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Love of My Life
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10th November, 1889 — 12 Grimmauld Place
@Ursula Black

Elladora awoke with a start.

Rapidly pulling the chilled air of her bedroom into her lungs she tried to calm her breathing. When was the last time she’d had a nightmare? It felt like such a childish thing to have, and Elladora’s didn’t recall being plagued by them as a child – but then one frequently did forget their dreams after they awoke and she had certainly never been coddled after such an event so perhaps she simply didn’t remember? Either way she wasn’t prepared for quite how rapidly her heart was beating, how clammy her skin felt or the deep fissure of panic that was spreading through her.

She would not get back to sleep unless she checked.

Before she could second guess herself Elladora slid from bed, hissing as her feet hit the cold floor but persisting nonetheless. She had to check on Ursula, had to know she was alright because her stupid brain had convinced her equally ludicrous body that Ursula was not alright and she knew she wouldn’t be able to rest until she reassured herself. The fact that she also, quite suddenly, needed to know that Ursula was fine and breathing soundly was not lost on her but in the time it took her to cross the hallway to Ursula’s room she had convinced herself she was acting purely out of common sense. What kind of sister-in-law would she be if she didn’t check that Ursula and the baby were perfectly fine when she had reason to believe they weren’t?

She didn’t knock. Instead she crept across Ursula’s bedroom floor like a spectre, inching closer until she could sit on the side of Ursula’s bed and lean in close. She couldn’t hear the tell-tale sounds of a woman simply sleeping, but that didn’t signify much, as she could barely hear anything over the rapid beating of her own heart in her ears.

“Ursula,” she said with needless quiet. “Ursula, wake up.”
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   Ursula Black


Elladora-Sig
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Unlike her sister-in-law, Ursula was indulging in a very deep, dreamless sleep. It was no stroke of luck either that she'd been spared from the same fate as her sister-in-law. Lately she had taken to dosing herself with sleeping draughts at night due in some part to the constant fear when bedtime came around that she would have more dreams featuring her own death. The worst of it was that she was endlessly tired and yet often couldn't fall asleep at night due to some discomfort or other, either physical or mental. The longing for laudanum was also worsening and it was all she could do to distract herself from it.

Day time sleeping was another matter though - she'd honed that skill down to a fine art - and yet she couldn't remember the last time she'd awoken feeling anything but exhausted. The sleeping draughts just made everything easier, if she was asleep she didn't have to think about how long she had left before the child came or... Well anything else for that matter. They did leave her very groggy in the mornings, however. This morning was no exception, especially when she hadn't anticipated being woken for some time yet.

Some level of her consciousness was vaguely aware of something happening around her but not enough to lift her from sleep fully to investigate. Her hand twitched in Elladora's direction slightly but that was it.
""

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   Elladora Black




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Ursula looked perfectly peaceful and now that she had seen her Elladora was reasonably assured that all was well with her sister-in-law: in quiet repose there was no indication that anything in the world might be troubling her, however Ella couldn’t help but worry that the nightmares plaguing Ursula were still causing her to lose sleep. At the moment that didn’t seem to be a problem – Ursula was deep in slumber, sleeping soundly and Elladora would have felt a twinge of guilt for waking her except the grey light of dawn was beginning to spill through the window and it wasn’t as though Ursula hadn’t woken her up at less appropriate hours.

“Ursula wake up, it’s important.” Elladora took Ursula’s hand, shaking it gently to gain attention.

Ursula didn’t stir.

Frowning in confusion – Ursula really ought to have stirred by now – a thought struck Ella and she leaned in a little closer, immediately catching the distinct scent of lavender and valerian. A sleeping draught then. She rolled her eyes as she straightened up; she ought to have guessed really, when in doubt Ursula had a tendency to reach for something that would make everything go away as quickly as possible. At least it wasn’t laudanum this time she supposed, oddly proud of Ursula for not taking that particular drug and doing Merlin knows what to the child inside her.

“I’m sorry I didn’t appreciate how frightening your dreams were,” Ella said quietly, confident that the other woman couldn’t hear her. “I’ve just experienced your death for myself and...” she shivered in the cold. “And it was no easy thing to witness.”
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   Ursula Black


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As she started to come to, she was increasingly aware that a limb was being interfered with and that someone was talking to her. Had it been closer to the time she had gone to sleep rather than in the latter hours she mightn't have woken so easily, it was difficult enough as it was to move through the groggy fog in her head. Words were coming and going, only some of them sinking in. Sorry. Fright. Death. Easy. Mess? It was an alarming cocktail of cognition and what finally gave her the push to wake up.

All at once and very suddenly she reanimated; she inhaled deeply, rolling from her side onto her back, the hand in Elladora's possession made a clumsy attempt at grasping, and finally her eyelids started to flutter into action, blinking irritably at the light and cold air that greeted them. "Nooo." The word lacked clarity as it left her mouth. Her eyes snapped shut again and arched her brows. "Too soooo-" Her brain belatedly realized it had heard the word dreams and started to build some context. Her eyes opened again and seemed resigned to remaining so. "Was I...?" Ursula had decided that what Elladora was trying to tell her was that she had just woken her from a troubled dream which amused her because she could remember nothing of a dream. Silly Ella, she couldn't remember her dreams with the sleeping draught! In that respect at least it was vastly superior to laudanum. She smirked sleepily up at her bedside companion.

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   Elladora Black




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This vulnerable version of Ursula was one that elicited feelings in Elladora that she didn’t care to acknowledge. Thirteen years she had known this woman, fretted over her, judged, her, laughed with her, hated her, eat and drank and shared a life with her while Phineas was off being headmaster, and the fact that she now loved her was an inevitability that Elladora accepted as simply the way her world was now.

She loved her more than she ever had Iona because Ursula, despite her flaws, understood what it was to be one of them, yet despite this fondness she still rolled her eyes at the other woman and spotting the pitcher of water at the side of the bed opted to reach for it rather than wait for the waking. She didn’t clock Ursula’s slightly more alert face, and she put the rambling down to sleep, so with little compunction Elladora – still holding Ursula’s hand in sisterly concern – reached for the jug of water and unceremoniously upended it on Ursula’s face.
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Elladora-Sig
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#6
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Ursula sat bolt upright as fast as her heavily pregnant body would allow and shrieked in horror. The warm, groggy feeling was suddenly wrenched away and in its place came a much too literal ice cold clarity. "How dare y- What is the meaning of this?!" She shivered and glared furiously at her sister-in-law.

She tried to dry her face with the sleeve of her nightdress and in doing so realized the top half of her nightgown was largely soaked through. "Ellaaaaa," she whined like an irritable child. Had she been more with it she might have slapped the woman but the moment had sadly come and gone.

She slumped back against her pillow but was greeted by cold wetness on the back of her neck which sent chills through her. Ursula hoisted herself upright again with the assistance of Elladora's arm. "That was beastly! You're beastly!" She hugged the other woman's arm to her damp chest in an attempt to leech her heat or at least share the cold dampness.





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The shriek reached her ears was akin to the finest music as far as Elladora was concerned – here was proof positive that Ursula, and the child inside her presumably, was hale and hearty, and in no immediate danger of expiring from this life. It was a rather dramatic means of achieving her desired reassurance but beggar’s could not be choosers when a sleeping draught was working it’s magic.

Of course it now left her in the unfortunate position of having to explain her uncharacteristically irrational moment to a rudely awoken Ursula. Should she admit to having shared the same nightmare? It had seemed chillingly real but Elladora was determined to believe her mind had conjured up the possibility simply because Ursula had sown the seeds and she certainly didn’t wish to fan the flames. But what other excuse could she give?

“You weren’t waking up,” she said by way of explanation, eyes drawn inexorably to where Ursula’s sodden nightdress pressed against her arm, sharing the chill and making it known that certain parts of Ursula were very much aware of how cold the water was. She coughed and tried not to blush. “I was concerned the draught had taken hold of you.”


Elladora-Sig
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#8
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She blinked and stared for a moment as she processed the offered explanation. It took her longer than it should have to realize what was being implied, in part because she had just woken up but equally because it wasn't what she would have expected. "Isn't that rather the point of a sleeping draught?" Ursula replied archly. The revelation that Elladora had taken her doom rather more seriously than she'd let on was not lost on her. Her annoyance at being drenched was mostly neutralized if not forgotten, it was hard not to resent it somewhat when she was chilled and damp.

That Elladora seemed vaguely uncomfortable helped a little.

At least until it dawned on her that she might well be the source of it for reasons that made her even more uneasy. Ursula swiftly withdrew her arms from the other woman, pulled her bed sheet up to a point just below her collarbones, and held it there firmly despite the wetness. "What were you doing in my room at this hour anyway?" It was a deflection from her embarrassment but once she said it she realized it was actually a good question. Did Elladora often come into her room while she was asleep, was this in fact normal behavior for her? Had she taken to checking she was actually where she was supposed to be at night and did that mean she'd been making a habit of it since the incident with the vanishing cabinet? Ursula pressed the back of her hand to her mouth as she failed to stifle a yawn. More importantly, why did thinking about her sister-in-law creeping into her room at night to check on her make her feel something other than outrage?

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   Elladora Black




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Was there a dignified way to admit a nightmare had spurred one into an early morning visit? Even as a child Elladora had never been prone to hysterics – after an incident in her youth when her nanny had informed her that crying children who left their beds in the night were the ideal prey for wicked elves she had schooled herself into being as in control at night as she was during the day, but this particular bad dream had hit her with such force that it had practically lit a fire underneath her.

It had been horribly vivid, Ursula’s cries and screams echoed in her ears and the blood…oh dear Merlin the blood had been black and hideously abundant and Elladora rubbed her fingers together, convinced she could feel the slippery texture still. Her throat felt suddenly tight and looking at Ursula’s damp curls falling around her face as drops of water dripped down to her neckline wasn’t helping matters. At least she wasn’t clinging to her anymore – the way she felt at the moment Elladora wasn’t sure she could be held responsible for any ludicrous proclamation she might make.

“I was just passing,” she deadpanned, wishing she had thought to bring her wand with her so she could dry Ursula off and rid herself of thoughts involving goosepimple skin and damp patches. Ella’s lip twitched at Ursula’s unladylike yawn, feeling a sudden and intense swell of fondness that was quite alarming. “Why did you have to put that dream into my head Ursula?” She asked, voice tense with despair as she finally managed to look the other woman in the eye.
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   Ursula Black


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#10
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Ursula couldn't imagine why Elladora would want to wake up at such an inhospitable hour nor why she would want to take herself for a walk around the house but it seemed a very restless thing to do and what were spinsters if not restless? Ursula decided it was plausible enough, although she couldn't quite shake the suspicion that maybe her sister-in-law did check in on her, just to make sure she was where she was supposed to be.

Her eyes began to wander in search of wherever she'd left her wand last night; if Elladora wasn't going to produce her own to dry her off then she'd see to it herself. She was distracted from her mission, however, by what she said next. Ursula locked eyes with the other woman and furrowed her brow as she tried to figure out what had prompted it. There was no doubting what dream she was referring to, it could only be the dream that had triggered the recurring nightmare that had pushed her to sleeping draughts. Did that mean Elladora now took it seriously? Had that been why she'd drenched her so readily?

She fixed her gaze earnestly upon her. "Does that mean you believe me now?" She assumed Elladora meant only that she'd been dwelling on it in her waking hours, it seemed unlikely at best that she would be plagued by unpleasant dreams. There was a quality to her voice that did give her pause, however. "Or will you wait until I'm on my deathbed?" At this her voice grew bitter and she turned her face away. She was annoyed with herself for so readily jumping to the conclusion that the other woman might now be taking her seriously and annoyed with Ella herself for dismissing her in the first place.





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“For god’s sake Ursula you’re not going to die,” Elladora snapped irritably, folding her arms across her chest brusquely. She certainly didn’t believe in the precognitive powers of dreams and she was not about to start just because she’d had a nightmare that was particularly vivid. She was no seer and as far as she knew it was not a talent that developed later in life, so if she hadn’t developed some form of second sight then Ursula most certainly hadn’t – it was just an unnerving dream, that was all.

“You’ve survived multiple births and you are far from delicate-” she held up a placating hand to stop the reaction she immediately felt that comment would elicit. “I don’t mean it in a bad way. It’s just a terrible dream. No doubt my vision of it was quite different from yours.”

They simply had to be. Ursula had only told her the outcome, the details Elladora’s brain had conjured up couldn’t possibly be the same. “I doubt very much you would consent to giving birth in your wedding dress of all things.”

Quite where her mind had pulled that particular image she had no idea, but it had made it – if possible – so much worse. She had felt...widowed.
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   Ursula Black


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#12
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Ursula's mood went from mild annoyance to deep frustration in almost an instant. Who was she to wake her up at an ungodly hour in such an abrupt manner, and then to condescend to her like she was a child?! It was an outrage, she wouldn't stand for it! If Elladora thought holding her hand up would silence her then she had another thing coming.

Her mouth was already slightly agape as she prepared to verbally berate the other woman when she realized the implications of what she'd said. The use of the word 'vision' didn't help the icy feeling of dread at the thought of Elladora sharing her nightmares. Rather than assuage her fears she'd done the exact opposite. What else could it mean that the dreams were no longer just her own? It was a sign, an ominous warning of what was to come. The color drained from her face and she closed her mouth, the heat of her anger having been thoroughly stamped out.

"My wedding dress?" Her own dreams never had that detail, they rarely deviated from the original, although on one or two occasions there were people present that hadn't been before. Did it mean something or was it merely symbolic of death severing her matrimonial bonds? Rather belatedly, color returned to her cheeks as she considered what sort of embarrassing and gruesome horror her sister-in-law had seen in her dreams. What had she seen? "Is that why you woke me?" She was mostly thinking aloud as it came to her but immediately she felt it was truth.





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“No,” Ella replied immediately though really she didn’t know exactly why she had woken Ursula. Surely it should have been enough to put her worries at bay to see that her sister-in-law was breathing steadily, dead to the world only temporarily and with enough colour in her cheeks that she was in no danger of expiring in the night and yet, she had felt the need to see her awake and indignant to assuage her fears entirely. She still felt a tad shaken – oh Merlin, surely her half-asleep brain hadn’t instinctively taken her to Ursula’s side for comfort?

“I don’t quite know why I did,” she admitted truthfully, frowning at her own impenetrable reasons for her actions. She cared for Ursula, that much she knew and would admit, and she certainly didn’t want her to die but it was utterly ridiculous that she was here because of a dream and because…well…she had almost believed it for a moment there. “It woke me up – not just literally,” Elladora added irritably, annoyed at her inability to articulate the specific emotion she was feeling, annoyed even more that she was feeling it. “You’re not going to die Ursula, I won’t let you.”


Elladora-Sig
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#14
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Ursula wasn't entirely certain of what Elladora was trying to communicate but she thought she understood the gist of it. She had thought at first that her abrupt denial was the end of the matter but to her surprise she elaborated further and far more candidly than she could have anticipated. Nor could she have anticipated the pang of deep affection it provoked in her.

The longings she had felt that evening after the first dream were back and seemed worse than they had been then. The feelings reminded her of how she felt with Thom which made no sense at all, this was her sister-in-law she wasn't a ruinously charming gentleman, she wasn't even a man! With very little thought about what she was doing she took Elladora's hands in hers and brought them up to her face, her lips resting against her knuckles. Before she realized what was happening she was lightly kissing the woman's hands and so abruptly moved her face so that her forehead replaced her lips on Elladora's hands. She squeezed her fingers for a moment in silent regret.

"Promise me, promise me you'll do everything you can." Elladora Black was no healer nor was she a miracle worker or an infallible being but it filled her with such relief to hear those words, 'I won't let you'. Maybe, just maybe, Elladora was a match for whatever fate had in store for her but whether she was or not, just the thought of having someone prepared and ready to fight for her life made her feel safer.

Ursula lowered their hands to her lap and interlocked her fingers with Ella's. She hesitantly met the other woman's eye, suddenly aware that her own were starting to well up. Her thumbs began smoothing the sides of Ella's hands in a subconscious attempt to soothe herself. "When the time comes I need you there. With me." As much as she didn't want Ella to see her that way she found the idea of being without her worse still. "And if it comes to a choice... I-" She let out a small, anguished sob. "I don't think Phineas will choose me. But you will, won't you?"





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“Of course I will,” she replied without a second of thought.

An emotional Ursula scared Elladora more than she cared to admit. It wasn’t so much the tears, or the histrionics which were admittedly at a minimum at the moment, but rather it was the feeling that unfurled within her, growing stronger each time Ursula held her hand like this and implored something of her that came straight from the younger witch’s heart. She had never been able to resist Ursula when she cried, foolish though that was, and she held tight to Ursula’s cold hand, shifting forward on the bed and urging Ursula to sit up so she could look her properly in the eye.

Placing both her hand on Ursula’s damp shoulders she squeezed gently to make sure she had her attention and spoke with insistence when she said: “No midwife in the country will keep me out of that room, I promise you. And I will insist upon you being the priority. Surely you know by now that I would choose you over an infant? Or the sensitivity of a midwife.” Or over everybody barring Sirius and Evalina.

Phineas wouldn’t choose any of them. Not the baby, not his sister, and not his wife if he could come out of the whole thing without being too bothered by anyone about the decision. It was a hard fact and one Elladora had long accepted but she had never before realised that Ursula might be labouring under the illusion that Phineas truly cared for her: he was a cold fish, even Ella felt that about him and she was far from warm, but she had never needed anything from him other than respect, which she had. If Ursula had truly wished for love from him then she had been sorely disappointed but Ella had always took it to simply be a fact of their marriage: Eva didn’t look to her husband for love and she didn’t seem to miss the affections of the marital bed.

Then again, Eva had her for that and Ursula did not.


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#16
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There was a soft, high pitched noise emanating from somewhere and that somewhere was Ursula. Had the response she received been short and stoic she might have sniffled a little and moved on, but instead her face flushed and an onslaught of tears started to trickle her cheeks with gathering momentum. Ursula was overwrought with the complexity of her own emotions.

"Oh, Ella," was all she could say at first as her tears started to rapidly gain momentum. Since when did her sister-in-law care so much and what had she ever done to provoke it? Had she been blind to it all this time or had she been masterfully hiding it? Not that it mattered. What was important was that Ursula wanted to seek solace in her arms - which weren't all that far off from embracing her as it was - but suddenly feared embarrassing herself. As if she hadn't embarrassed herself in front of her sister-in-law enough to last a life time.

Fully blubbering now, she at last found her words. "I've always resented you being unmarried and having to share house with you, but truly I wouldn't do without you, I would trade my flesh and blood sister for you ten times over." What she couldn't quite commit to saying was that she might even choose her over Phineas if such a situation came about. A naive hope that Phineas might just warm up to her if he gave himself the chance might stop her, but only that. "You are... so dear to me, I don't ever want to be without you."





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