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Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is yourself.
Wednesday, July 25th - Afternoon

He'd been held for questioning for a few days, something Colin didn't blame anyone for. Someone had made sure a Healer from St. Mungo's had looked in on him, and that he was treated alright - he suspected it might have been Auror Tonks who had been responsible for that.

"Under the influence of a magical creature, not responsible for his actions" was the final verdict.

Colin wasn't sure he'd agreed with it, really. If he wasn't responsible for what he'd done, he didn't know who was. It was his fault he'd fallen into Rose's hands, and ultimately into the clutches of the Master vampire. That had to make him responsible for something, surely?

He'd avoided Izabel and Remus since his release, staying hidden away in his rooms at the castle as much as possible and letting one of the house-elves bring him meals. At some point he was going to have to find them and apologize and hope they could eventually forgive him, but he wasn't ready for that yet.

Instead, he slipped out of the castle and hurried down the lane into Hogsmeade, searching for the office of Anne Perks. Maybe if he talked it over with someone who wasn't involved, who he hadn't hurt, maybe it would make more sense.
Grumbling, Anne pulled her head out of the cupboard she'd been searching fruitlessly for the new package of tea she knew she bought in time to hear the front door close. Standing up and brushing off the knees of her slacks, she hollered, "I'll be with you in a moment. Make yourself comfortable."

As she took the kettle off the fire, Anne paused while frowning and absently noticed the missing package of tea behind the jar of biscuits.

I didn't think I had any appointments this afternoon.

Did I?

"Ha! Got you!" she told it while grasping it and moving over to the door to stick her head around.

"Colin! How nice. I was just making a cup of tea. Would you care for one?"
How did that work, exactly? Were patients allowed to have tea? Were they called patients nowadays, or something else?

"Yeah, tea would be nice." He found a place to sit and perched on the edge, carefully. "Thanks," Colin added as an afterthought.

Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. Anne was a nice lady, and he considered her to be a friend, perhaps it would have been better to try to find someone else?
Living and working in Hogsmeade made Anne aware of the situation that had transpired, but didn't give her access to all the details. She had been mostly thankful she hadn't been involved. As she sat the tray with tea and biscuits down, the broad smile on her face faded when she took in Colin's demeanor.

The Auror - Wilcoxen I think his name was - a friend of his maybe?

"Colin? What is it? Should I break out the hard stuff instead?" she asked gently as she sat down and placed a hand over one of his.

Gods, for his sake I hope it's something as simple as the go-cart breaking an axle and not getting permission to fix it.
He looked at the hand over his for a moment before looking up at Anne's face.

"I'm not sure how much you know about what happened this weekend. I'm pretty sure you know something, news tends to travel fast when it's juicy or bloody. Or both. I haven't heard the gossip, but then I was there and it's not really high on my list of things to repeat ever again. Even though I do. Repeat it, I mean, in my head. Every night."

Colin pulled his hand away and looked off past Anne's shoulder. Now that he'd started talking, it was pouring out like a river. "If I'd said something to someone, maybe that Auror wouldn't have died? Or Rose, if I'd said something about Rose they might not have had to - Did you know they told me someone took her head clean off? Had to, that's how you make sure a vampire doesn't come back. Maybe if they could have gotten too her before she killed someone, maybe they could have helped her instead of killing her, you know? I led them all into a trap. I knew what he was planning, but I did it anyway, I couldn't help myself. But I should have found a way to stop it. He wanted me to kill an unborn child, and I almost ... I almost wanted to, just to make Rose happy. What kind of monster would do something like that?"

He tilted his head just a bit to finally look directly at her. "Officially, the Ministry says I'm not responsible for what happened, mind control and all that, but if that's true, why do I feel like I am?"
As Colin began speaking, Anne's mental and emotional gears began shifting. They'd started in the friend category and when Colin revealed he'd actually been involved in the horror, softened and moved toward sympathetic friendship of the type that would offer a shoulder to lean on if needed.

When Colin pulled his hand away and continued speaking, Anne found herself looking at her hand that was left bereft. She'd heard of course that the vampires had used someone they hadn't turned. A trusted someone that had made the trap almost work.

A thrall or whatever that term is.

He didn't come looking for a friend. He needs help and chose me.

It was enough to make a grown therapist cry over the trust he was showing in her. Anne reached out to the hand he'd pulled away and gave it a gentle squeeze while holding on. Anne knew exactly why he had withdrawn his own hand so abruptly. He was feeling unclean, unworthy in a way, and wanted to do the rebuffing before he was rebuffed.

"Why do you feel guilty?" Anne asked with a small smile and a gentle lift of her eyebrows. His other questions and concerns were important, but what ifs and might have beens weren't something that needed dealing with at the moment.

"Because you're a normal human being with a conscience and emotions that aren't under someone else's control any longer. Because deep down - so far you really haven't looked at it yet - you think you should have been strong enough to fight back and not lose control. There's a small secret floating around, Colin, and not everyone is aware of it," Anne said in a conspiratorial voice while pretending to look around to make sure they were truly alone.

"I think it's time to let it out. There are only a few witches or wizards that are capable of resisting an Imperious and there are none - none - that are capable of resisting a vampire's control once they're trapped."

Another small smile appeared along with the suggestion of a wink before she squeezed his hand again. Releasing it, Anne offered him a plate of biscuits and a cup of tea.

"I'm teasing of course. It's not a secret, but it does need to be dragged out now and then. All those people - every single one of them - under an Imperious have had a better chance at fighting back than you did while under the vampire's power. Should we blame them - prosecute them - for the actions they took while under that curse?"

Taking a sip of tea before setting the cup back down, Anne shook her head and let one hand raise to brush gently across his cheek.

"Don't you see, Colin? You're not the monster. The monsters have been destroyed."
"They may be dead, but I don't know if they're destroyed." He hadn't meant it to sound as cynical as it did.

"So I'm not a monster, that doesn't change the fact that I helped them. That because of me, people got hurt. Someone was killed. I betrayed people I liked, whether I could fight it or not. I feel so - How do I try to face Izabel or Remus, or Daphne and Harry, or Vera and Pomona or even Minerva? Is it worse to go to the Auror's memorial services, or to skip them and hide? The monsters are gone, but I'm still here."
It truly is universal, Anne mused as one of her sessions with Vera came to mind. She could mouth platitudes, but they wouldn't help Colin.

"Unless you're trying to tell me that the vampire - and Rose - could read your deepest, inner most thoughts before you fell under their control and knew that it was your greatest desire to help them and hurt the others - the only thing I can tell you to do is to work on forgiving yourself," Anne said quietly. "Until you do, any contact you have with the others involved will always be colored by what you feel inside. Remus or anyone else could stand here - right now - and tell you point blank that they don't hold you responsible and be telling you the truth, but I doubt you'd be able to believe them."
"Forgive myself. When you say it like that, it sounds so simple, doesn't it?" There was a bite of sarcasm in his voice, and Colin immediately felt contrite.

"I apologize, that was rude. I came to you for - something, and when you offer advice I should listen, shouldn't I?" His smile was bitter, and sad.

Colin stood and began to move about the room, pacing. "I've never been very good at forgiving myself. For awhile it was easier to blame others, but then - after awhile it became clear that I had no one to blame but myself. When it comes down to it, I could have - should have done something to stop them and I failed, just like I failed Den-" His voice broke, and he turned away from her, head held low. "My brother, Dennis."
All of Anne's instincts were screaming in her mind, churning the emotions in her stomach and she'd learned to pay attention to them a long time ago. No matter what had happened recently, Colin wouldn't be able to deal with it until whatever had happened with his brother was settled. It seemed like she sat there and thought forever before knowing what track would probably be best while cursing the fact she knew absolutely nothing about his brother Dennis.

Time. I need time to research...


Alive - but horribly disfigured, damaged somehow?

Does it even matter?

One second passed under the hand on the clock before Anne knew the answer.


Neither do the details.

Anne made herself stay seated. To go after him might urge a flight response and that was the last thing she wanted or he needed. Keeping her voice gentle and non-judgmental, she asked, "Who did you blame instead of yourself in his case?"
Colin barked a brief laugh full of self-mockery, and turned to look at Anne. "If you can believe it, Harry Potter. The savior of the Wizarding World."

He tugged on his ear, then shook his head. "And I wanted to blame him for my brother's death so much-" Colin's voice broke, and he fell back into his chair like an abandoned rag doll.

"Ridiculous, I know."
Any traces of sympathy were whisked off of Anne's face and a frown grew between her brows.

"I can't agree or disagree with that judgment, Colin," Anne stated quietly while raising her chin as the frown disappeared. "I'm completely unqualified in that area because I wasn't here when it was happening. I was in the states, safe and sound and not facing the dangers you and your brother were."

She paused for a moment in deep thought while her eyes found the floor and then raised them to his.

"Why don't you tell me what it was like so I can understand," she pleaded in a soft voice. "No one has ever told me."
Needing something to do with his hands, especially if he was going to talk about Dennis, Colin pulled a pen out of one of his pockets and twirled it between his fingers for a bit.

"Consider yourself lucky, Anne, it was - it was a dark time. My parents were Muggles, to You-Know-Who and his followers that made us scum. I could never wrap my head around that, you know." His absentminded smile was half-hearted at best and it was obvious that he wasn't actually seeing her, even though he was looking in her direction.

"Harry Potter was - everything a boy could want in a role model. Thanks to the stories I told during holiday and over the summer, by the time Dennis started his first year he adored Harry as much as I did. Almost a crush, except for the part where I had no interest in snogging him what so ever." The pen tapped against his lower lip as he remembered his early years at Hogwarts.

"Later, when the war had begun in earnest, I threw myself into the cause, giddy at the thought that I was fighting on the same side as Harry Potter. Helping my hero. Dennis wasn't quite as - but he wouldn't leave me. If I was going to insist on staying in the middle of the war, he was going to stay by my side.

"Looking back, it's almost comical, how I thought I was making a difference. You know, at the time, I would have died for Harry. I wonder if that's how You-Know-Who's followers felt about him?"