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Chapter 17: Chapter Seventeen
“Are you okay?” James asked me, holding my hand as we trudged through the snow. Why did Valentine’s day have to be in freaking February? I mean, come on! Do you know how long it took me to find a cute outfit for toady? Don’t worry, though, my roommate is Dominique Weasley, I pulled it together.
I actually looked really cute, if I do say so myself. I was wearing a pair of moccasin boots (brown), a pair of dark blue jeans, a long sleeve shirt (white), a really warm coat (black), gloves (gray) and a knit hat, (white). James says I look beautiful in everything, but he has to say that, he’s my fiancé.
“I’m fine.” I smiled.
He sighed, stopping. “Aspen, please don’t lie to me. You keep saying you’re fine. I’m not dumb enough to buy that. You’re going through cancer treatment, you are allowed to not feel okay, to not feel fine. It’s okay to be afraid.”
I bit my lower lip, “I don’t want to be afraid though. I want to be strong.” My voice broke. “I heard your conversation with Victorie last week, I know my chances. And quite frankly, I’m starting to forget what I’m fighting for.”
“Aspen, please don’t talk like that.”
“That’s not what I meant. I mean, I know what I’m fighting for. I’m fighting for life and to be able to live with you. I just wish it was simple, that I didn’t have to fight for what other people get naturally.”
“I wish you didn’t either. But we’re James and Aspen. We are getting married in two months. Everything is going to be okay, it has the be.”
I sighed, “James, you can’t control whether or not I die.”
“You are not going to die. I’m sure of it.”
“How? How can you possibly be sure that I’m not going to die from something that has a damn good shot of killing me?”
His eyes twinkled, “Call it a feeling.” He winked. Okay, what? What the bloody hell was that supposed to mean? Half of the things he says don’t make sense to me anymore.
James grabbed my hand, and we counited our way towards the village of Hogsmede. It was Saturday, the fourteenth of February. Valentine’s day. James had planned something secret, it no matter what I did, refused to tell me.
“Okay, I cannot see anything and it’s freaking me out.”
“That’s the point of a blindfold, A.” That’s right folks, my own bloody boyfriend had blindfolded me and was now guiding me through what felt like a minefield. I swear, if I didn’t love this boy, I would kill him.
“I don’t like this.” I mumbled.
“So you’ve said.”
“Never.” I could practically see him grinning, “Oh, watch your step here.”
“I can’t bloody watch my step! I can’t fucking see!” I snapped.
“No need to get violent, A.” I almost hit him right there and then.
A few minutes later, James tugged off my blindfold. “Oh merlin.” I looked at the room in front of me. It was the shrieking shack. Now, before you all freak out and go ‘ew, he brought you there! But James is supposed to be all romantic and shit!’ it was really romantic.
It was simple, in the best way. A red and white picnic blanket had been spread in the middle of the room. In the center of the blanket, there was an old-fashioned picnic basket, like the stereo typical ones you see in movies? The basket was open, and I could already see two butter beers and grilled cheese sandwiches sticking out. I grinned, this boy knows me two well.
I turned around and kissed James, soft and slowly. For us, it didn’t have to be rough to be passionate, because that’s what loves is to me. Kissing someone you’ve kissed a thousand times before, and stilling feeling those butterflies in your stomach, and loving every second of it.
“I love you so bloody much, James Potter.”
He grinned, “I love you too, Aspen Powells.”
“I can’t wait until you can say Aspen Potter.”
“Hm, Aspen Potter, it has a nice ring to it.”
“Good, because soon we’ll both be hearing a lot more of it.”
“I can’t wait.” We both sat down on the blanket, James unloaded the basket. Besides butter beer and grilled cheese sandwiches, there was also some candy and chocolate covered strawberries. Merlin, I love that boy.
James fed me a strawberry and I grinned. We didn’t need big extravagant gestures, we could just have a simple picnic in a creepy old abandoned house. I know a lot of guys that would try something much bigger, or-merlin forbid-bring me to a fancy restaurant or that pink mess of a cafe in the village. And frankly, I loved that James knew me well enough to know exactly what I wanted.
“Do you want your Valentine’s Day present now, or later? I grinned and raised an eyebrow. He laughed, “I’ll take that as a now.” I nodded. James pulled out a black velvet box, and opened it with a click. I gasped.
Within the box was the most gorgeous necklace I had ever seen. It was a golden chain with a jade pendant in the shape of a teardrop. He undid the clasp and put the necklace on me slowly. “James, you are too much sometimes.”
“I know, but I can’t help it. I’m just so bloody in love with you.” I smiled. He was just perfect.
“Are you excited for your birthday party tonight?” James’s birthday was February 3rd, but since Louis and Dom’s birthday was the 17th and they had all wanted a joint birthday party, we were doing it tonight.
“I’m kind of afraid that you’ll do something to mess it up. I mean, it is you, Ally, Freddie, Danny and Bradley throwing a party.”
“Shut up.” I shoved him playfully.
We had been in the shrieking shack for nearly two hours and we were almost ready to leave when we heard a scream. I froze, this couldn’t be happening. Not again. Please, Merlin, don’t let this happen again.
I looked to James, he nodded and we both started running as fast as we possibly could. My heart was beating so fast I thought it was going to burst out of my chest and land in the snow in front of me.
Yet, James and I weren’t running towards the village, like any sane person would. No, instead we were running straight into the heart of the forbidden forest, where the scream was coming from.
We ran for what seemed like a second, or eternity. I couldn’t decided which one it felt like, even though they were polar opposites. It felt like both in that moment, or moments, depending on how you look at it.
It was clearing, like all the others had been in when they met their end. Four people were the middle of it, surrounded by fire. I didn’t know any of them that well, but I recognized all of them. Four people were trapped inside the forcefield, about to be burned alive. People I had known for years.
The first was a Gryffindor sixth year, Diana Rutger. I remember when she was sorted, back when I was only a second year. She was a hat stall, seven minutes the sorting hat took. Yet, eventually, she was sorted into Gryffindor. She was so young then, and now I was watching her die. When she was only sixteen years old.
The second was a Hufflepuff that I had a lot of classes with, Carlos Hark. He had just turned eighteen on the first. He was nice, one of the people that didn’t pressure me to talk about my cancer when I got back, just talked to me about regular stuff when we sat near each other in class.
Bryan Vincent was the third victim. He wasn’t in my year, only a sixth year. I never really talked to him, I saw him a lot in the library, nose always in a book. A true Ravenclaw. Sometimes, I even heard Rose complain about him almost beating her on a test.
Finally, I saw Catherine Goldstein. Like Bryan, she was a Ravenclaw. I didn’t know that much about her, she was just another Ravenclaw to me. I think that’s what was so terrible about it, I was seeing her death and I didn’t know anything about her other than her name and her house after being her classmate for seven years. It was horrible.
I wanted to scream, to yell, to cry. So many feelings were running through my head, so many thoughts. My heart pounding so hard it hurt. I was watching my class mates, people I had known for years, die in front of my very eyes.
I didn’t even know what the feel. It was a huge blur, all I can remember is hearing them screaming. I don’t think I’ll ever forget those screams. They were just teenagers, yet so was I. They looked at us, their eyes so hopeful, they believed that James and I could save them. But we couldn’t, I wish we could. Oh, how I wish we could have saved them.
Yet, all we could do was watch. Watch as they burned to death, slowly and painfully and full of sadness. I charged towards the forcefield, beating my fists against it, why wouldn’t it let me in? All I wanted to do is save them. Was that too much to ask? They screamed for us, yelling our names, over and over again. Followed by two words. Two words I don’t think I will ever forget, “Save us.” It was horrific.
I tried screaming, but no sound came out of my mouth. I don’t know what I would say, if I could speak. I didn’t want to tell them that I couldn’t save them. Somehow, I felt like they already knew that. They just didn’t want to give up hope. None of us do, in the end.
Their bodies were engulfed in bright dancing orange and red and blue flames. Smoke rose from the clearing, when we could no longer hear their screams, James pulled me back from the forcefield.
“What do we do now?” I asked, my voice breaking, “Who do we tell?” Tears were rolling down my burning cheeks. I couldn’t handle this. I had handled so much shit this year, and damn it, I took it! But this? This, was just to much. I could deal with the extreme possibility of me dying. But watching other people die, I finally knew what it was like on the other side. When Tuesday and Jamie and Sam died, I didn’t think anything like that was ever going to happen again, not to me, not to Hogwarts. Yet, here it was again. Threatening nearly every student in the school.
“I think we should go and tell Neville.” James said in a quiet voice. I could tell he was just as scared and shocked as I was. That could have been us. We were barley a hundred meters away. I nodded slowly.
We began to leave when I heard a voice. I turned around and saw only smoke. Yet, the voice seemed to be coming from the smoke. “Two from Hufflepuff have fallen at my flames. Two from Ravenclaw have fallen at my flames. Two from Slytherin have fallen at my flames. One from Gryffindor has fallen at my flames. One more to kill, and then I shall sleep again, for another millennium.” The smoke had moved right over us, like something alive. But it couldn’t be alive, it was just smoke! Yet, it was talking.
James grabbed my hand and we scrambled to our feet, and took off running. “EVERYONE! ALL HOGWARTS STUDENTS, GO UP TO THE CASTLE!” I screamed. They stared at me, “NOW!” I yelled, and, surprisingly, they all began to rush towards the path to the castle.
“Aspen?” I turned to see none other than Professor Longbottom looking at me oddly. Huh, well that’s convenient. “What are you doing?”
“That thing, the thing that killed Jamie and Sam and Tuesday. It’s back. It killed four more students.” My whole body was shaking violently, I could barley stand up.
“Who?” He asked, “Who was killed?” I could tell that his main concern was Ally and Frankie. Of course it was, he was their dad. I knew if it was any student of Hogwarts versus the two of them, Professor Longbottom would rather have Ally and Frankie survive. It was human nature.
“Catherine Goldstein, Bryan Vincent, Diana Rutger and Carlos Hark.” The second I finished the statement, Professor Longbottom took hold of our hands and the feeling of going through a very small tube came rushing. When I opened my eyes-I hadn’t even realized I had closed them-we were in the headmaster’s office. We had apparated. I knew that no one could apparate inside of Hogwarts.
“How did we just apparate?” I questioned.
“Being headmaster has it’s perks.” He said simply. “Now, the next few days, they are going to be hard. The two of you will be questioned relentlessly. The families of the students that died will most likely want to talk to you. Reporters will want statements from you. Finally, and I’m sure they won’t find anything but it is necessary, aurors will question you. Because, after all, you are the only two that witnessed their death. So, too many people, it might seem as if you murdered them.”
“Are you saying that we are suspects?” I asked, shocked.
“I’m sorry, the two of you were the only ones there when those students died. You have to admit that is suspicious.” James and I nodded. I just couldn’t believe that someone would think I could possibly be a murder! I didn’t exactly look the part, just five feet and one inch tall, people mistook me for a bloody second year sometimes!
“Now, I must write their families and tell them what has happened.” Professor Longbottom sighed. “Please tell the head boy and girl what happened, they should alert the heads of houses and tell them that all students should go to the great hall immediately. Can you do that?”
“Okay, and please don’t tell anyone else what happened. These students were friends with so many here, their siblings may be in the castle right now. Certain people need to deliver the news to them.” We nodded, and left the room.
“Do you want to tell Ally, and I’ll tell Joey?” I asked.
James shrugged, “Sure. I’ll meet you in the great hall, stay safe.”
“You too.” I gave him a quick peck on the cheek before setting off towards Ravenclaw tower. People who had seen me screaming in Hogsmede were looking at me like I was bloody insane. Come on people, we have covered this. Merlin, look at me, I’m joking when four people just died. People I’ve known for years. So what if I wasn’t close to them, doesn’t mean I don’t care. Death effects everyone. My mum always said I used humor as a defense against my feelings. I’m still not sure if I believe her.
The walk to Ravenclaw tower takes forever. I mean, I know that they are birds, but it doesn’t mean that their common room had to be freaking above the clouds. Okay, so maybe I’m being dramatic, but you haven’t walk up all those stairs! I know people from other houses aren’t supposed to know where the other common rooms are, but I only knew from back when I dated Zander.
I finally reached the golden knocker plastered to the huge door. It moved a little, sensing my presence. Merlin, this thing gives me the creeps. It’s one of the things that is hard to get used to in the wizarding world after growing up a muggle. “I am one color, but not one size. I am stuck at the bottom, yet I easily fly. I am present in the sun, but not in the rain. I do no harm and feel no pain. What am I?”
“Um...a shadow?” With a creek, the door slowly opened. I can’t believe I got that right. I always thought the one house I would never be in would be Ravenclaw. I can be really nice, and I can be really sneaky, so I could fit into Hufflepuff or Slytherin. But Ravenclaw? I was hardly top of my class, I wasn’t stupid, I actually had started studying hard, but certain subjects didn’t come naturally to me. Not to brag, but I’m a boss at Transfiguration, Potions not so much.
“Aspen Powells?” Lorcan Scamander tilted his head to one side, “What are you doing here in Ravenclaw tower?”
“I need to talk to Joey Corner, it’s urgent.”
“Oh, well I can get him for you. Would you like me too?”
“Yes, thanks Lorcan.” He nodded and left.
I looked around, it had barley changed since I was last in here, in third year. It was pretty magical in here. The Ravenclaw common room was two stories, the first had basically what all the other common rooms had. Couches, a huge grand fireplace, a huge glass sculpture of a raven flying around the room and a white marble bust of Rowena Ravenclaw. The raven was proabaly my favorite part of the room. There was also a large white piano in one corner, with various other instruments surrounding it. All the walls were made up of bookshelves, massive dark wooden ones, real proper ones. The doors to the dorms were through bookshelves.
Then, the second floor of the common room was basically a study area. It looked like a section of the library, filled with hundreds of books. Yet, unlike the ones in a lot of the other common rooms and in the library, these had been read so many times they were practically falling apart.
“Aspen?” I turned to see Joey.
That’s when I realized what I was here for. “I need to tell you something, and I need you to remain calm when I tell you. I need you to not tell anyone, and I need you to tell the heads of houses. James is already telling Ally.”
“Aspen, you’re scarring me. Please just tell me.”
I ran my fingers through my hair. Damn James had gotten me into the habit, after seeing him do it all the time. “Four people were killed in the forest about half an hour ago.”
“By who?” He questioned, “And who was killed?”
“Don’t worry, Gianna is fine.” I told him, remembering his sister. “Do you remember that, fire thing that killed Jamie Flint, Sam Holden and Tuesday Soltero?” He nodded, how could anyone on that camping trip forget? “It’s back. It killed Catherine Goldstein, Carlos Hark, Bryan Vincent and Diana Rutger.”
Tears began forming in his eyes. I knew that Catherine and Bryan were in this house. Ravenclaw house I mean. I was pretty torn up about Diana, and I barley knew her. She was just another face in the common room. But I wouldn’t remember that face in the common room, I would remember the face that was half burned and tears rolling down the cheeks and the mouth open, screaming for help, and the life disappearing from her blue eyes.
It’s like when you’re in history class, and you are learning about some war, and you hear the number of deaths. For so many wars, it doesn’t seem like a big number when you just look at it. But then you think about each person, not their life but the people behind them, and what they did or what they could have done. That’s when numbers stopped being just numbers. They began being lives and people and stories. They began being real.
“Will you come with me? To tell the heads of houses, will you come with me?”
I nodded, “Of course. Do you want to tell Flitwick first?”
“Yeah, I think that would be best. His office is just over there.” Together, we walked to the office, he knocked three times on the door.
“Come in!” A small, squeaky voice called. Joey held the door open for me. “Ah, Mr. Corner and Miss Powells. Not to be rude of course, but I can’t help but wonder what you are doing her in Ravenclaw tower.”
“The headmaster has asked me to deliver a message.” I told him, my voice shaking slightly.
Professor Flitwick smiled brightly, “Well, what is this message?”
“Four students have been killed in Hogsmede. Catherine Goldstein, Carlos Hark, Diana Rutger and Bryan Vincent. Professor Longbottom wants all students to go to the great hall, now.”
He blinked a few times, “I see. Please go tell the other heads of houses, I will see you both in the great hall. Stay safe.” With that, he ran out of the office. Joey and I then trudged down about a million steps, running into James and Ally on the fourth floor.
“Who have you told?” I asked them.
“Just Professor McGongall.” Ally told me, “I, I couldn’t believe it when James told me, Aspen. How could this happen?”
“I really don’t know Ally. But we have to tell the other professors. How about you tell Professor Slughorn and we’ll tell Professor Mary-Banks.” She was the professor of astronomy now.
“How are we supposed to get into their common rooms?” James asked.
“Slughorn’s office isn’t off of the Slytherin common room, so you won’t have any problems with that. Besides, head girl and head boy know all the passwords.”
“See you later.” We parted our separate ways. Joey and I told Professor Mary-Banks what had happened, so she was rounding up all the Hufflepuffs. I watched as little first years went through the door. I felt so sorry for them, their first year at Hogwarts wouldn’t be as amazing and wonderful as they might have hopped. All because of this...thing.
About half an hour later I sat on James’s lap in the great hall. The tables had all been pushed against the walls and there was sleeping bags spread throughout the room. Each house had a different color and they were only allowed to sleep in certain places. Like the boys couldn’t sleep near the girls. For obvious reasons.
Professor Longbottom stood center, there was no chatter even though he wasn’t speaking. I think everyone could sense there was something wrong. We hadn’t gathered in the great hall in the middle of a Saturday for nothing. Professor Longbottom had told me they had already told the siblings of those who had died and their closest friends, but right here right now was the first time so many were going to hear the news.
“Students of Hogwarts, I am sure you are all wondering why we are gathered here today. Something horrible as happened, something we cannot explain how ever much we try. As you may recall, three seventh year students were killed earlier this year.
“I am afraid whatever killed them has struck again. Four students were killed several hours ago in the forest close to Hogsmede. Two seventh years and two sixth years. Catherine Goldstein, Carlos Hark, Diana Rutger and Bryan Vincent.
“This is a grave time for the school and for it’s students. So many of us were friends with these students, we saw them every day, we were partners with them on an assignment. Seeing them go is very painful for all of us I am sure.
“Yet we will not let their memory be forgotten, they
were beautiful and bright students. It is regretted that they had to die so young when they had so much to offer. I beg of you all to band together in this rough time, and hopefully we can come out of this stronger.
“All students will spend the next few nights sleeping in here. No one is permitted outside the castle walls, the grounds shall be empty. Care of magical creatures lessons are postponed. Anyone caught outside the castle walls will be punished severely. Am I understood?” People nodded and whispered yes. “I am so sorry for the loss that everyone must go through tonight.” With that, he stepped down.
Hey guys! Quick update, yay! I hope you all liked the chapter, I went crazy working on it! I’m not going to a question thing this time, just because I want to know all of your thoughts on this chapter. That and it’s four am and I’m tired. I hope you will leave a review! See you next time!