Chapter 32

"You what?" I whispered.

Henry looked at me imploringly. "Harriet, I swear I wouldn't make this up, I wouldn't."

"Why would you say such a thing?"

"It's true, Harriet. Please!"

"About your own brother?"

I looked at him with what I knew was purest loathing. 

"Harriet! He even said it himself. In his sleep. He said. ‘Harriet,' he said. ‘My princess... My proprius.' He wants to do that to you. I was horrified, disgusted, repulsed. Oh, Harriet, can't you see? I wouldn't lie. So I'm telling the truth. I was all along. I was always worried something was going to happen, that Arthur was going to do something to you. I never imagined it would be this, though."

"I was starting to like you again," I said, standing up and backing away. "I was even willing to forget that horrendous thing you did to me but now I just see that you're a sick jerk. You're just as bad as Michael."

"Harriet, you promised. You promised you wouldn't believe I could make this up."

He rose to his feet and stepped forwards. I stepped back.

"Look, hasn't anything ... strange happened to you over the past few days? I don't know, did it ever feel like you were ... changing?"

I froze.

Henry noticed. "What was it? Tell me! It might help save you! You may not be in too deep yet."

"I felt like I wanted whatever he wanted ... and only what he wanted," I whispered.

"Did you see how Anna was only too willing to be Michael's footstool?"

Anna...  So that was the girl's name. I was momentarily distracted by the memory of her getting down on all fours as if she'd been born to be compliant.

Henry was calling me back to the room. "Harriet? Harriet! You have to believe me! Please!"

I didn't want to believe it. Arthur couldn't want me to be that. He couldn't! He loved me! He'd told me so, he'd showed me so. All those dreams, all those kisses, all those sweet, tender moments... They couldn't have been faked. I began to cry.

"I know it's tough, Harriet. But you've got to believe me so I can protect you. So I can save you."

I stepped uncertainly forwards. I remember something he'd said to me at the weekend. ‘I'll lock you away in my heart.' Was imprisonment making me his proprius?

"Did he give you a ring?" Henry asked.

I looked down. Of course it wasn't on my finger at the moment - I'd been at school the whole day.

I looked up at Henry and nodded.

He looked concerned. "He probably used suggestion to make it binding in some way."

I was reminded of a memory of a feeling I'd had just after Arthur had slipped the ring on my finger. It was faint though: I couldn't quite remember.

"Something weird happened ... when he put it on me," I said.

"What?"

"I ... don't remember."

Wait! It wasn't directly after he'd put the ring on me. It was after I'd said ‘I'm really yours.' The memory flooded back.

"I'm really yours," I repeated.

Something ... changed. The alteration was so subtle I barely noticed it, but I suddenly felt like I was looking at Arthur with stronger love in my eyes and my heart was melting faster in his gaze. I was caught and held by his mesmerising eyes and I felt ... more held, as if he'd captured me and put me in some kind of soft, invisible cage which I didn't notice.

"My feelings for him were stronger," I whispered. "When I told him I was his. ... I thought he was being possessive romantically... I never dreamed..."

My eyes widened. More of the memory ...

I wanted Arthur to be ... possessive ..., not to control me as such but to ... claim ownership of me.  I wanted him to almost... be more expectant of my love, ... define higher standards to which I had to conform and never see me as capable of feeling and conveying anything less than the most love I could hold in my heart.

"I wanted him to claim ownership of me..."

Henry looked alarmed. "This is really scary."

                Suddenly, the door opened. Arthur walked in. He saw me and said, "Harriet?"

I jumped back, crying, "Oh!"

I was running to Henry, standing next to him and holding his hand tightly, wanting him to remove the fear and the cause for the fear. Dimly, I realised I should probably be trying to act natural but I was just so scared, I couldn't act on this.

"What are you doing here?" I asked.

"Well, I do live here. I could ask you the same. If you'd told me you were coming over ..."

"We could've what?" I asked. "Become bound to each other... or rather I could have become bound to you because I would never ask you to become bound to me."

Arthur looked confused. "We can't get married now if that's what you're talking about ... and I thought you did want that."

"Oh, I'm not talking about marriage," I said, and that dim part of me realised I was becoming hysterical.

"Be careful," Henry whispered, stroking my shoulder.

Arthur suddenly looked annoyed. "Look, will someone tell me what is going on in here? It looks awfully like you've been cheating on me, Harriet, but you act like there's something else. Do enlighten me."

"I know," I murmured, voice trembling. "I know what you want me to be, how you want me to behave... I know you want me to comply with your every wish and demand."

Arthur's brow furrowed and then he looked grim. "Oh, so you found out about that?"

"You admit it?" I asked in disbelief.

"You found out about it from the one person who's the most biased against it? Well, the people who are against it make it seem quite frightening."

"Seem?" I cried, almost shrieking. "I've seen it for myself, thank you very much."

Arthur ignored me. "I'm just disappointed that it was so easy for you to be turned against me. After all the times we had together ... it's almost a slap in the face."

"Oh, I'd give you more than that."

"So you're just going to dump me, is that it? You're not even going to try to see it from my point of view? Incidentally, whose proprius did you meet?"

"Michael's," I replied.

"Ah well then you're definitely not going to want to listen to me."

"Why would I?"

Arthur's eyes became intense. "Because I love you."

I burst into laughter. Henry's arm came tighter around my shoulder as if trying to squeeze the hysteria out of me. He looked helpless.

"Oh you love me? Since when did love entail turning your girlfriend into a slave?"

"You know I don't know why you're cuddling up to Henry like that," Arthur said drily, not even trying to answer me. "He wanted to be possessive of you too. Maybe not as much as me but he was jealous when he talked about your friends one day."

Henry looked shocked. I looked up into those eyes.

"Henry?" I asked.

He gulped, looking nervous.

"Tell me it's not true."

"I would never make you my proprius," he said.

"Ah, yes, but what was that quote from your diary? She might be disturbed by that. ‘I felt strangely jealous when Harriet talked about her other friends. It was as if I wanted her whole mind focused on me (which I could very easily arrange)'. D'you remember that?"

"I was stating a fact," Henry said, sounding strangled.

I stepped away from Henry. "No," I whispered.

"I also recall writing how easy it would be to force you to love me," Henry said. "But I said it would be horrifically easy. And  I never did it, did I? You never fell in love with me. When you've been surrounded by the Hypnos People for so long, you grow used to their ways, to their habits. You may not approve of it but it's part of your upbringing. Of what you've experienced in life."

I stepped further back. I faced Henry so it was a shock when hands grabbed me from behind. I screamed.

Arthur kissed my neck. "Sh, it's only me. Come on. Remember our fairytale. One brother's evil and the other isn't. Is it really that difficult to see which brother is bad?"

Henry looked confused. "What are you on about?"

"Just a story," Arthur replied dismissively. He turned me in his arms and gazed down lovingly at me. "Do you remember how much the girl fell in love with the elder brother?"

"You made up a suggestive story?!" Henry yelled. "ARE YOU TRYING TO MAKE HER FEELINGS YOURS? OH, WAIT, YOU ARE!"

I tried to wriggle free from Arthur's grasp but he held on tightly.

"I have got to call the others," Henry said. "MATT!" he shouted at the top of his voice. "RYAN! SHAUN! SIMON!"

"Have you noticed that you're shouting loud enough for Jack to hear?" Arthur asked.

Henry went rigid. "Oh no," he whispered.

"Oh yes. He's going to come down here too. And what a sight that will be. Six of his older brothers discussing Captivators, hypnotism and proprii. He'll go quite mad."

"You're evil," I whispered. "You don't give a damn about anyone else."

"My dear, just because I love you more than the stars and the sun, doesn't make me evil. I'm a little like Andrew in that sense."

"I don't like Andrew."

"But you love me."

"Not anymore."

"The girl was under the elder brother's spell and she loved belonging to him," Arthur quoted from the fairytale. "He wanted more than that, though. More than the feeling of belonging from a mere relationship as boyfriend and girlfriend. The girl was intrigued but the elder brother would tell her no more than that. This made the elder brother totally irresistible, since the girl adored mysteries."

"No!" Henry shouted. He shouted his brothers' names again.

                Suddenly, they burst in. Matt, Ryan, Shaun, Simon and to Henry's dismay, Jack.

The End

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