appropriate clothes, but I'll be back to give you a little more advice."
"No, really, I'm fine now," she tried to counter her.
"No protests, Miss," the stewardess told her severely, holding up one hand. "It is my job to help the passengers, after all."
"Right," she sighed. "One thing though. I know I'm certainly not the only person you're taking care of, but please, call me Marlene. 'Miss' is far too formal, and I already had to hear the officers say it over and over. It really grew on my nerves, but I really couldn't say it in their faces. Part of their job is being polite to everyone, I guess. Besides, they're men, and here I'm only a woman…"
"Why? Is it so different back where you lived?" Miss Jessop asked her earnestly.
"When," she whispered so quietly that even she couldn't hear herself. "I'm sorry, I'm keeping you from doing your job," she continued, walking up to the door and smiling sweetly at the stewardess.
"Right. I'll be going now," Miss Jessop repeated, and this time, she left without another word.
Before she could even stop herself, Marlene stepped towards the bed, laid down in her clothes, closed her eyes and fell asleep in a second, without even having time to realize how tired she really was.
April 11th, 1912: 22:00 - Aboard the Titanic
When she woke up, what seemed like an eternity later, she realized it hadn't all been a dream. She was still on the Titanic, in the same beautiful first class room… a room she still hadn't paid for. A room she wouldn't be able to pay for on her own.
She jolted up and frowned. She was glad to notice that her headache had indeed disappeared, but there was this worry clawing at her throat. She felt like she couldn't breathe. What had she been thinking yesterday, when she had told everything to the captain and the officers?
They would certainly demand that her ticket should be paid back to the… What was it that James had said yesterday? Oh, yes. The White Star Line would certainly demand to be repaid, and her parents… Well, her parents weren't even born yet! How would they pay anything back?
She laid down again and pressed the heels of her palms on her eyes. She knew if they did enough research, they would indeed reach the McKinnon Manor, which had been in the family for generations, but what would they think when the name Marlene McKinnon appeared?
She sighed deeply. Perhaps she was worrying for nothing, really. Perhaps there would be no inquiry and the captain would just wait until she was capable of repaying her ticket. Perhaps James was wrong and he wouldn't even ask her to repay it, but that was… well, highly improbable.
"Nothing will happen, Marls," she told herself aloud, her voice a little strained.
She finally stood up and then noticed the blue dress lying on the bottom of her bed. She smiled a little. It was lovely. Certainly not what she would have worn if she had a say in it, but lovely all the same.
She slipped in the dress, glad that there wasn't any corset like the one she had seen on Rose and the other woman. She couldn't move freely like she could in her former clothes, for the dress was a little too tight, but it was better now; people wouldn't stare down at her all the time.
She draped a shawl on her shoulders and then brushed her blonde hair as well as she could with her hands.
She stepped towards the door of the stateroom, not forgetting the key that she slipped on her necklace. She locked the door behind her before letting it rest on her chest, shivering at the coldness of the brass against her skin.
The rare passengers she crossed paths with were now looking at her like she was one of them, she noticed, and she grinned back at them happily when they smiled or nodded politely at her. She had no real destination, and thought for a few moments about going back on the first class promenade to see if she could find Rose or the other lady and apologise.
But she probably wouldn't be welcomed there, if anyone recognized her. It wasn't like she actually cared though, so she took a deep breath and retraced the path she had taken earlier that day, turning into corridors and climbing up stairs.
She had never been one with a strong sense of orientation, so she let out a sigh of relief when she saw the first class promenade indicator. She guessed there wasn't just one, but if she had counted right, she was on the right deck.
As soon as she stepped outside, she noticed how dark it was. The sun had already set down, and there wasn't anything except the thin shawl thrown over her shoulders that could protect her from the cold. She shivered as she briskly walked down the promenade, until she crossed paths with the lady who had told her about the bridge. She was walking briskly as well, but she, unlike her, was enveloped in a fur coat.
She smiled brightly at her, and the woman grinned back, obviously pleased to see someone else who wasn't as… pompous as the other ones walking past them.
"Lemme guess," she said jokingly. "You're the girl I met earlier."
"You guessed right. Am I that recognisable?"
"I can't think of anyone else crazy enough to walk around in the clothes you're walking around when it's so cold, Miss," she threw back.
She gasped and feigned being offended by the lady.
"There's no need to call me 'Miss' by the way, madam," she then said. "It's just Marlene. I swear to God, the next person who calls me Miss… I don't rightly know what I'll do to him!"
"Fine, Marlene," the woman answered with a smile. "I'm Margaret Brown. But please, only Margaret."
They stayed silent and walked together until they reached the staircase Marlene had previously climbed up.
"You should probably go inside, Marlene," her companion told her. "I can see you're freezing, my dear."
She spared a glance to the other side of the promenade, where she knew the bridge was, and the older woman saw her gaze. She laughed earnestly and asked her, "What? They actually let you go in there?"
"Well… I don't think I've given them much of a choice."
Margaret Brown stared at her with wide eyes and then let out another barking laugh, which reminded her of her friends back home. Until now, all she had ever heard was quiet laughs or people sniggering, but never a full-on laugh like the one that escaped Mrs. Brown's lips. All she could think of now was Sirius and James, both bursting out laughing after yet another one of their stupid jokes.
"I'm sorry, but I think I already like you, my dear," the older woman finally let out after calming herself. "Forcing the officers to accept you on the bridge, really… Not everyone could say so!"
"It's just that Officer Lightoller thought the captain needed to hear about me," she tried to explain calmly.
"So you've actually spoken to Captain Smith?" the older woman asked her.
"You won't believe me if I told you why."
"Try me, dear," she offered with a defiant smile.
Marlene hesitated. She certainly couldn't tell her the whole truth, but maybe she could try to explain a little bit more of her story. And so she did.
"I've… appeared in the middle of a first class corridor, and I don't really know how I've gotten there on the first place," she started. "People were staring down at me, and I was just searching for someone with some authority, so I ended up on the bridge thanks to you, and once I was there, I was told again that I couldn't be here. But I knew it, I still know it, and I got kind of angry, so he went to search for the captain so he could… hear everything. And I waited there with Officer Moody…"
"Officer Moody?" she interrupted her.
"The Sixth Officer. So I waited with him watching over me and when the captain arrived, I answered all his questions as best I could. When the questioning was over, Officer Moody led me to a stewardess on Mr. Smith's order. And now… I guess I'm just like you. A first class passenger, but I never had any intention of boarding the Titanic, and I don't know how to make it right."
The other woman stayed silent, and she looked at her with a crease between her brows.
"I'm sorry, my dear," she finally spoke up.
"For what? Not believing my story?" Marlene couldn't help but ask bitterly.
"No. Your story sounds so sad, Marlene. Leaving your family behind when you had no intention to do so… But I might be able to help with finding out how you came to be on Titanic, don't you think?"
She thought about it. She couldn't really tell her she already knew, because she had just told her the opposite…
"I have influence, and..." Mrs. Brown continued.
"I have influence too," she intervened. "Don't worry… Margaret. I'll be just fine. But thank you for offering. It means a lot, since you don't know me at all."
This reminder made Mrs. Brown smile, and she said bluntly, "I already said I liked you. You're far different from the other passengers. And I'm not only talking about the way you got here. You're far from being a…"
"A stuck-up arse?" she asked lightly. "No offense to you or another girl I've met, Rose, I believe. It's just that some others really ought to relax a little."
"You know Rose DeWitt-Bukater?" her companion asked her, surprised.
"She's the one who helped me in the first place. She seems like a kind woman, unlike others. And she looks quite like one of my friends from home. Lily, her name was…" She trailed off, and tears welled up in her eyes again.
This time though, they fell down her cheeks. Perhaps it was because she had actually spoken Lily's name aloud, or perhaps it was because she was so… hungry and she hadn't even realized it before. All she knew was that she ended up sobbing and hugging herself as she leaned forward.
Her cries must have been heart-wrenching, because Margaret Brown stood before her, completely at a loss about what to do, but tears shining in her eyes as well.
A few seconds later, she heard hurried footsteps above her sobs, and a masculine voice she now knew mumbling, "If it's another damn first class passengers having another panic attack, I swear I'll…"
The voice trailed off and she looked up, seeing a blurry James Moody through her tears.
"Miss McKinnon!" he exclaimed then, hurriedly stepping closer to her. "Madam," he quickly added when he saw Mrs. Brown standing awkwardly next to her. "What happened to you?"
She tried to stop her cries to answer properly, but she found she couldn't. Instead, the older woman stepped in, "Marlene here has just remembered one of her friends from home, and she seems to think she'll never see her again."
"That's - That's about it," she hiccupped through her tears.
He stood there, watching her intently with his big brown eyes that reminded her of James, and as she started whimpering again, he finally whispered comfortingly, "You're going to dock in New York with the rest of us, Miss McKinnon. And then you'll find your way back to your friends. You will see them again, you know?"
It was a promise that she knew was doomed to be broken, but his words were full of strength and she surprised herself when she repeated his words, "I will see them again."
He nodded encouragingly, and then glanced back at the bridge where he came from.
"You're on duty, lad, aren't you?" Mrs. Brown asked him kindly.
He looked dumbfounded when he heard her call him "lad," but he still nodded hesitantly.
"Yes, madam. Mr. Murdoch has heard Miss McKinnon's cries though, and he asked me to go and check on whoever it was who was weeping so… heart-wrenchingly, as he couldn't leave his watch himself."
When he explained himself, he was only looking at her, and she half-smiled. "I wasn't aware I was this loud. Please, do tell to Mr. Murdoch I'm sorry."
"I will, Miss McKinnon," he assured her.
She remembered her promise then and wiped her tears away. And then she asked him quite seriously, "Tell me, Officer, do you wish to be thrown overboard?"
Mrs. Brown immediately started sniggering as his eyes widened, passing from one woman to another.
"No," he answered suspiciously. "But I don't rightly know why I would be."
"Then call me Marlene," she offered. "I promised Margaret here that I would… well, I didn't tell her what I would do, I just made up my mind on that. But I said that the next person to call me "Miss" would be badly injured."
He stared at her for a few more seconds before a grin passed quickly upon his lips. She couldn't help but notice how his hazel eyes shone as he smiled, and she wondered if she actually prefered those honest eyes to Sirius's mysterious, grey ones. She shook her head though, banishing these thoughts from her mind as soon as they appeared. She couldn't just… move on from the man she cared about so much so quickly!
"Will you wait here, Miss - Marlene?" he rectified when he saw her glare. "It is not that I think you wouldn't be able to get her safely to her room, madam," he added, turning to her companion, "but I feel obliged to Marlene. If Mr. Murdoch agrees, I will walk her to her cabin."
"I'll watch over her, lad, don't you worry," she acquiesced immediately.
He bowed before Mrs. Brown, glanced once again towards Marlene, and walked off swiftly back to the bridge.
There were a few moments of silence before Marlene mustered up the strength she needed to apologize, "I'm sorry, Margaret. I shouldn't have broken down in front of you like this."
"Oh, don't you worry, dear. It is perfectly understandable. I think it's a chance no one else was around though."
"Right," she said, letting out a breathy laugh.
They fell silent once again, until Mrs. Brown finally chose to lend her her fur coat. She tried to refuse, of course, but she declared seriously, "You need it more than I do. I'll take it back when the officer comes back. But I won't stand looking at you shivering like this for one more second!"
The older woman enveloped her companion in her fur coat, and she smiled kindly at her. Marlene couldn't help but grin back and wonder if this woman had any children. If she had, they were lucky to have her as their mother, Marlene decided. She hadn't known her for a few hours and she already acted as though she was a long-time friend… or almost like she was her mother.
She heard footsteps behind her and saw the sixth officer appear once again. He had a honest smile on his lips as he bowed once again in front of Mrs. Brown, who shook her head and told him to drop his manners. Marlene couldn't help but laugh at his bewildered expression, and when he looked at her, there was something like pride shining in his eyes.
He offered her his arm, and she took it without a second thought. She bade goodbye to Mrs. Brown, who grinned at her and told her that she couldn't wait to see her at breakfast tomorrow, and that whenever she needed help, she could come to her.
"I'm in cabin D-41," she indicated once the older woman had left.
He considered her with a frown, and she told him, "I know it's first class, but it's the one Miss Jessop has offered me, so I took it." Though I probably won't even be able to pay it back on my own… and it won't matter that my parents are rich and live in a manor and could pay for it, because they're not here, she thought darkly.
They retraced the steps they had taken together not so long ago, except now, there was something far more relaxed about him.
"So… how did you get this Mr. Murdoch to let you walk me to my room?" she finally asked when she couldn't take the silence anymore.
"I simply told him the truth. That I already knew the lady who was crying, and that I felt it would be rather awkward for her if she was accompanied by someone else. He's a good man, and understanding at that, so he let me go under the condition that I had to be back before a half an hour."
"What time is it, anyway?"
"Almost eleven in the evening, Miss - sorry, Marlene," he answered immediately.
"That's probably why I'm so hungry," she sighed.
"Haven't you eaten anything at dinner?" he asked her, surprised.
"I don't think I was awake," she retorted dryly. "Must have missed it."
He looked a little guilty, and she sighed. "Don't worry, I'll eat tomorrow at breakfast," she told him reassuringly. "I can stand a few more hours without eating, and I'll be with Mrs. Brown tomorrow, so everything should be quite fine."
He simply nodded, and after a quite long silence, he asked her an impromptu question. "Do you want to talk about your friends, Marlene?"
She thought about it for a few seconds, and then accepted. She found herself telling him as much as she could think of about them.
"First, there's Lily and Dorcas. They're my best friends, really. Lils has hair like fire, Dorie hair like the sun, and they've always been everything to me, ever since the beginning of my school years. Then there's Sirius and James and Remus and Peter. The pranksters who can always lighten me up. Then there's Moody…" She saw his eyes turning to her abruptly, and she laughed a little. "Yes, Moody just like you. He's gruff all the time, so I guess he deserves his name… but he's always fighting for a good cause, and he has never let us, the young ones, down before, so… I guess I would trust him with my life. Then there's Emmeline, Gideon and Fabian. They're always together, probably because Emmeline and Gideon are engaged and Fabian won't do anything without his brothers. But when it's not Sirius and the others making up jokes, you have to be careful around those three. Their pranks are almost as good as theirs! There's also Benjy and Edgar, but they're more like acquaintances I have no problem trusting with a lot of things. There are others, of course, but…"
She stopped when she saw him smirk.
"You seem like you have a lot of friends, Marlene," he finally told her, a smile playing at the corners of his lips. "I'm sure you'll find them again, you know. No matter what it takes."
"And how can you be so sure?"
"You are just… so passionate when you're talking about them! I can't imagine anyone or anything coming between you and your reunion with your friends."
She smiled up at him, and she didn't stop smiling, even when she felt his arm tighten around hers briefly, tugging her just a little closer to him.
He suddenly stopped at her side, and she wondered why, until she studied the door behind her and saw the number… D-41. She was already back to her stateroom.
She didn't rightly know what went through her mind at that moment (what was she thinking, what about Sirius waiting for her back home?), but she turned around and held up her hair with one hand, asking him kindly if he could unclasp her necklace… when really, she could have done it herself.
"Marlene?" he asked her, and he sounded a little out-of-breath.
She looked at him above one shoulder, smirking a little. "It's not like I'm inviting you in my room or anything," she teased him a little.
He blushed deeply and looked around the corridor. Thankfully, there wasn't anyone around them, so he finally decided to reach up and unlock the necklace, his fingers barely touching her skin.
She let her hair down and took the chains from him, holding the necklace up until the key shone before his eyes, in the dim light of the lamps.
She noticed then that his gaze had lingered for just one brief second on her cleavage, and she teased him a little, "What, Officer? I don't think this is the first cleavage you've ever seen, or is it?"
He blushed, but didn't spare one second glance at the corridor before he muttered quickly, "Not one like yours."
Her smile vanished as soon as it had appeared, and she stared at him. He was being honest, she could see that in his gaze, but that scared her, because she had had thoughts about him and his beautiful eyes too, just a few minutes earlier.
She whirled around and unlocked her door, quickly stepping inside her stateroom. She turned once more towards him once she was safely inside her room, and the smile she gave him felt a little forced.
"Thank you for listening to me rant about my friends, Officer," she told him honestly. "And for helping me."
He nodded shortly and turned on his heel, before stopping in his tracks and asking her, without looking at her once, "Please, don't do that again, Marlene."
As soon as he had uttered those words out, he left her there, her door hanging open.
She sighed and closed her door, leaning heavily against it. What had gone through her head, really? Flirting with him when less than a day ago, the only man she could think about, and the one she could never have, was Sirius? Flirting with an officer of the Titanic, one of the grandest ships in the world? Flirting with someone she knew she would have to leave someday?
She shook her head and decided not to weigh herself down with that question. She just slipped into the nightclothes that were also lying on the bottom of her bed, and when she laid down herself, she immediately fell asleep.
Except her dreams, for once, weren't filled with grey eyes, but with a mix of hazel and grey irises.
April 12th, 1912: 08:00 - Aboard the Titanic
She woke up when she heard someone gently knocking on her door the next morning.
"Marlene?" a voice called out to her.
She sat straight on her bed and answered, her voice still sleepy, "I'm coming, I'm coming." She stood up slowly and yawned, before walking to the door, unlocking it and yanking it open, perhaps a little too brusquely.
Miss Jessop, who was standing behind it, took a step back when she saw her eyes lidded with sleep and the violence with which she had opened the door.
"Mrs. Brown is asking for you, Marlene," she told her with a little smile. "It's time for breakfast. And I also wanted to lend you another of my dresses. If I understood well, you don't have any."
"No, keep your dress, I'll just…"
"Take it, Marlene, please. You'll eat in the first class dining room today, and tomorrow as well, and trust me, as much as I don't want to speak evil about first class passengers… You won't even be able to take a single step inside the dining room in the clothes you were in when you arrived on the ship!"
She couldn't help but agree, and took the dress from Miss Jessop's hands. She smiled once again to thank her, and the light in her eyes almost chased out the weightiness of sleep.
When she closed the door and took a good look at the dress, she held her breath. If Sirius (or Officer Moody, she was sure) had seen her wearing this… She slipped it on, and admired herself in the mirror next to her bed. The dress was white and brought out the tan of her skin and the blue of her eyes, and her waist was encircled by a thin yellow belt, probably the only thing of colour she was wearing right now. It flowed gracefully around her feet and she whirled around briefly.
Satisfied, she brushed her hair with her hands once again, and she smiled victoriously when she saw herself in the mirror. The only time she remembered being more beautiful than this was at Lily's wedding, and since she was on the Titanic, she couldn't help but wonder if she could have had her place on the Ship of Dreams… If only she had been born a little earlier. But right now, these clothes weren't hers, and she still had to walk around in her own shoes, which created a sharp contrast with the beauty of the dress.
She tried not to think of it though when she walked out of her stateroom and locked the door behind her.
Miss Jessop, who was still waiting for her, smiled brightly when she saw her. "I can't say it fits me better than it does you, Marlene," she said, laughing a little. "I'll just lead you to Mrs. Brown, and then I'll go on and do my job. You have to know she will be accompanied though."
"Accompanied?" she asked, frowning. "Why?"
"Well, she's a first class lady who is on her own on Titanic, and it is the duty of the single gentlemen to lend their arm to the single women… Just in case something should happen. It is just a precaution, but I'm worried you will have to obey to that one, Marlene."
A scowl painted itself on her lips. She certainly didn't need any gentleman to protect her, especially since they probably wouldn't be able to protect themselves that fateful night, but if it was the rule… Miss Jessop was right, she would have to follow it, and it didn't really matter if she cherished her independence.
"Right," she mumbled, and everyone who would have seen her now would have seen her mood darken visibly.
When they arrived at the hall on D deck, she stopped a few seconds to admire everything. She had never actually stopped there, either passing hurriedly this way or not passing here at all. But now that she saw the magnificence of it all, she decided that she would certainly go through here as often as she could.
The piano in the corner of the room looked completely untouched, and she strode, very unladylike, towards it. Her fingers brushed the keys and, marvelled at the sensation, she sat down and started playing a beautiful melody. The first one she had ever learnt, the one she would probably never forget.
"A true angel," someone said from behind her, and she whirled around, her fingers slamming on the keys very ungracefully.
"I'm sorry," she apologized quickly when most of the passengers turned towards her and the noise she had just made. "It's just… Sir, do you really want me to have a stroke?" she asked, glaring at the gentleman now standing in front of her.
"I apologize, dear madam," he started. "But I was only telling the truth."
"Oh, the gentleman's completely right, Miss McKinnon!" another enthusiastic voice joined in. "You do look like an angel."
She turned towards Mrs. Brown, who was standing near another man. Coming from her, the words weren't so badly taken, and she grinned, before taking the first man's arm and letting him lead her to dinner. He tried to maintain a pleasant conversation all the way up to the dining room, but he failed miserably, as she just nodded politely when it was expected of her and didn't utter a word.
It wasn't really the man's fault she was angry, she realized, but she really couldn't help it, and at least she didn't snap at him like she wanted to. She was relieved, however, when they entered the sumptuous dining room, entirely set for breakfast.
The first person she actually saw that she was really interested in in the dining saloon was Rose. She looked pale, almost deathly pale, and was staring down at her plate.
"Thank you," she whispered to the man who had accompanied her, before walking away from him and towards the young woman.
"Miss?" she called out when she was close enough to be heard.
Rose apparently knew it was she who had been talked to, and she finally raised her head, looking at her with big blue eyes full of mystery.
She studied her for a few moments, her relaxed posture and her let-down hair, and the shadow of a smile crossed her lips then.
"You are the girl we met yesterday in the corridor, are you not?" she asked her politely.
Marlene nodded immediately, even though she couldn't really miss the sneer on the man holding Rose's limp hand.
"You certainly know how to appear in society, dear," he said, but his voice was more like a snarl.
"Cal," Rose sighed, and he seemed to calm down instantly.
"Yes, sweet pea. You're right, I definitely should apologize. Miss," he said, turning towards her, "I am profoundly sorry for my unpleasant attitude of yesterday and this morning."
"No worries," she answered immediately, even if that was all she felt looking in his cold eyes.
She focused on Rose and her blue irises again, full of something akin to fear and sorrow. She sat down in the empty seat next to her and asked her delicately, "Miss? What happened to you since yesterday?"
"A tragic accident really," the man named Cal answered for her, and Marlene was sure she saw a flicker of hatred in her eyes as he spoke up instead of her. "Rose here leaned over the railing to see the propellers. Of course there was a risk she would fall overboard, and she almost did. Were it not for a kind officer and a…"
"You have the right to say it, Cal," Rose intervened. She turned towards Marlene before continuing, "A third class passenger saved me. The Sixth Officer helped pull me back on board. That's what happened."
She might have believed it, really, if she hadn't said the last sentence in an overly convincing tone. Instead, she looked right in her eyes and saw the grim look on her beautiful face, and she put a hand over hers on the table and uttered, "I am terribly sorry for what happened to you… Rose. I do have the right to call you Rose, don't I?"
A little smile crossed Rose's lips once again, and she accepted in an instant. But before she could say anything more, Mrs. Brown arrived at their table and sat down on her other side.
"I don't believe you have met Mr. Andrews and Mr. Ismay, my dear," she introduced her to two men who were standing beside her. "Please, do have a seat, gentlemen," she invited them, gesturing towards the free seats at their table.
She did remember Mr. Andrews's name from Lily's rambling about the Titanic, and she indeed learnt that he was the master shipbuilder of the ship. He didn't take any pride in it, though, and her respect for him only grew.
"I have to congratulate you, Mr. Andrews," she said, even if she guessed how he must have hated all these pair of eyes set on him. "She is truly magnificent."
He only nodded graciously, the kind light in his eyes never disappearing.
The other man though… It wasn't that she despised him, because he hadn't done anything wrong (he had even tried to give credit to Mr. Andrews), but there was something strange about him.
After the proper introductions were finally over, some more easily done than others, the waiters arrived at their table, and after a long hesitance, she simply chose a fruit salad. Her mother had always told her not to eat too much, and she felt like there wasn't a better moment to test herself on how well she actually remembered her lessons.
Rose was staring quietly at her plate, eating slowly, and it began to worry Marlene. She was nothing like the girl she had met yesterday, and apparently, Mrs. Brown saw it too.
"Excuse me, mother, Cal," she suddenly said, standing up and walking out of the dining saloon.
They all stared after her, until Marlene suddenly decided it was time for her to take matters into her own hands and she stood up as well, not bothering excusing herself.
"Rose," she called out once she was out of the dining room.
She thought she saw the glimpse the trailing of a red dress disappearing around a corner, and she followed it as quick as she could without raising suspicions.
She soon found herself on the promenade, and Rose was there, leaning heavily onto the railing.
"Rose?" she asked again.
"I'm fine, Miss. You can go back inside and keep eating."
"I don't believe you're fine. Certainly not after what has happened yesterday," she retorted immediately, coming closer to her.
"I fell while looking at the propellers. It was stupid on my part, and I admit it. But it was nothing more than that. An accident. Besides, Jack and the officer saved me. I suppose I was… lucky they were here."
She supposed Jack was the third class passenger Rose had talked about earlier. And the officer… She couldn't help but smile when she thought about what he had done.
"What is so funny about this? My stupidity?" the red-haired woman asked bitterly, interrupting her thoughts.
"I get that you just wanted it all to end…" Marlene sighed. "But don't you think there are other ways, better ways, to deal with this?"
She saw Rose's hesitance and continued, "Now please, come inside, Rose. I still have my fruit salad to finish, and you your own breakfast." She considered her with wide eyes, and she realized the selfishness of what she had just said. "I'm sorry, but I haven't eaten in a day now and… I'm hungry!"
Rose couldn't help the smile on her lips, but she gestured for her to go inside.
"You should go, Miss McKinnon. Go and… eat your fruit salad! I have a visit to make before I come back. Could you…?"
"Yup," she said before she could control herself, and then rectified, "Yes, I'll cover for you, don't you worry."
"Thank you," she smiled, stepping away from the railing. She smoothed her red dress with the back of her hand and walked away with dignity.
For a few seconds, Marlene's gaze trailed after her as she made her way down the promenade, but then she turned around. She wouldn't try it again, she was sure of it.
April 12th, 1912: 19:00 - Aboard the Titanic
The rest of her day had been extremely uneventful. She had been accompanied by the colonel Gracie all day, who was travelling alone on the Ship of Dreams, and even if she had to say his life wasn't the most boring she had heard about and she actually answered his few questions this time, she hated it all. Really, being a lady was… everything she didn't want to be!
She had asked for Rose at the luncheon, and Mrs. Brown had answered with a discreet smile while Cal had said that he hadn't seen her. He had looked worried, but only about his reputation, not about her safety, and she now understood very well what irked her about him.
If she tried to guess, she would say that she was with this… Jack, but perhaps she was wrong and Rose was actually frozen in the ocean. A fate that awaited more than half of the people in this room or on the ship. She tried not to think about it, of course, because really, there wasn't much she could do about it; she didn't have the right to change history.
When the time for dinner came, she sighed at the idea that she would have to spend one more meal in the company of these people. Some of them were actually nice; Mrs. Brown and Mr. Andrews were certainly among them. But the rest of them… It had been one day, one day, and she was already tired of them.
She walked down the stairs of the Grand Staircase at the arm of the colonel, smiling a little too forcedly, but she froze when she saw who were waiting at the bottom of the stairs. There stood Officer Moody, with a first class passenger she didn't know about yet. Beside them, the captain was talking in hushed tones, and the officer in uniform was listening to him intently. She wondered why he was here. From what she had understood, he was supposed to be on duty, and yet here he stood, smiling slightly at something his captain had just said.
"Officer, Captain," she nodded while passing them.
"Oh, Miss McKinnon," the captain greeted her in return with a smile. "I see you have found your place here."
"Yes, sir," she agreed.
The colonel let go of her arm gracefully and he started towards the dining room, leaving her alone with the three gentlemen.
"Miss McKinnon…" the third man she didn't know started. "Are you the one Miss DeWitt-Bukater always talked about?"
"Yes. And you must be Jack Dawson then."
He stared at her for a few seconds before he flashed her a blinding smile. Really, he looked dazed that Rose had even talked to her about him, and it pleased her. This man right there, this man actually cared about Rose, and not her family or a ridiculous alliance. It was the only thing Cal was thinking about; for him, she was only another way to make his name famous, and she despised him for it. She couldn't even understand how Rose could have accepted the engagement that made her the man's… the man's property, when she could have had any other kind man like Mr. Dawson!
She watched him look up the stairs and she saw his eyes widen, so she turned around and looked at Rose, who was walking down the steps in her splendid red dress. Pearls seemed to cover every inch of her dress, and she was… She was shining, there was no other word fo it, and she really outshined her mother and Cal, who were walking beside her arm-in-arm.
"Miss DeWitt-Bukater," the captain greeted with a smile again. "I am very pleased to see that you are safe now."
"Only thanks to Mr. Dawson and Mr. Moody, sir. If they hadn't been here…" She trailed off and a mask of regret fell upon her face. "I was only being stupid, sir, and I certainly won't be again."
"You weren't being stupid, Rose," she whispered quietly, but James heard her even if Rose didn't, and he quirked an eyebrow.
He offered her his arm anyway, glancing at the captain to make sure of his approval, and he gestured for them to step into the dining room. And as she sat down beside him, all she could think about was how he had gotten this invitation to a formal dinner.
"I invited Mr. Moody to thank him for his assistance," Rose whispered in her ear, too low for anyone but her to hear. "And I was right ot do so, apparently."
"What?" she exclaimed quietly (not quietly enough though, because her half of the table looked at her with wary eyes). "I don't know what you mean by that, I -"
"Only someone blind would miss how he looks at you, and how you look back at him, Miss McKinnon," Rose explained, a sly smile on her lips. "I even think the captain has caught up about the both of you."
"We're not… You're wrong, Rose. We're not looking at each other or anything of the sort."
"What is he doing now, then?" she asked her with a smirk.
Marlene turned towards the officer and saw him glancing at her discreetly. He caught her looking at him though, and he quirked an eyebrow again (and this innocent expression of his… how she liked it! Perhaps a little too much, even.).
"He's just -" she tried to convince Rose, but she shook her head, smiling at her.
"It's good to have something like this, Miss McKinnon. I dream of it every night, trust me."
"There really is nothing between us," she argued. "And there never will be, because it's forbidden."
"It's forbidden for a third class passenger to dine here as well… And yet look. Jack is here."
"You are trying to convince me to do something stupid," she sighed, leaning back into her chair in a very unladylike manner.
"You only have one life, Miss. Best not to waste it."
She remained silent after that, but she perfectly saw the looks Jack exchanged with Rose… and now she was aware of the glances James spared her from time to time. She couldn't wait for the waiters to arrive, she realized after she was forced to listen to the same plain and dull conversations for half an hour.
She was doing her best, really, and apparently so were Jack, Rose and James, who was looking around rather than at the others seated at the table. She had to admit that the dining room was luxurious. One of the most luxurious parts of the ship, really. You could see the Grand Staircase, with its railing made of wrought iron and its stairs cut in oak. It probably wasn't the first time he had seen it though, so she took it as a sign of his boredom.
"You should be more discreet," she finally told him quietly. "People will start to think they tire you."
He smiled a little and whispered back, "Well, they wouldn't be wrong… Marlene."
She was pleased to hear her name on his lips once again. She knew he had to pretend not knowing her that much, and she knew she shouldn't be offended by so much formality on his part (it should be this way, after all), but the truth was… She wanted him to say her name, and not treat her like a lady he had to protect.
"Keep pretending," she advised him, a smile plastered on her lips. "Do as I do."
She raised her chin and delicately folded her napkin in her lap, and he couldn't help but laugh quietly. People heard him though, because they all turned towards them and he blushed deeply.
She, on the other hand, put on an angelic mask, and it must have worked because one by one, they returned to the conversation at hand… which was the questioning of Jack about his third class life, she realized. She tensed and glanced at Rose, who was looking uneasily at her mother.
The questions she asked Jack… They wouldn't even have passed through her mind if she had tried to find embarrassing questions to ask!
"And you find that sort of rootless existence appealing, do you?" Rose's mother asked after he told her that he never lived too long in one same place.
"Well… It's a big world, and I want to see it all before I go. My father was always talking about going to see the ocean. He died in the town he was born in, and never did see it." Rose's eyes welled up in tears at that moment of his story, and she almost looked as if she wanted to apologize, but Jack continued before she could. "You can't wait around, because you never know what hand you're going to get dealt next. See, my folks died in a fire when I was fifteen, and I've been on the road since. Something like that teaches you to take life as it comes at you. To make each day count."
He stopped there, looking stiffly around, until Marlene decided to break the tension and she raised her glass of champagne. "To make each day count," she repeated, and everyone agreed that that was certainly well said. Everyone except Rose's mother and Cal, but it wasn't as if they would agree with such an unpredictable lifestyle.
Ruth DeWitt-Bukater stopped questioning Jack shortly after the toast they had honoured Jack with, but when she turned to James instead, Marlene scowled internally.
"I hear you have helped save my daughter, Officer…"
"Moody," he replied with a tense smile. "Sixth Officer of the Titanic. I am sure Jack would have been able to rescue Miss Rose on his own, but I am glad I made it on time."
"And why were you near the place of the incident… if you don't mind me asking, sir?" Cal cut in.
"I required assistance as well," Marlene indicated. "He decided to respect that law of the 'no lady alone on the ship', and walked me back to my room. The rest of the story, I think you already know it… sir."
Mrs. Brown burst out laughing at her insolence, and she put a hand on her shoulder.
"You have no idea how much I like you, Miss," she hiccupped through her laughter in a very unladylike manner.
"I think I do," she replied with an honest smile.
She then realized everyone (except the captain, James, Mrs. Brown, Rose, Jack and Mr. Andrews, who already knew of her… spirits) was staring at her warily, and she put her angelic mask back on. Except this time, no one actually bought it, and they deliberately excluded her from all conversations until the end of the meal… which wasn't that bad, really. She focused on James instead, who was now looking at her with a mix of indignation and admiration in his intense gaze.
"You do know you look kind of scary right now, right, Officer?" she asked him teasingly when he didn't focus on anything but her for a few minutes.
He shook his head and looked down at his plate.
When the meal was finally over and all the men stood up, she couldn't help but be disappointed when she saw the officer standing up alongside them. Except she certainly hadn't anticipated the fact that he would offer her his arm once again.
She stood up and took it with a bright smile, while James apologized for not going to the Smoking Room and drink brandy with them.
"I am deeply sorry, gentlemen, but I must really get back to my duties. I will walk Miss McKinnon back to her room safely, Captain," he indicated, turning to his superior, who inclined his head for a response.
"It was a pleasure to dine with you today," the captain smiled at the women still seated at the table. "I must retreat as well now."
And he was gone a few minutes later, after having exchanged polite salutes with the other men. Marlene really thought the captain was a kind man, but he didn't seem worried about James missing on his duties for the third time now, and that… That worried her deeply.
As they walked down the Grand Staircase, she shared her doubts with the officer, and he smiled warmly.
"The captain wouldn't have accepted me going to this dinner if my watch hadn't been taken on by Mr. Lowe. You guessed right, there has to be two junior officers at all times on the bridge, just so that we can help with navigatory issues. But Mr. Lowe offered to take on my watch when he learned that the woman I had saved had made an offer for me to dine in first class. Harry's a fine man, really."
"And I guess you'll have to take on one of his watches too in return, right?" she teased him.
"Of course. Just an exchange of favours, you see. We try to do that as rarely as possible, but…"
"Why did you come?" she cut him off.
"Miss DeWitt-Bukater asked me to."
"Is that the only reason?" she tried again.
She really wanted to know that, if she were to have a serious ground for following Rose's advice.
He looked at her, mildly surprised, and she shrugged. He didn't seem that interested in her at all, she could realize that now. And she shouldn't be interested in him either, because there was Sirius waiting for her and the ship was going to sink and…
"Marlene," he said quietly, interrupting her rambling thoughts. "You cannot think like that. I heard you and Miss DeWitt-Bukater at the beginning of the dinner, and you can't really think about starting something like that with me, of all people."
"Why not? Jack and Rose did."
"She invited him to thank him, nothing more, Marlene."
"You must really be blind then," she retorted. "Look, I've seen all the stolen glances you've had for me at dinner…"
"And I shouldn't have had those, Marlene, especially after yesterday."
"But you had them, and I saw them. And Jack and Rose exchanged the exact same ones, and they can find a way to be together, I'm sure of it. And that means…"
His voice was dry this time, and he tightened his grip on her arm, not enough to hurt her, but enough to make her stop talking.
"We can't. Please, don't even try to do something irrational like last night, and let it be. I'm an officer, and I could lose my job if I was seen…"
"I'm not going to do anything, Officer, you can relax now," she said flatly.
He led her in silence through the hallways after that, and she had enough time to look back on everything she had said while on that damn staircase. It was inappropriate of her, and for more reasons than he knew of, and she regretted it.
He stopped in front of her door, bowed before her and turned around without a single goodbye. And she didn't know why, but she called him back, her voice low, "James."
When he heard his name, he froze and half-turned towards her. And she apologized profusely for her stupid attitude. Less than two days and she was already trying to seduce an officer...
"You don't have to be sorry," he answered honestly. "The problem is that -"
"I should never have those damn thoughts about you, is that right?" she asked bitterly.
"No. The problem is that I have the same about you, and we cannot act on it. Do you hear me, Marlene? We cannot act on it."
She stared at him, mouth slightly agape. Had he really just said that in the space of two days, he had thought about ruining his career too? She took a deep breath and looked at him straight in the eyes.
"I understand why we cannot," she finally agreed. "But that doesn't mean I won't do it anyway. I have always been bold, you know? That's why I was..." She stopped talking just in time. It had been the closest she had been to ever say something about her house, and it scared her because obviously, they couldn't know. She had no powers without her wand anyway, she was just like them now… So she couldn't just go ahead and ruin what little trust laid between them by telling him something she should keep a secret.
She came back to her senses and realized he was staring at her, obviously waiting for her to do something. And so she walked up to him, checked the corridor for wandering people once, twice, and three times. And then, when she was sure no one was around, she stood on her tiptoes and placed a kiss on his lips, as light as a feather.
She broke apart almost immediately, and she smiled brightly up at him.
"If no one sees us, no one can tell us what to do, or not to do," she told him brightly, before going back to the door of her stateroom and unlocking it quickly.
She waved him goodbye and closed the door behind her, and she leaned against it, a dreamy smile on her face. This… This was far more than what she ever had with Sirius, she decided. This was honest and sweet, rather than burning passion, and she loved it.
April 14th, 1912: 23:00 - Aboard the Titanic
These past two days had been the happiest of her life, she decided. Of course, they didn't see each other much. He still had his duties on the bridge for four hours straight most of the time, and between them… Well, he needed to sleep, and she needed that too.
But they had had a few stolen kisses, and they were the best that she had ever had with anyone. It hadn't been much, and really, they had had to be careful, but he had almost, almost succeeded in taking her mind off of the fate of the ship. He had almost made her believe that everything would be fine, that they would find a way to be together and a way for her to be back with her friends, all at the same time.
But it had all been a lie. She realized that now, as she paced along the first class promenade on A deck, enveloped in the fur coat Mrs. Brown had once again lent her. It was cold, terribly cold, and she knew what would happen. She just didn't know how to stop it, if she still had time… or if she should even try to make everything right. Playing with Time Travel always had consequences, and she knew it.
She started to panic and on a whim, she started for the Boat Deck and the bridge. She should tell them to slow everything down, to save them all. But she stopped before she could.
She just sat on a deck chair, waiting for the shudder she knew would shake the ship when she would it the iceberg. This fucking iceberg… If only she had her wand with her, she would know what to do with it. But she didn't, and so she waited there, her eyes wide with emotion.
She knew the rare passengers still roaming the promenade would take her for a frenzied person, but she had no control over herself. She couldn't stop her shaking hands from trembling, and she couldn't stop her widening eyes.
She didn't know how much time she waited, and she didn't even hear anything before the collision, but suddenly, there was a shudder beneath her and the guilt flooded her, just as the icy waters began to flood the ship.
She stayed where she was, until a steward told her to go up on the Boat Deck, and she obeyed. She saw the officers working on the lifeboats, and when someone invited her to step forward, she suddenly shook her head, finding her strength again. James… She had to find him before everything was over.
And she did, but when he saw her, his eyes widened and he begged her to climb in the lifeboat he was loading. She shook her head and argued, "I knew this would happen, and I didn't do anything to stop it. So I'll stay here by your side, and I'll help as many people as I can. But I won't go in a lifeboat, James."
He didn't have time to stare at her before another officer ordered him to continue loading the lifeboat, but she knew he wanted to. So she creeped closer to him and started helping the women and children into the boat.
"I had a dream, James. I knew this would happen, and I didn't do anything to stop it."
She had hoped saying it again would somehow make it all better, but it didn't. The guilt was still there, overcoming her, and even as she helped as many people as she could into the lifeboats, she started crying. It was cold, so cold that she almost felt her tears freeze on her cheeks.
She hadn't realized it would be like this. She hadn't realized what panic could make desperate people do, but she watched as scared passengers pushed their way up towards the stern. All she knew was that she found herself separated from James, pushed away from him by angry and scared passengers, and she couldn't find him… She couldn't find him!
She hadn't even realized the water had creeped closer to her until it leapt her feet, and she decided against her will to follow the passengers towards the stern of the ship. It would be all over soon, and she knew it. The bridge wasn't even visible anymore, and the officers who hadn't left the ship yet were desperately working on the collapsible lifeboats. And then she saw him, a penknife in his hand, cutting the falls at another officer's orders, and she went back to him.
People were running past her or literally running into her, but she didn't care. She had to be with him again, before it was all over. Because she remembered now. He was going to die.
The cold water leapt hungrily around her feet as she found herself near the last collapsible. He was still there, trying to cut the falls and fighting against the current of the water that flooded the deck, and when he saw her, his eyes widened.
"I had to be there," she sobbed when she finally found herself next to him. "I had to, I had to…"
He didn't stop his work and didn't even seem to acknowledge her words. The water, the cold, cold water was now at her hips, and she could feel her blood turning into ice under the pressure of a thousand little knives. And when she heard a groan emanating from what seemed to be the whole structure of the ship, she turned around and saw the wave just before it crashed around them. And she knew it now… It was the end.
April 15th, 1912: 2:40 - In the icy waters of the North Atlantic Ocean
"James?" she whispered, not finding the strength to say it louder.
His eyelids barely fluttered as his head rested on the deckchair next to her.
"Please... stay awake, James," she begged him.
She shook his hand weakly and tried to tell him of his terrible, terrible foolishness to stay with her while he could have at least tried to swim away to somewhere safer (because he had found her among all the other desperate people, so how could he not find something to hold on to?), but her voice didn't come out stronger than a whisper.
"Remember," she suddenly heard him whisper in her ear. "Sacrificing myself… for someone… I love… There's no better end."
She tried to find enough strength in her to answer, but her voice didn't make it out of her throat. Too much cold. There was too much cold, and she found herself wondering how he could have survived this long in the icy water. She was on the deck chair and only her feet were touched by the water now, but she was still cold, so cold.
She turned her head towards him and saw his eyes closed. When she realized he wasn't breathing anymore, she shook his hand in foolish hope, and everything in her screamed, I want him back! I want another chance at making this right!
And just as the cold claimed her too, she thought she saw him, standing next to her in an empty doorway of the beautiful ship and smiling up at her. And she held onto that image, because really… If she was to die too, was there a more beautiful way to go? If she had to choose between seeing him, perfectly alive, and seeing him dead, a reminder of his useless sacrifice, since she was going to die too, she knew it now… Her choice was definitely made. And so she closed her eyes and focused on the beauty she could still see, printed on her eyelids.