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Chapter 25: Elizabeth
Looking back now, I’m not sure if I managed to avoid the full Cruciatus curse for so long because I was smart about it or because I was just scared. I mean, I got it in lessons, but that was from students, not fully grown Deatheaters who’d had years of practice. And that was bad enough. But it was nothing to do with the real thing.
By this time, the school was fully aware that the DA was back in action. We were saving people from certain Slytherins, helping them out of trouble, and we had plenty of ‘honorary members’ about. Neville even thought to continue with the graffiti, and for an afternoon, the doors of the Entrance Hall had been emblazoned with “Dumbledore’s Army: still recruiting!”. Amazingly, we hadn’t been caught doing any of it.
Which made it all the more annoying when Ernie and I were caught in class.
It was the last lesson of the day, and despite the fact that only the night before another two Hufflepuffs had returned to the common room very badly injured, I guess we were on a bit of a high about none of the DA being caught. So, to celebrate this, Ernie set off a Decoy Detonator in Muggle Studies class. We didn’t need a decoy for anything, really – we just wanted to annoy Alecto.
Unfortunately, the Decoy still hadn’t detonated when Alecto spotted it on the floor, and she followed the route it had taken to mine and Ernie’s desk. A cruel smirk twisted her dumpy face; we’d forgotten about the little grudge she’d held against us since we’d saved Dennis Creevey.
“You,” she snarled, scooping up the Decoy Detonator off the floor and destroying it with her wand. The whole class tightened and held their collective breath, clearly hoping “you” wasn’t them. Alecto glared at me and Ernie.
“You two,” she said, marching to our desk and slamming down the broken detonator in front of us. “One of you did this. Who was it? Eh? Who was it?!”
Both of us remained silent. With Alecto’s back to them, the whole class had twisted around in their seats to watch. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Megan Jones at the desk next to us, clearly hoping that she wouldn’t be the one chosen to be the punisher again.
“I’m going to ask one more time, or I will punish both of you,” Alecto growled. “Which of you just tried to set this... this contraption off in my class?”
There was a beat of silence and then Ernie, seeing that I was about to end up being punished too, defiantly rose from his seat and looked Professor Carrow right in the eye.
“It was me.”
But the voice wasn’t Ernie’s. It was mine.
“What?” Ernie glanced at me in alarm. “No, Hannah, you don’t- It was me, Professor!”
“Well, then it appears that one of you is trying to disrupt my class,” Alecto sounded furious, but her eyes were twinkling maliciously. She was going to enjoy this. “And one of you is lying to me. Which means that both of you need to be punished.”
I merely stood up beside Ernie, taking his hand in mine, “That’s what it looks like, Professor.”
Ernie stared at me as if I was mad. Maybe I was; but I wasn’t going to let him get hurt to protect me. If we were going to do it at all, we were going to do it together. We were a team.
Alecto Carrow glared at each of us in turn, and I swear I saw a flicker of confusion in her eyes. She thought we were up to something. She sucked her teeth, nostrils flaring slightly, then turned around. Everybody immediately faced the front again.
“You two can stay behind after class,” Alecto announced as she walked away from us, apparently having decided that this would foil any plan we might have concocted. She turned around when she reached the front of the classroom and looked directly at me. “Now sit. Both of you.”
We sat, my heart pounding so hard that anybody out in Care of Magical Creatures might have been able to hear it. Ernie gave me a very hard stare, and for a moment it was like we were silently communicating. What have you done?
I raised my eyebrows at him. You could have backed down too.
Ernie shook his head, and I could tell that he was trying not to laugh. One eye on Carrow, I tore off a corner of my parchment, wrote one word on it, and pushed the note under Ernie’s nose. He grinned.
But we weren’t grinning when the end of class came. As she passed on her way out, Susan gave us a look that was somewhere between concern for our safety and anger at our recklessness. But as Terry passed, he swiftly dropped a scruffy note on my desk: Remember that the pain will pass. I turned to look back at him, but he was gone, and Ernie and I were left alone with Alecto Carrow.
“You two,” she barked, beckoning us forward. “Time to learn that you do what I tell you.”
I’ll be honest; I don’t really remember a lot of what happened over the next five-ten minutes... it felt more like an hour. It was the first time I properly found myself at the brunt of Alecto’s true power, and it was more than I had expected. Plus, apparently one doesn’t need to be particularly intelligent to be creative with their cruelty. By the time the hallway outside had gone silent, indicating that everybody was well into dinner by then, I already had blood on my face and hands and arms and I can’t even remember why.
“I’M SICK OF CHILDREN LIKE YOU!” Alecto would scream, using her wand to knock a table so hard into Ernie that he fell to the floor, or aiming phials of some murky potion that stung my cuts at me. “YOU NEVER SEEM TO LEARN. MUDBLOODS AND HALFBREEDS AND BLOOD TRAITORS – DUMBLEDORE TAUGHT YOU TO WELCOME POISON INTO YOUR LIVES AND YOU JUST DRANK IT ALL IN! DUMBLEDORE IS DEAD. HE LET THE POISON IN AND NOW HE’S DEAD.”
Ernie stumbled to his feet, spitting blood from his mouth, “And yet his army seems to remain, so what might that tell you? He’s not gone. Not really.”
“I WAS THERE!” Alecto bellowed, whipping her wand and knocking Ernie back to the ground as he tried to get up, a fresh cut on his neck. “I SAW THE LIGHT LEAVE HIS EYES!”
That froze us for a second. Ernie and I, a desk apart, exchanged a glance, him rising unsteadily to his feet again. The Carrows had been there in the Astronomy tower when Snape had killed Dumbledore. This – although how we hadn’t guessed, I don’t know – was news to us.
Alecto’s malicious scowl twisted even further. “He begged for mercy,” she divulged triumphantly, slowly walking closer. “He was weak and old and foolish. I bet he would have given us the school if we’d kept him alive-“
“You’re LYING!” Ernie shouted. “Dumbledore did everything to protect us, he always did!”
“He was an old fool who begged for mercy,” Alecto reiterated, smirking like the words were delicious on her tongue. She glared at me; tears were beginning to stream uncontrollably down my cheeks. “He let the poison in your lives and now we’re taking it out. Dirty blood taints our society.”
For a second, there was only the sound of my own rattling breath. I tried to glare back at her, but the tears were blurring my sight and I couldn’t stop them. Ernie was swaying ever so slightly on his feet, using a chair to prop himself up, and Alecto’s last words seemed to echo in the air.
“If the society you want is pure,” I informed in the most matter-of-fact voice I could summon. “Then I’ll take dirty blood to the end.”
“Mudbloods in your family, have you?” Alecto sneered. “Proud of it, are you? Proud to be related to vermin?”
“MY MOTHER WAS A BETTER HUMAN BEING THAN YOU’LL EVER BE!”
Something had just snapped. Vermin. Vermin? I could barely feel the pain of my cuts beneath the screaming fury that was pressing on my chest and drilling at my brain. I’d never felt anything so exhilarating and terrifying and dark in my whole life.
Alecto’s face changed. She didn’t look scared or guilty, but some of the malice had given way to what appeared to be dawning comprehension. Her lips moved silently around the words “my mother”.
“What’s your name, girl?” she demanded. I didn’t answer. She pointed her wand at Ernie and he began to sink against his chair prop, face contorting in pain. “Your name?!”
“And your mother?” The malice was gradually returning, but even darker than before.
“El- Elizabeth Abbott.” Where was she going with this?
Then there emitted from Alecto a noise of unadulterated joy and she spun maniacally on the spot, arms spread eagle.
“Elizabeth Abbott!” she squealed, and she grabbed me by the hair. The expression on her face made my stomach churn. “You’re her daughter! Of course you are, I knew I recognised that face!”
“No. No, let go! No!”
It came from Ernie, but it was in my head, over and over again. No. Alecto let go of my hair and aimed her wand at Ernie, forcing him to his knees, his face screwed up in the effort not to cry out. His face was draining completely of colour, knuckles white as he clutched the chair leg. Alecto moved closer to him, twisting her wand, and he finally let out a noise that made my stomach drop and all my hair stand on end.
“STOP IT!” I screamed, and before I knew what I was doing, I had pulled out my wand.
But Alecto was too quick for me; she whipped around and had her wand on me before I could do anything, Ernie crumpling into a panting heap on the floor.
“Oh, I knew your mother well enough,” Alecto sneered, stepping towards me again and pointing to a small scar on her jaw. “Left me with a little present, she did.” She moved in so close to my face that I could feel her breath against my skin. “But I left her with a better one.”
“NO!” My arm had moved without my brain’s permission, whipping wildly out and catching Alecto across the face. Her wand was on my before I could move an inch.
An instant, searing, screaming pain coursed through me, pulling my legs from beneath me and pushing me to the floor. I can’t even describe it; it was physically beyond anything I could justifiably describe. It felt like my whole body was on fire, like every bone was snapping, like I’d never felt pain before this. I couldn’t see, I could barely think. I just wanted it to stop. I tried to remember Terry, picturing his hurriedly scrawled note in my mind’s eye: the pain will pass.
And somewhere in the distance, like a voice you might hear while somewhere between being asleep and awake, I heard Alecto. “The world is free of your filthy mudblood mother, little girl, and my brother and I are proud to be the ones who got rid of h- yah!”
And then the pain had gone. But still I couldn’t move, and everything was dazed and confused. I saw Ernie’s blonde hair and the figure over me fell back and there was a bang and everything went black. The darkness pressed in on my eyes, and I blinked, and I didn’t understand what was going on. Then I felt pressure on my arm, and a familiar voice in my ear.
“I’ve got you, come on.” Neville.
He pulled me to my feet, and my legs felt like jelly and I couldn’t see a thing, but Neville was there, and he kept me steady. There was another voice near us – no, three voices – but the only one I could recognise at that moment was Ernie’s.
“No, let me- let me go!” he was struggling. “I’ll kill her, I swear! Let me go back-“
The light of the lamps in the corridor never seemed to bright. Everything was a blur and all the sounds seemed jumbled; it took everything I had to just focus on staying upright and in motion and holding onto Neville.
Then there were more voices. A deep, gruff shout and a furious shriek that I could only place because the last words she’d said to me were still ringing in my ears. But they were far away, and I was still moving.
“I’ve got you,” Neville’s soft voice repeated by my ear. “Keep going. Not far.”
When we finally stopped and he ushered me in through a door, following and closing the door behind him, I suddenly found that I couldn’t stand anymore. I dropped to the floor, put my face in my hands, and tried to remember how to breathe.
“Hannah... Hannah please, it’s okay,” Neville’s arm was around my shoulders, and his warmth and his tone and the way he was trying to push my hair back to see my face was too much, and I couldn’t breathe, and my eyes stung with tears.
“Hannah, you’re with me now,” Neville’s voice was panicky, thick. “You’re okay, it’s okay.”
“It’s not okay,” I gasped, and my own voice sounded odd. He held me against him, and for a second the heat was overwhelming, but all I could do was fall against him. “They killed her, Neville. The Carrows killed my mother.”