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A/N: This story is part 3 of a series. If you haven’t read the first 2 you’re going to be awfully confused. So go ahead and read them, they’re not horrible long. If you’ve already done that, continue on and leave a review to let me know what you think of the beginning of part 3 of the Jade Lestrange series.
On paper Sirius Black and I probably seemed very similar. We were both from old pureblood families who had generations of Slytherins. We were both sorted into Gryffindor, both disowned, both judged on our last names. We were unjustly treated because of situation that nearly everyone didn’t have the true facts about. I will admit twelve years in Azkaban for murder is much worse than being expelled from three schools. Still, there were so many similarities. We were related too, and not like fourth cousin’s aunt twice removed. My mother and Sirius Black were first cousins. We even shared a few physical features. We should have gotten along, right? Too bad Black was an obnoxious, arrogant, hypocritical git with a holier-than-thou personality. Yeah, twelve years in Azkaban for a crime he didn’t commit was brutal, but if he didn’t shut up I was going to punch him in the face.
You’re probably wondering how I ended up with Black. That was one of Dumbledore’s brilliant ideas and to my great disgust, Snape had agreed. I couldn’t possibly spend two months in Bulgaria, what if something happened? What if I had another episode? I’d spent all of ten hours at the Bulgarian Ministry only to be sent back to England and given a room at Number 12 Grimmauld Place or as I liked to think of it, The Most Soul Crushing Bachelor Pad in all of England, Possibly Europe. (It’s a bit of a long name.) My roommates – Sirius Black, Azkaban escapee and currently most wanted criminal in England. Kreacher, a batty old house elf who had a disturbing obsession with me because I looked like my mother, who he was apparently in love with. Lastly, Remus Lupin because there had to be someone to stop the rest of us from strangling each other. Unfortunately the full moon was in a week and Lupin would be gone for several days. Even with the Wolfsbane he didn’t want to risk transforming in the house…prison…whichever you preferred to call it.
Lupin, Black, and I were cleaning up Grimmauld Place, which was actually the Black family home, for the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore’s squad of mostly Gryffindor justice fighters. And by ‘justice fighters’ I mean people who met in secret every few days to talk about whatever it was they were doing. I didn’t care what the Order was up to, only two parts concerned me. Was the Dark Lord planning on freeing Azkaban soon and did anyone mention anything about me? Snape would tell me anyways so I didn’t need to spy on Order meetings.
Most of my time was spent in the room that had been set up for me. And when I wasn’t there I was probably cleaning. Grimmauld Place had been deserted for years, besides Kreacher, and it was filthy. Black, Lupin, and I had formed our own routine where Black and I spent hardly any time in the same room. He and Lupin would remove cursed items, junk, or pretty much anything non essential from a room then I would wash, dust, and tidy up the rest of the room once they had moved on to the next room. Considering the awkward, tense and just plain frustrating time we had when the three of us cleaned the kitchen together, this routine was far more ideal. In fact we’d already cleaned four bedrooms and a bathroom. Not bad for a weeks worth of work, especially when Kreacher was fond of nicking items and trying to put them back.
Suddenly there was a knock on my bedroom door. I’d already eaten, so it wasn’t Lupin telling me dinner was ready. “Go away, I’m using the loo,” I called out in a bored voice, not even bothering to move from my laying position on the bed. The door opened anyways and Snape stepped in.
“If you’re going to lie at least make it believable.”
“You’d look mighty foolish if I’d convinced Kreacher to install a bathroom in here,” I replied as Snape closed the door.
“You believe he would do that for you?” Snape asked doubtfully.
“I have to lock the bedroom door every night so he doesn’t try and snuggle with me at two in the morning. Scared the hell out of me the first night.”
“How are you?”
“Alive and conscious so I suppose I can’t complain.”
Snape frowned and pulled out the chair from the desk. Before sitting down he grabbed the black note book I’d left on the desk. It was my journal that Snape would read every few days. He flipped through a few pages before speaking again.
“I can’t help but feel you are holding back,” he cautiously stated.
“I didn’t think you needed two hours of witty internal commentary as I scrubbed the bathtub.”
Snape didn’t look pleased. “You are allowed to show emotion.” Not this again.
“I wrote down a few zingers about Black, couple about Moody too, purely for your benefit,” I responded, ignoring what he’d said.
“Would you prefer I listened to sad music and cried myself to sleep every night?” I asked sarcastically.
“I would prefer if you didn’t bottle everything up –”
“I’m not. Scrubbing walls and floors is very therapeutic.”
“I think I would find it more reassuring if you were acting as if you had a chip on your shoulder,” he said wearily.
“I have full functioning limbs, I’m confident that I’m in control of my own mind, I have a place to spend two months and a few pork chops in my stomach. I don’t have a reason to have a chip on my shoulder.”
“I believed once you were removed from Hogwarts you would deal with things, I can see now that is not the case.”
“I don’t have anything to deal with unless you’re about to tell me Azkaban will have a mass breakout.” Snape let out a frustrated sigh before leaving, taking my journal with him.
I knew what he thought I had to deal with – Fred Weasley. I hadn’t spoken to him since the day of the third task. I’m not even sure how I managed to avoid him for the last few days of term. Sleeping in a classroom for one night probably helped. After that Viktor found me and he offered me a bed on the Durmstrang ship. I didn’t step foot in the Great Hall and I went the longest possible way to class, avoiding everyone but the students I had lessons with. I skipped the Farewell Feast as well, leaving Hogwarts with Obolensky hours before the Hogwarts Express left Hogsmeade. And I most certainly hadn’t gone to Gryffindor tower. I asked Dobby to bring me my trunk instead of getting it for myself. Cowardly? Probably. Effective? Definitely.
I wouldn’t be able to avoid Fred next year though. A little less than seven weeks and I would see him again. What would happen then? He’d likely accuse me of being dishonest to him, which was incorrect. I hadn’t lied to him, didn’t I tell him upfront that I had secrets? Secrets that I could never share? All that had changed was him learning one of those secrets. Nothing about me had changed. I had no reason to ‘deal with things’ like Snape said. Unfortunately no matter how many times I told myself this, I couldn’t stop feeling guilty.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Nothing I say is going to change Dumbledore’s mind.”
“React then,” Snape said, irritated.
“Dumbledore’s allowed to do what he wants.” Snape let out an annoyed growl and ripped the book I was reading from my hands, throwing it against the wall. “I was reading that.”
“Do something,” he commanded.
“I don’t know what you want me to do.”
“Throw something! Go down and punch Dumbledore! Scream! Start cursing at everything! Challenge me to a duel! Just do something that shows me you’re still listening!”
“That isn’t going to change anything.”
“I have seen you enraged, fueled by anger, hell-bent on destroying anything and everything around you. And I’ve seen you at your very worst, so lost and trapped in despair that you didn’t even want to live anymore. But I have never seen you like this. This isn’t you.”
“What do you want me to say? That for the first time since I was eight, I was happy? That I had something to look forward to each morning? That I found a reason to like being around people again and I finally thought this was reason enough to face every person who looked down on me? That for a few months I actually believed I didn’t have to spend the rest of my life alone? Is that what you want to hear?” I asked bitterly.
“It’s not over. Twice already you’ve been convinced it’s over and both times you were wrong. Stop giving up so easily!”
As much as I wanted to believe Snape, I didn’t see how Fred Weasley was going to accept this. I was connected to my father, a Death Eater. I could look into his mind and if I wasn’t careful I could even be trapped inside of it. I could be gradually influenced by every Death Eater out there and I always had to worry about latching onto them. Fred would have to be insane to accept it. There was something else though, something I couldn’t get over.
“I don’t want him to be like Draco. I can’t go through that again, I won’t make it,” I muttered, staring down at the floor.
“Draco?! Draco who watches you everyday?! Draco who’s been trying since third year to get you to notice him?! Draco who bites his tongue every time he sees someone insult you?! Draco who even after this many years still sends you a chocolate frog every single birthday and who you do the same for every June?! Open your eyes and look around! You never lost Draco. You just won’t take the risk. You’re too afraid of being hurt that you’ll never take a chance at being happy. You’re a coward.”
“You don’t understand,” I said furiously. “It’s not as simple as that.”
“I want you to ask yourself this, can you live with yourself knowing that you didn’t do every single thing possible to get what you want? Or will you wake up every day regretting it?”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I was ridiculously torn. There was no way around it now. Ignoring it until September first would have been fine but Dumbledore, who I was beginning to think did everything he could to aggravate me, had asked the Weasley family to come and stay at Grimmauld Place. Maybe he thought it would stop me and Black from cursing each other while Lupin was away. I guess whatever Dumbledore’s reasoning was, it didn’t matter anymore, I would be facing Fred very soon no matter what. It had been two days since Snape told me and I was no more prepared now than I’d been that night.
Part of me felt like I didn’t need to give Fred any explanation, he could accept what he learned or not. The other part felt like I had to explain. The problem with that was I would have to give him some back story to help put it in context so he would understand why. I also couldn’t stop myself from thinking that maybe, just maybe Fred was safer without me. Of course this was absolutely stupid to think, even Snape would say that. The Weasleys were known Dumbledore and Potter supporters, they’d be in danger no matter what. Snape had been right about me being a coward, I was terrified that Fred wouldn’t care no matter what I told him, he’d be done with me either way.
I shouldn’t even be worrying about this. The Dark Lord was back, the Ministry refused to accept it, there was likely a war coming and any day the Death Eaters in Azkaban could be freed. Not to mention I was still trying to sort out the whole chess game and talk with Snape from last June. Yet here I was worrying about whether or not Fred Weasley was still going to like me. I was pathetic.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Tonight the Weasleys along with Hermione were arriving. Hermione was bright, resourceful, and persistent to the point of being annoying. I knew she’d ask a dozen different questions and after Snape had explained away my behavior during the third task, I wasn’t about to risk saying something that would make her suspicious again. My usual defense against pestering questions was sarcasm or just outright rudeness. I couldn’t risk that with Fred though or it would definitely lead to a fight.
There was a knock on my door and I let out a sigh before letting down my mental barrier to Snape and telling him he could come in. It was kind of sad that I was already able to tell the difference between Snape’s and Lupin’s knocking since they were the only two to ever seek me out.
Snape entered the room, placing the usual spells on the door and walls before speaking. “How are you?”
“Worried.” I would have liked to add a sarcastic ‘isn’t that what you wanted?’ or ‘happy now?’ but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Snape stepped over to the small table that was set up in the corner. He examined the Wolfsbane potion I’d been tasked with making for Lupin. “This looks well done for your first batch,” he said, giving me a rare compliment.
“Are you really here to grade my potion making skills?” I asked in a bored voice.
“No, I suppose not.”
“Would you like me to stay for dinner?” I looked up at him skeptically.
“You hate Black.”
“Yes well, he makes it very easy to. I am still offering to stay if you would like.”
I watched him closely, surprised by his offer. Did he want to stay? Probably not. Did I want him to stay? Hmm. “You hate the Weasleys,” I pointed out.
“I don’t hate them. Strongly dislike perhaps.”
I let out a cynical laugh. “The only one you could probably stand was Percy.”
“Actually I found him rather snobbish and nosy. It was quite off putting. And it may be wise not to bring him up around the Weasley parents.”
“Apparently they’ve had a falling out. The young Weasley was offered a position in Fudge’s office and did not appreciate his father pointing out that Fudge was just looking for a spy. And then young and seemingly blind to reality Weasley declared his allegiance to the Ministry.”
“Huh,” I responded while wondering how many other Ministry employees would support Fudge and who would believe Dumbledore. There was one person in particular that came to mind.
“You still have not answered my original question,” Snape said, interrupting my thoughts.
“No. I can handle it,” I replied even though I wasn’t entirely sure that I could. “You’re a bit of a threatening presence.”
“The Weasley twins have never found me threatening despite my numerous attempts throughout the years,” Snape said after scoffing.
“I’ll be fine,” I assured him. A sudden idea popped into my head. “Would you do something else for me?” I asked before he left.
“What do you need?”
“I want you to suggest someone for Dumbledore to recruit for the Order.”
I could easily see that Snape hadn’t expected to hear that. It was a minute before he asked “Who?”
I think Snape was trying to decide if I was being serious. “Is there a particular reason you are suggesting him?” he finally asked.
“I’ve got a good hunch?”
“Not that I’m insulting your choice, however may I ask the motivation behind this?”
“Isn’t being a competent senior Auror reason enough?” Snape was holding back, I was certain of it. “Why don’t you just come out and say whatever you’re thinking?”
“You’re not telling me something.”
“I don’t tell you a lot of things yet you have an annoying habit of figuring most of it out.”
“No, you’re getting better at keeping things from me. I’ve let it slide believing it was just the usual things involved with growing up. I’m becoming more and more convinced that is not the case.”
“You should trust me to keep you informed about the important information.”
“Just because you do not see something as important does not mean it is not. That was the entire purpose of your journal.”
“I’m writing down everything relevant. Internal debates about Fred and me reviewing older memories aren’t necessary for you to read.”
“If some of these older memories are from Death –”
“You can’t be certain about that.”
“I am absolutely, one hundred percent without a doubt certain they are not.”
The sound of people coming up the stairs interrupted our conversation. The Weasleys had arrived and were most likely storing their trunks in their designated rooms before heading to the kitchen for dinner. Snape glanced at the door before turning his focus back to me.
“Trust me.” It felt a bit cheap using the trust card but I couldn’t think of a satisfactory answer for Snape. “I am telling you everything I need to. If I need to tell you more I will. I know you don’t think I’m dealing with everything but I promise I am. Even if it’s a bit slow.”
“Dumbledore is going to question why I brought up Shacklebolt.”
“Tell him I suggested it.”
“He’ll question why you brought it up.”
“Good. I could use a good ol’ vague Dumbledore chat.”
“You’re playing a risky game,” Snape warned.
“Yes, I’m the one risking my life everyday by pretending to be loyal to a psychopath so I can gather vital and life saving information,” I said sarcastically.
“You have an annoying habit of turning obnoxious,” Snape responded, glaring at me. “Please don’t do anything stupid,” he added as an after thought.
“Do I ever?” Instead of answering he just rolled his eyes and headed for the door. “Oi!” I exclaimed, following him.
I needed to stay calm. That was the best way to get this over with. Unfortunately I tended to have issues controlling myself, particularly when angry. I couldn’t risk that this summer or most especially tonight. I could bottle it up tonight if I needed to, probably not the best solution but I wasn’t going to let the extremes take over and risk some sort of nervous breakdown. Tomorrow I would go back to a healthy balance, even if that meant I had to ferociously scrub a few walls to release some pent up anger.
As Snape and I walked down the stairs I could hear Mrs. Weasley and Lupin talking on one of the floors. It sounded like they were sorting out which rooms people should take. I was busy mentally prepping myself for the dinner conversation. It would be better to get all those awkward/personal questions over with tonight and be done with it. Snape, who was in front, stepped onto the landing as someone came around the corner, nearly running into him.
“Professor!” Ginny Weasley gasped, eyes wide from shock.
“Weasley,” Snape greeted in an irritated tone.
“Play nice,” I muttered in Latin, the only language except for English that Snape knew. He turned around to give me a revolted look, allowing Ginny to see me there.
“Jade? I–I didn’t know you were here,” she said surprised.
Snape looked like he was about to give Ginny a scathing remark but I sent a quick mental message. ‘Don’t. I want it over with tonight.’ Snape gave me an annoyed look in return. ‘Things will go smoother this way.’
“Ginny? Did you ask –?” Hermione came around the corner, stopping as soon as she spotted Snape and me. “Oh, er…”
“Severus?” The four of us looked down the next flight of stairs to find Dumbledore staring up at us. To my, and probably Snape’s, great displeasure, Moody was behind him. “I did not realize you were still here. Is everything going well?” he asked curiously. ‘Everything going well?’ was Dumbledore’s way of asking if I was still sane and not about to fly into a psychotic rage. Dumbledore, always the epitome of politeness.
“Yes,” Snape answered, glancing back at me for a moment. “There was something I wished to speak to you about…privately.” Probably Shacklebolt.
Dumbledore nodded before speaking. “I will be returning to Hogwarts shortly, we may speak there unless you would like to stay for dinner.”
“No,” I answered instantly before Snape had even opened his mouth. Everyone turned to look at me. Snape looked like he was strongly resisting the urge to roll his eyes and I’m sure his thoughts could have been summed up as ‘way to play it cool.’ Well more precisely he was probably thinking along the lines of ‘seriously?’ or ‘you’re an idiot.’ It wasn’t that I didn’t want Snape to stay but like I’d already pointed out, things would go smoother if he wasn’t here.
“Not necessary, Headmaster, I will wait for you in your office.” Snape swept down the stairs and out the door Dumbledore had opened for him.
Moody gave a last look around with his magical eye before heading to the door as well. “I need to relieve Jones,” he muttered to Dumbledore as he left.
“Is everyone settled in alright?” Mrs. Weasley asked, coming down the stairs. She stopped when she saw me, looking surprised. I began to wonder just who actually knew I was staying here.
“Why are we all –?” George stopped talking, seeing me too. I looked up at Fred who was standing beside his twin. Fred was wearing a neutral facial expression and refusing to look me in the eye.
“Perhaps we should all convene in the kitchen,” Dumbledore suggested.
I walked down the final flight of stairs and past Dumbledore, going straight for the kitchen. Black was the only one here and he looked up when I entered only to look away with a slight scowl on his face when he saw it was me. I purposely took the seat farthest from him, something I always did.
Seconds later the Weasleys and others started pouring in. First Ginny and Bill, then Mr. and Mrs. Weasley followed by the twins. Ron entered with Hermione as Lupin and Dumbledore brought up the rear. I was surprised that no one said anything about Black, also mildly insulted. Escaped murderer? Yeah sure no problem, let’s have a seat. Me? Let’s all stop and gawk.
“I imagine you’re all hungry,” Lupin said in an attempt to break the tension. “We’ll start on something to eat then, shall we?” Lupin and Mrs. Weasley, along with some help from Bill started preparing a stew as the other Weasleys and Hermione sat down. No one sat within two seats of me. After everyone was settled down Dumbledore spoke.
“I’m sure you’re all wondering why you will be staying here for the remainder of the summer. This has become the Headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix, an organization created to fight against Voldemort. Because of the Ministry’s stance we are a secret organization. I’m sure you’ll all keep this information to yourselves. As you can see, Miss Lestrange is also spending the summer here. It is vital that no one finds out she is here. There are a few other things you should keep in mind. It would seem suspicious should too many owls be seen flying around this area, so please keep your correspondence to a minimum. There is also the risk of owls being intercepted. That is why I am asking especially Miss Granger and you, Ronald, to not say anything about the Order or Headquarters to Harry.” Hermione and Ron looked up, surprised by this.
“When’s Harry coming?” Hermione asked quickly. “I mean, he will eventually, right?”
“There are no current plans for that.” Hermione opened her mouth but Dumbledore cut her off. “Should that change, you will be informed. I should return to Hogwarts, Severus is waiting for me.”
Lupin and Black showed Dumbledore out, returning less than a minute later. Besides Lupin showing Mrs. Weasley where everything was and Mrs. Weasley directing people to help set out the cutlery and plates, no one spoke. It was definitely not one of those comfortable silences either. It was easy to see the Weasley children and Hermione had questions, they were just to shy too ask.
We were all sitting around the table eating the stew Mrs. Weasley made when Hermione wasn’t able to contain her curiosity anymore. “Why is Dumbledore using this house for Order Headquarters?” Everyone looked up at her and she flushed from all of the attention. “I mean, there’s…well it seems like some horrible wizards lived here,” she muttered.
I unsuccessfully tried to cover a laugh thinking that yeah, Sirius Black was pretty horrible. Everyone’s focus shifted over to me now, especially Black who was glaring at me knowing why I found Hermione’s statement so amusing.
“She’s very observant,” I said, still smirking. The others looked confused but Lupin was frowning, much like he normally did.
“Rather rich coming fr –” Black started.
“Sirius,” Lupin warned. Black did not look pleased but closed his mouth. “This is the old Black family home,” Lupin informed them. “Since Sirius is the last one, he’s allowing Dumbledore to use it.”
“You used to live here?” Ron asked, sounding shocked.
“Yes,” Black answered. “My parents were proper pure bloods, that’s why there’s all of the…dark objects. No one’s lived here for over ten years since my mother died, so it’s been difficult trying to clean things up. It’s the best place for Headquarters though, my father placed all sorts of spells and enchantments on the house and with Dumbledore’s added protection it’s probably one of the safest places in all of England.”
“As long as you don’t get killed by something inside the house,” I added in an undertone.
“Funny, I was thinking the exact same thing,” Black said, giving me a pointed glare.
“Enough, both of you” Lupin said firmly. The Weasleys and Hermione glanced around hesitantly. “As you can see, there was a reason for your presence Molly. Certain individuals insist on behaving like children.” Black and I both gave Lupin a dirty look.
Everybody returned to eating silently for ten minutes before I became annoyed. I wanted to get all of the questions about me over with tonight but no one would pluck up the courage to ask even though I was receiving curious glances my way every few seconds. Hermione was literally biting her lip and I was sure she was dying to ask at least twenty different things.
“Just bloody well ask,” I blurted out, roughly putting down my spoon and facing Hermione. Everyone’s eyes were on me again and Hermione went pink when she saw I was speaking to her. “They’re not going to ask,” I said as I gestured to the Weasleys. “Lupin and Black already have Dumbledore for information. So go ahead and just ask.”
“Perhaps this isn’t the best conversation to have while –” Mrs. Weasley said in a disapproving tone.
“I don’t have a problem with it,” I interrupted rudely. “Let’s get it over with.”
“How long have you known Professor Snape?” Hermione asked quickly.
“Since I was four.”
“Why were you expelled from Durmstrang?” Hermione asked next, surprising me. Anything I said would be reported to Dumbledore, who would question Snape. For now, I was ok with that.
“Karkaroff blackmailed me,” I answered. It was pretty much the truth. Unfortunately lying was usually easier because when you do give someone an honest response they end up gaping at you, like right now.
“Blackmailed you how?” Ron asked before looking worriedly at his mother.
“If I told you, that would defeat the purpose of it being blackmail worthy.”
“Viktor said it was because you and Karkaroff didn’t get along,” Hermione said, frowning. “That you were always in trouble or fighting with Karkaroff.”
“That’s true too. Karkaroff and I have a bit of a love-hate relationship. We absolutely love to hate each other.”
Hermione stared down at her plate before asking another question. “Is…is it really you not liking Karkaroff or…?” she questioned hesitantly.
“Or the numerous Death Eaters who have less than warm feelings for him?” I finished for her. “I have enough reason to hate Karkaroff on my own.”
“Why were you expelled from Beauxbatons?”
“Out of all the questions you could possibly ask, why are you so fixated on why I keep getting kicked out of schools?” Hermione shrugged and I rolled my eyes. Weird random questions. “I burned down their library.”
“What?!” Hermione shrieked.
“That hardly seems like something to joke about,” Mrs. Weasley said disapprovingly.
“Who says I’m joking?” I replied seriously. Mrs. Weasley cast a look at Lupin, likely waiting for him to deny that I’d done such a thing but Lupin, who’d seen my school file while teaching, knew that really was the reason I’d been expelled after less than three months. “It wasn’t the whole library,” I added. “A fifth, quarter max.”
“Why burn down a library?” Bill wondered aloud.
“Well I didn’t do it on purpose,” I shot back rudely.
“What about Salem?” I gave Hermione a suspicious look before answering.
“The downside of being a Good Samaritan.” Hermione looked confused so I explained further. “I intervened in a fight, well tried to, then got blamed for it.”
“But that’s not fair!” Ginny exclaimed. “Didn’t they even look into it?”
“Well after two schools people tend to assume the worst about you. Lesson learned though, never try and do the right thing.”
“Aren’t the Malfoys going to be wondering where you are?” Hermione questioned after a pause. “They wouldn’t just allow you to disappear for two months, would they?”
“I’m in Bulgaria.”
“Bulgaria?” Hermione said doubtfully.
“Helping Minister Obolensky give their outdated wizarding school a much needed revamp.”
“Lucius Malfoy believes you’re in Bulgaria for that?”
“I know, it’s completely mental. I think Obolensky offering him money was pretty much the only thing that convinced him. It’s almost sad how easy it was.”
“You managed to convince the Minister of Magic to lie for you?”
“Shocking that someone might actually like me that much, I know.”
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Hermione amended quickly. “It’s just sort of…far fetched, isn’t it?”
“Fair point. I’d like to think it’s one of those stories so unbelievable that it might actually be true. Or Lucius just really likes money…personally I’m leaning towards the money. Lucius might also think he can get more favors out of Obolensky for this, who knows.”
It was silent again and I waited patiently for Hermione to ask any other questions. “Why did you meet Snape when you were four?” she asked after another minute. I had underestimated her. I thought she would need at least a day or two before she started wondering why I would have met Snape.
“I was very…ill,” I answered, determined to stay mostly honest.
“Why not just go to St. Mungo’s?” Lupin questioned.
“Lucius was…trying to rebuild his reputation, I guess you could say. He was trying to distance himself from the convicted Death Eaters and bringing me to St. Mungo’s while everyone still remembered the Lestrange name, well he didn’t particularly think I was worth it.”
“But he let Snape help?”
“Eventually.” They didn’t need to know the real reason Snape had been called in.
When no one spoke for five minutes I stood up and headed for the door. No one protested so I continued up to my room, closing the door behind me. Hermione, while she did ask lots of questions, hadn’t asked the one I’d been expecting the most. Maybe she didn’t want the others to hear or maybe she just didn’t want the answer. Fred hadn’t spoken at all, I wasn’t even able to see him from our positions around the table. I wasn’t used to a quiet Fred Weasley, the idea that he wouldn’t speak around me, despite living under the same roof, made my heart clench.
Several minutes later there was a knock on my door. Lupin – oh bugger, Wolfsbane. After opening the door I stirred the cauldron, which thankfully would not be ruined by my distracted mind. Lupin said nothing as he entered the room and closed the door behind him. He waited patiently until I filled a goblet and handed it to him carefully.
“Thank you,” he said before drinking it. I gave a quick nod and sat down on my bed. After Lupin swallowed the last of the potion and set the goblet down I expected him to leave. Instead he lingered a minute before speaking. “I realize this must be a strange notion for you, having so many people in one house. You are probably more comfortable speaking to Severus, however should you need someone to talk to, I am here.”
“Thanks,” I muttered, even though I knew I would never confide in Lupin. He moved towards the door but before opening it he paused and glanced back at me.
“It’s not surprising that people like you. Past the sarcasm and rough exterior you’re a bright and remarkably pleasant young woman.”
As Lupin left I couldn’t help but feel that there was only one person I truly cared about liking me at the moment – Fred Weasley.
A/N: The information about Grimmauld Place is from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling, Chapter 6, The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black.
The next morning Mrs. Weasley wasted no time in picking the next room to clean. She was a bit surprised by the routine Lupin, Black, and I had but didn’t insist that I help with the initial cleaning. She probably also remembered how Black and I didn’t get along at dinner, or maybe Lupin had warned her that this was a better plan. So as the others started on a new room, I washed the one where Bill (who was currently bunking with Ron) would sleep. Mr. Weasley and Bill were both at work and I couldn’t help but wonder if Mr. Weasley would be the one to approach Shacklebolt. Maybe Dumbledore didn’t even consider the senior Auror, yet I was becoming more confident that he would be an asset.
I went to bed that night feeling restless. Besides a few words from Lupin and Mrs. Weasley, no one spoke to me at all. They had been more talkative at dinner, yes, but not to me. I couldn’t stop that feeling I usually got around people, like I didn’t belong. A part of me hoped Snape would drop by again, he usually showed up every two or three days for the Order meetings and a quick chat.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Snape did in fact visit the next evening, bringing several books with him. I groaned when I spotted the titles.
“Honestly,” Snape sneered, “being asked to help reform a school by the Minister of Magic, only you could find something to complain about.”
Although I was not spending the summer in Bulgaria, Minister Obolensky hadn’t been lying about the restructuring of the school. He actually did think I had a good perspective. So in addition to cleaning Grimmauld Place and making Wolfsbane for Lupin, I needed to think up some good ideas for a modern school.
“I’m not complaining. I just…I’m fifteen, what do I know about running a school?” I replied as Snape handed me eight different books on school education, governing schools, tips for successful teaching and healthy learning environments.
“You’re intelligent enough to create a respectable blueprint. You’ve been to several schools, had dozens of teachers, I’m certain you know what helps create a useful school and what doesn’t. If all else fails, write what you felt were positive ideas at each school and expand upon them.”
“You’re trying to fill my summer with busy work,” I accused.
“Obviously not enough if you’re still finding time to lie in bed moping.”
“I’m not moping,” I objected, glaring at him.
“What are you calling it then?”
“Thinking.” Alright, that was a lame answer.
“About?” Snape asked far too casually. I looked at him suspiciously and he raised an eyebrow at me.
“What did Dumbledore say about Shacklebolt?” I asked instead of answering his question.
“He was rather surprised yet slightly suspicious by your suggestion. He did agree that Shacklebolt would be beneficial and admitted he considered trying to recruit him already.”
“So somebody’s going to approach him?”
“Moody most likely.”
“Seriously? The paranoid old wizard? Exactly how low on supporters is Dumbledore?”
“Moody was working for the Ministry before Shacklebolt even joined. He was Shacklebolt’s boss for years. He is, as much as it pains me to admit, the best and least suspicious to recruit Shacklebolt.” I let out a skeptical huff. “You still haven’t told me what you were thinking about.”
“Is that so?”
“I figure I can give the Dark Lord a run for his money.”
“I would imagine so.”
“I have a diabolical plan of treachery and deceit.”
“Employing copious amounts of kittens and rainbows.”
“I’ll let you be second in command. General Snape has a nice ring to it.”
“As tempting as it sounds, I can’t help but wonder if you’ll ever share the cause for your recent fascination with Shacklebolt.”
“Relentless, aren’t you? Why are you so fascinated about my fascination with Shacklebolt, eh?”
“Because it could be from –”
“It’s not,” I said, already guessing what Snape would say. He was thinking a Death Eater could have prompted this when in reality it was my own selfish curiosity. The Snape I’d spoken with in June said Shacklebolt still felt guilty, that he hadn’t wanted me sent with the Malfoys. I suppose I had an unhealthy desire to find out if that was true. I didn’t feel comfortable sharing that with this Snape though.
“You’re failing to convince me otherwise.”
“If Dumbledore’s thought about recruiting him that should show it’s not a Death Eater idea and that Shacklebolt is just a good asset I was able to recognize.”
“You’re being frustrating,” Snape responded briskly.
“I occasionally get the same feeling about you.” He gave me an annoyed look. “You’re going to drive yourself mad if you keep trying to connect all my ideas back to Death Eaters.”
“That isn’t the issue,” he said, beginning to pace.
“Then…?” I prompted after he didn’t continue.
“It’s bothering me that I think it’s a good idea,” he answered after a minute.
“You’re doubting yourself now?” I asked as I tried to mask what I was really thinking. Was the part of me inside Snape trying to convince him about Shacklebolt?
“I was surprised when you brought it up, very surprised. While I was waiting for Dumbledore it kept my mind busy until when he finally arrived I felt it necessary that Shacklebolt join the Order. I’m not sure why…”
“You think I’m affecting you?” I questioned. Did Snape already know about the me inside of him?
“No. Not that fast. You take time, days at least.”
“Maybe your subconscious is just really smart,” I suggested.
“Hmm,” Snape said, not sounding the least bit convinced. “How’s the Weasley situation?” he asked suddenly. I shot him a quick glare in response. “I meant more about his mother. She seems rather overbearing, something you are not accustomed to.”
“I think I scare her more than anything,” I replied truthfully. “That didn’t stop her from trying to feed me about a dozen sandwiches for lunch though.”
“After the terrors she raised I’m not sure how you could be worse.”
“I don’t know whether to feel insulted or complimented.”
“What about the others? How did it go?”
“Hermione seemed more interested in why I keep getting expelled.”
“Be careful what you tell her.”
“Yes, yes. I know. You’ve said it before.”
“Have you spoken with –” I glared at him again. “I’ll assume that means no. You have several weeks, let him digest things then he’ll –” Snape noticed my dark expression and backed off. “Well if you’d rather mope.”
“Don’t you have a meeting to be at?”
“Anxious to get rid of me?”
“I can barely contain my enthusiasm about reading these new books,” I responded dryly.
“I’ll speak to you before I leave, after I’m done reading this,” he said, holding up my journal. He took a few steps towards the door before stopping. “Lupin leaves tonight?” I made an affirmative noise. “If you strangle Black, make sure it looks like self defense.”
“You know, every time I start wondering why you were sorted into Slytherin, you manage to remind me.”
“Huh,” Snape said thoughtfully.
“It’s not a compliment,” I clarified.
“It distinctively sounded like one,” Snape replied before leaving.
When the door closed I pulled a book closer to me, sighing. Even if I was used to reading books covering dozens of different topics, a book about tips on teaching did not sound the least bit interesting. But Obolensky had done me a huge favor, a thousand Galleon favor actually. That was my only motivation for opening the book and starting at Chapter 1: So you’re thinking about teaching.
I’d only been reading for twenty minutes when there was a knock on my door. It wasn’t Snape or Lupin, making me instantly nervous. I stood up and walked to the door, wondering who was there. On the other side was an anxious looking Fred Weasley.
“Hi,” he said awkwardly.
“Hi,” I responded softly.
“Er…can I come in?”
I stepped aside so he could enter then closed the door. Now I was feeling as anxious as Fred looked but I tried my best to hide it. “You can sit down,” I offered. Fred pulled out the chair and sat down as I seated myself on the bed. It was a couple of minutes before he said anything.
“I could have killed you,” he said miserably, staring at his hands.
“Fifth year, well your third year. I made you go flying. You didn’t even want to go. You could have fallen…you would have…” he drifted off, looking pained. Out of all the ways I’d imagined this conversation starting, (and trust me, I had thought of a ton of ways) this had never crossed my mind. Fred should have been questioning me, accusing me even, not looking so hopelessly guilty about a broom ride we’d taken over a year and half ago.
“I trusted you not to let me fall.”
Fred looked up at me sharply. “It could have been an accident. I could have looked away for a second or when George shouted. If I hadn’t been watching, you could have fallen,” he said angrily. “It was stupid, I should have left you alone. I shouldn’t have badgered you into it.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong. It was a nice ride, I liked it.” Fred gave me a skeptical glare.
“You hated it, you were absolutely terrified.”
“Well…yes,” I admitted. “It was more terror than hating it though. Still it was nice to go flying. I’d never been on a broom before and I kind of always wondered what it would be like. I’m glad it was something I got to share with you,” I said honestly. “Snape can sometimes…er…over simplify things for shock value.” Fred looked confused by this. “I’m not going to keel over if I get hurt. I’ve been injured before, even my shoulder. I’m still here. I’m relatively careful, it would be years before…anything serious happened.”
“I keep replaying the third task through my mind,” Fred said quietly. “I should have said something sooner. If I had you wouldn’t have been on the stairs when –”
“It could have gone the other way. I could have been ten or even a hundred steps higher if you hadn’t spoken up when you did. You did the right thing. And I’m very grateful for it.”
We lapsed into silence again until, “I looked for you.” I glanced up at Fred, not expecting this. “The last week of term, I looked everywhere for you. You weren’t there when I went back to the Hospital Wing in the morning and I couldn’t find you anywhere in the castle. I skipped Charms to get to the greenhouses before you left Herbology, but Hermione said McGonagall pulled you out as class was starting. I spent every night in common room waiting for you to show up at like three in the morning. You never came though.” A pang of guilt shot through me. “Hermione said you weren’t even in the dormitory, least as far as she could tell. I thought maybe with Karkaroff gone you would have went to Krum. He was nearly as impossible to find as you. I didn’t really know where else to go except Snape.” Wait, what?
“You went to Snape?”
“I thought you might…I don’t know, I thought he would know where you were.” Snape had never mentioned any conversation with Fred. “He told me to bugger off of course.” I raised an eyebrow at this. “Well it wasn’t phrased that way,” Fred confessed. “It was more along the lines of ‘if you don’t leave I’ll make sure you spend your entire seventh year in detention every night.’” Yeah, that sounded more like Snape.
“Probably a good choice to leave then, I wouldn’t want you wasting every night scrubbing Merlin knows what,” I teased halfheartedly.
“I didn’t leave,” Fred said sternly. “I couldn’t just leave.” He looked at me for a moment, like he was trying to figure something out, then a look of realization came over his face. “You thought I was going to leave you after learning about…everything, didn’t you?” he guessed.
“I wouldn’t hold it against you if you did,” I mumbled, staring at the floor.
“Do you really think so little of me?” I looked up at him, surprised by the stung edge in his voice. “I’m not going to ditch you at the first opportunity. I’m not that bloody shallow.”
“It doesn’t have anything to do with being shallow –”
“Yes it does. I’m not going anywhere. I’m in this for the long haul. Unless you tell me to bugger off and even then I can guarantee I’ll be playing you sappy love songs and mailing you gifts until you come to your senses and take me back.” I couldn’t help but smile a bit at the thought of this. “I care about you,” he said sincerely. “I’m not going to run off.”
“Fred, this isn’t some…trivial thing –”
“I know that. If I had known before,” he said, frowning, “I would have –”
“You would have treated me like a helpless child,” I interrupted. “I certainly would not have agreed to go to the Yule Ball with you if you were going to act like that.”
Fred eyed me critically before standing up. “Always so blunt about these things, aren’t you?” He stepped in front of me and took my hands, pulling me up and into a hug, a very gentle hug.
“Fred,” I said, feeling a bit annoyed, “if you don’t do a normal hug I’m going to knee you, and from this position I assume you can guess what I’ll be aiming for.”
I felt him freeze for a moment before squeezing tighter. “Merlin knows how hard you can hit now,” he whispered, making me let out a small laugh.
I waited for him to ask questions, not just about what he learned but also about Snape or any other random thing he could think of. He never asked though, he just held me there until there were two sharp rasps on the door. Knowing who it was, I let go of Fred quickly, but not quick enough. Snape opened the door, halting when he saw me and Fred letting go of each other. There was an awkward pause that seemed to last forever.
“And I’m leaving,” Snape said, dropping my journal by the door.
His words jolted me and as he closed the door I promptly shouted out, “We weren’t snogging!”
“Yet,” Fred muttered.
“Yet! – YET?!” I exclaimed, glaring at Fred.
“In all fairness, I did not know you were going to shout that at him.”
“Now he’s going to think we’re doing Merlin knows what in here.”
“Well…” Fred said, wrapping his arms back around me. Besides kissing my temple he made no other move.
“Er…” I said, feeling a bit confused.
“I figured we should get back into position in case Dumbledore shows up next.”
I let out a snort of laughter. This is exactly why I liked Fred Weasley so much.
At breakfast the next morning there was a different feeling in the air. Lupin had left last night and would be gone for a week. The Weasleys and Hermione had gotten used to Grimmauld Place and were much more comfortable around the table and talking more animatedly. The twins were sitting by me, asking about Kreacher, who they’d met yesterday. Hermione appeared to be listening to our conversation as well but did not join in. Something else I had also not failed to notice were the glances Mrs. Weasley kept sending my way. I wasn’t as bothered by it as someone else might have been because I knew I wasn’t exactly her ideal girl for one of her sons.
The cleaning was going slower now that the rooms were getting progressively dirtier. I doubted Kreacher had cleaned at all in the last decade. He seemed much more fixated on talking to the life size portrait of Mrs. Black, who seemed about as nice as Lucius. Well I suppose he didn’t scream about filth, scum, half-breeds, and blood traitors, at least not in public. Using a Permanent Sticking Charm on his own portrait so that no one could ever remove it? I could see him doing that.
Still unwilling to work in the same room as Black, I spent the next couple days continuing with the washing and dusting as the others emptied the next room. During our downtime, Sundays and every evening after dinner, Fred and George would show me what they invented. Extendable Ears were the most impressive and probably the most useful for the twins since they wanted to find out what was happening during Order meetings. I warned them to be careful, Moody was frequently at meetings and his eye would spot things easily.
I also couldn’t help but be a bit more intrigued about the meetings now that I wasn’t worrying about Fred so much. It only took me a couple of days to spot a pattern in things. Members would stop by, checking in and leaving a report before heading off. And they always seemed to be coming off ‘guard duty.’ At first I hadn’t been interested, assuming it was Potter they were watching because I doubted Dumbledore would leave him unprotected for two months. Yet there was something else, I was sure of it. Every two hours or so someone would stop by, even if it was only for five minutes. It was much too short for guarding Potter, unless it wasn’t just Potter. What if there were two different four hour shifts? That was more reasonable. So who or what else besides Potter was that important?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It had been four days since Lupin left and I was currently washing the biggest room so far. As I pondered the guard duty mystery along with everything else I’d been thinking about for the past couple weeks, someone knocked on the door. I know it was weird to have the door closed while I was cleaning but Kreacher always popped up in the rooms I was in, just staring at me…lovingly. It was beyond creepy.
I opened the door to find Hermione there. Thinking someone had sent her to deliver a message, I waited for her to speak.
“I thought you might need help in here,” she said, surprising me.
“What about the room at the end of the hall?” That was the room the others were supposed to be working on.
“Oh, after the Puffskeins in the wardrobe it was faster than Mrs. Weasley expected. I thought you could use another set of hands, this is one of the larger rooms.”
I stepped aside and let her in before closing the door again. When I turned around she was watching me oddly. “Kreacher,” I explained. “He’s a bit…er, clingy.”
“Yes, he seems lonely after so many years by himself,” she said nodding. I decided not to point out that it was more about creepiness than him being lonely because Hermione was developing a soft spot for the old elf despite the fact that Kreacher insulted her at least three times a day.
Hermione took up a wet cloth and started cleaning near the spot I’d been working on. I followed suit, waiting for her to make conversation because surely it wasn’t just scrubbing walls that brought her here.
“Last year,” Hermione said softly after ten minutes of silence, “after Harry’s name came out of the Goblet.” I stopped cleaning and turned all my attention towards her. This was the question I’d been expecting from Hermione the first night she arrived at Grimmauld Place. “That day where Malfoy had the pins and started arguing with Harry. Then Malfoy’s spell hit me and Snape opened the door. You told Snape off and he gave you detention before you went to the Hospital Wing with me.” Hermione paused before getting to the actual question. “Was it just for show? So you could get detention?” She was trying to act like the answer didn’t matter, like it was just another fact she was inquiring about, but I could hear a bit of emotion behind her words.
“No,” I answered honestly. She turned to look at me, probably trying to figure out if I was lying. “I hadn’t spoken to Snape in months,” I added.
“I didn’t like what he did to Lupin. We sort of had a row. I hadn’t talked to Snape since the day Lupin quit.”
“You forgave him though –”
“No. I just needed him more than my pride wanted to punish him. The first week of November was pretty rough. I knew something bad was happening when Harry got in the tournament. There was also the Death Eaters and Dark Mark at the World Cup, not to mention Karkaroff and Moody. And er…I was dealing with Fred issues. It all created the perfect storm and when Snape insulted you, I just snapped.”
“You talk to Snape about everything?” Hermione asked curiously.
“No. There’s plenty of stuff he doesn’t need to know,” I replied as I resumed washing.
“Do you talk about Fred?”
“No,” I answered a little too fast. I glanced at Hermione, she was giving me a doubtful look. “You cannot tell Fred that,” I ordered.
She let out a small laugh and went back to scrubbing her side of the wall.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I have to admit, things at Grimmauld Place were actually going ok. All the Weasley siblings were speaking to me, even Ron who seemed the most reluctant. Mrs. Weasley stopped watching whenever Fred and George sat by me, I think Mr. Weasley might have had something to do with that. Even Black seemed to be sending less snarky comments my way, maybe because he was too busy being bitter at Dumbledore. Black always got a dark look in his eyes whenever someone brought up the Headmaster.
There were also more Order members too. McGonagall had been by a few times but didn’t stay long. Mundungus Fletcher stayed much too long from Mrs. Weasley’s point of view. Mundungus was…well frankly he was a thief. He was good with information about other criminals though and must have been loyal to Dumbledore (or why else would he be in the Order?) but Mrs. Weasley wasn’t thrilled about Black inviting him for dinner. There were others too – Hestia Jones, Dedalus Diggle, Emmeline Vance, and Sturgis Podmore to name a few. I wasn’t sure if Dumbledore was actually recruiting more people or if I just noticed them now.
Hermione and the Weasleys were especially interested in the Order members and what they were doing. That’s where the Extendable Ears came into use. They would pull them out nearly every meeting, hoping to pick up on any information. I think they were also disappointed that I hadn’t learned much before they arrived. Besides telling them that Potter was being followed and Snape was spying for the Order, I didn’t have anything to share. They also tended to clam up if I ever mentioned Snape, something I tried to ignore.
So with the very limited information we were being given about Order business, you can imagine our surprise when after a meeting, Mrs. Weasley called us all downstairs. We exchanged glances before following her to the kitchen. Inside the room were a few lingering adults, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Bill, Black, and Lupin (who had only returned three days ago) along with two other people that had never been in Grimmauld Place before. Kingsley Shacklebolt and a witch with long, red hair.
I felt a sense of accomplishment seeing Shacklebolt there but my curiosity over the witch overruled that. She seemed…familiar but I was sure I’d never seen her in my life. Everyone noticed us enter and stopped talking immediately.
“Let me introduce you to our newest members,” Lupin said. “Aurors Kingsley Shacklebolt and Nymphadora –”
“Don’t call me Nymphadora,” the witch interrupted, giving Lupin a dark glare.
“She prefers to go by her surname – Tonks,” Lupin finished.
“You’re both Aurors?” Ron asked excitedly as a spasm of annoyance shot through me. Maybe I should have expected this, the Tonks’ were related to Black, them helping the Order wasn’t completely surprising. You think Snape could have at least warned me though.
“…we’ve met before, last summer you were…”
A hint of movement to my left caught my eye. Standing in the shadows, leaning against the wall was Snape. I was surprised to see him and a bit confused about why I hadn’t noticed him before, also slightly self conscious because Snape was watching me intently. I gave him a questioning look, wondering why he was still here and standing off to the side, like he was hiding.
“Done lurking yet?” Black’s voice cut through the air and I shifted my focus towards him. He’d gotten everyone’s attention now. I looked back at Snape who gave Black a quick, annoyed glare before turning back to me and stepping forward. He held out my journal which I took back hesitantly.
“Thanks,” I muttered, still having no idea what Snape was doing.
“Don’t do anything stupid,” he warned me quietly in Latin.
Instead of responding, he sent me a withering glance before sweeping out of the room. Lupin followed him, coming back less than a minute later.
“What was that about?” Ginny asked, breaking the silence that had fallen over the room.
“I’m not sure,” I answered truthfully. That had been odd behavior from Snape, really odd. I flipped the journal over in my hand. Don’t do anything stupid. Overall that was good, general advice I suppose. But I was sure it was more than that, even if I didn’t fully understand at the moment.
Mrs. Weasley started cooking dinner with help from Hermione, Ginny, and Ron. Bill set the table as the rest of us sat down. Shacklebolt and Tonks were apparently staying for dinner too because they made no effort to leave.
When everyone else was involved in their own conversations, Fred leaned over to me and whispered, “Everything ok?”
“Yeah, I think. I’m not sure, probably fine though,” I answered. “He would have told me if something was wrong.”
“What did he say?”
“Not to do anything stupid.”
“Oh,” Fred said thoughtfully. “Maybe because…er, well Tonks.” I raised an eyebrow at Fred. “Last time you seemed a bit…hostile. Not a lot,” he amended quickly, “just a small, hardly noticeable amount.”
I hadn’t been hostile. I mean, I may not have been overly warm and welcoming but hostile? I was not hostile, maybe my alarm over seeing the Dark Mark had made me impatient but that was expected, right? “Did I really sound hostile?” I whispered back.
“Just a smidgen.”
“Hmm.” Honestly I didn’t think Snape’s warning was about Tonks, no it had to be directed towards Shacklebolt. What stupid thing I could possibly do? Well that was harder to guess.
During dinner the Weasleys and Hermione were much more interested in Tonks, who was showing off her Metamorphmagus skills. The adults were discussing the Ministry, especially about Black and the Ministry’s hunt for him. Turns out Shacklebolt was the Auror in charge of it, which was strangely coincidental. I listened a bit to the conversation but my mind kept wandering. Was Shacklebolt guilty? Did he still regret sending me to live with the Malfoys? Every time I glanced at him he seemed preoccupied with eating or talking. I couldn’t help but wonder what Dumbledore or someone else had told the two Aurors about me because they didn’t question why I was here and not with the Malfoys.
“What?” I asked, startled. I really needed to work on not zoning out like that.
“Are you alright?” Lupin asked as everyone watched me.
“Yes, fine.” Lupin didn’t look convinced. “Really, I’m fine. I was thinking about something.”
“She normally does that,” George jokingly added. “I’m surprised she doesn’t walk around, bouncing off walls all day.”
“We were wondering if you had any insight about the wards around the Lestrange estate,” Shacklebolt said.
“Why?” I asked, confused. “Nobody’s going to use that place as a hide out.”
“You said your grandmother would welcome your father back.”
“Either son really, but they’re still in Azkaban. The Dark Lord’s not going to use her house as a…a base of operations.”
“It would be less suspicious than using one of the current Death Eater’s homes,” Tonks disagreed.
“Not likely,” I scoffed. “She’s a crazy old lady, she’d probably go out telling everyone that her sons would be returning home soon and that the blood traitors and muggle filth would soon be getting what they deserved. She’s also not very fond of Lucius…yeah that meeting would not go well at all.”
“They don’t get along?” Mr. Weasley asked.
“Not since Lucius asked for money –”
“Why would he need more money?” Black interrupted.
“Apparently library repair bills are quite large,” I answered sarcastically. “Then she sent him a Howler in response,” I explained. “Which Uncle Lucy did not take very well,” I muttered more to myself. That Howler had been the only time I’d ever been impressed with my grandmother. Of course her cutting remarks about me never measuring up to my father at the end had completely ruined the feeling.
“Did you just call him Uncle Lucy?” Fred asked, laughing.
“Huh? Oh yeah. He’s not really fond of that name. Probably not a good idea to call him that if he’s within earshot.” I’d done it only once before and received a black eye. “Well anyways, I don’t think the Dark Lord would use the Lestrange Estate, but I’m sure it’s got the same set up as Malfoy Manor. Unless she redid that muggle stunning one –”
“She hasn’t,” Shacklebolt said. “Aurors check it every year since last time.”
“Last time?” Hermione questioned.
“She nearly paralyzed a couple of teenagers. They needed to go to St. Mungo’s for a week.”
“How is that not illegal?!” Hermione exclaimed, outraged.
“She’s got a hell of a lawyer,” Shacklebolt answered. “Cited some ancient laws that nobody ever changed. She got off with a hefty fine and a warning.”
“Someone’s changed the law though, right?”
“Bits of it –”
“Muggles being treated as second class citizens wasn’t something the Dark Lord started. Just because he was gone for fourteen years doesn’t mean everything changed for the better. The Ministry has tons of laws that give wizards the advantage,” I told Hermione. “It’s not always pure bloods either. Humans in general tend to think a bit higher of themselves. Anyone that’s different is singled out. People like Rita Skeeter start the fear mongering, then the laws begin. Everyone’s so afraid, they all vote for discrimination and no one steps up to say it’s wrong. Wizards have been doing that for years. The Dark Lord just takes advantage of circumstances and makes it work in his favor.”
“Why do you do that?” Black asked rudely.
“Excuse me?” I said, facing him.
“You keep calling him the Dark Lord.”
“Sirius,” Lupin warned.
“What? You don’t think it’s unusual that she keeps referring to him like the Death Eaters do?”
“Obviously I’m a pure blood elitist,” I said sarcastically as I rolled my eyes. “I’ve got a nice little shrine devoted to my Lord upstairs. I’m hoping to win his mothering contest so that I can have all his pale, nose-less snake babies. Oh how I hope they have their father’s red eyes.” Fred and George were trying to conceal their smirks as the others were wearing looks of awkwardness or disapproval. Well except for Black who was glaring at me suspiciously. “Bloody hell,” I muttered, letting out an annoyed sigh. “I’m being sarcastic. You should look it up sometime.”
“How did you know?” Black asked.
“Voldemort.” Everyone but Lupin, Black and I flinched. “How did you know what he looked like?” Black questioned with narrowed eyes.
This made everyone, as well as myself, freeze. Stupid, a voice in the back of my head that sounded exactly like Snape criticized. Black and the others were still waiting for an answer. The obvious explanation would have been to say Snape mentioned it offhand, but then Black would bring it up in the next Order meeting. He’d ask how much more Snape had been telling me and question if Snape could be trusted with secret information. It would be better for me to go with the ‘shock and awe’ answer.
“You’d be surprised how much you can learn when you get rare glimpses into certain Death Eaters’ minds,” I stated, staring down Black.
“What?!” Tonks exclaimed as Shacklebolt’s head whipped around in shock.
Well damn. I hadn’t exactly thought that one through. Just give it a solid finish then stop talking and go upstairs. “I’ll let Black fill you in,” I said bitterly. “He seems to love the story.” I stood up and left, whispers picking up before the kitchen door was even closed.
I mentally berated myself all the way up the stairs. It was stupid and reckless. I’d let my annoyance with Black get the better of me. I was supposed to be smarter than that. The last thing I needed was Snape badgering me about how I knew what the Dark Lord looked like. He’d look for some deeper explanation even though the truth was I’d just seen the Dark Lord playing chess. With Dumbledore. In a bright white room. Inside my head. With little chess pieces designed as real life people. Alright, it makes me sound mental when I say it like that.
A/N: The quotes and information about Order members are from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling, Chapter 3, The Advance Guard.
Unfortunately once I started thinking about the chess game, everything else that took place began replaying in my head. This happened a lot over the past few weeks, but tonight was the worst. I wanted someone to talk to, I should have discussed it more with the Snape inside of me when I had the chance. Tsukino and Kuniye had to know about it too, except I hadn’t seen Kuniye since the night before the third task. There was always the real Snape, but I just couldn’t bring myself to talk about it. How would I even begin to explain?
On top of everything else I had the Shacklebolt mystery. He hadn’t acted differently from when Fred and I saw him at the World Cup. Obviously I wasn’t an expert but it seemed like typical Auror behavior. Yet Snape was so sure that Shacklebolt felt guilty. I felt like…like I had to know. I wasn’t entirely sure why.
It was half past two in the morning and I was not even remotely tired. Eventually I just got up. I turned up the lantern inside my room and set it on the desk as I sat down. I tried to read the book I’d started a few days ago but it didn’t hold my attention for long. Frustrated and bored, I headed down stairs.
The first thing to catch my eye was the set of doors leading into the living room. I’d never been inside there before. Lupin said it was a mess and would probably be the hardest, meaning last, room to clean. I ventured inside anyways, closing both doors firmly behind me.
The room definitely had a creepy feeling. There was buzzing coming from the curtains, doxies most likely. There was also an odd noise in the far left corner. The fabric furniture looked worn out and not the least bit appealing to sit on. The grime on the floor made me glad I’d put on more than a pair of slippers. On the right side of the room there was a piano that I cautiously stepped over to. I wiped the dust off the seat and sat down. Considering the condition of the rest of the room, I doubted the piano still worked. I gently tested a couple keys and was surprised that they sounded fine. I ran through the rest of them thinking maybe I’d just gotten lucky the first time. Nope, it seemed that doxies, Puffskeins, and who knows what else, hadn’t damaged the piano. Though it was covered in dust, a very thick layer of dust.
By now it was only a few minutes after three. I wasn’t tired and with nothing else to do, I slipped out of the room. I went to the kitchen, dampened a rag and brought it back to the living room. Carefully I cleaned each of the piano keys until they stood out from the rest of…well everything in the room.
After that I sat there, unsure of what to do next. I mindlessly tapped a few keys, making a short tune. It had been years since I touched a piano, seven years. Nearly half my life, I realized with a guilty jolt. There was a lot I hadn’t done in seven years. I’m going to save them all. How would I ever save Draco if I couldn’t even pluck up the courage to speak to him?
I started to play a song, the first song I ever learned. Draco and I hadn’t always been like this, there had been a time when we were inseparable, like Fred and George. The twins hadn’t grown up with Lucius Malfoy though. They hadn’t hid at the top of the stairs waiting for Lucius to leave, given a whoop of joy once he disappeared from the Manor grounds, and let out a sigh of defeat every evening he returned home. There were two phases of Draco’s and my day – when Lucius was home and when he wasn’t home. And boy did we enjoy those times when he wasn’t home. The day when we first tried the piano had been a day when Lucius was away because we wouldn’t dare touch valuable Malfoy heirlooms when he was around. Heck, we wouldn’t touch half the stuff when Lucius was gone. That piano in the corner of the ballroom though, that one we took a risk on.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Milly’s with mum,” a five year old Draco announced, “doing –”
“Invitations,” I finished. Stupid party in a month, course Milly would be helping Narcissa with the invitations.
“I reckon we could get those oafs to eat anything,” Draco said thoughtfully.
“Crabbe and Goyle?”
“Uncle Lucy would not like that,” I said, giving Draco a mischievous glance, making him smirk.
“Bugs or mud?”
“Hmm…mud covered bugs?”
Draco laughed and we headed down the stairs to the main floor. “What we doing today?”
I sighed as we both looked out the window. It was pouring rain, the same as it had been for the past two weeks. There were only so many things to do while cooped up in the Manor and it felt like we’d done them all over the past couple weeks. “Well,” I said, getting a burst of inspiration, “to the ballroom.”
Draco sniggered. “Thought you hated that room.”
“Only in poofy dresses,” I replied coolly, glaring at him.
“I’ll tell mum you want a huge, poofy dress,” Draco said, giggling. He started to spin around with his arms stuck out, like he was wearing a dress that I would definitely loath.
“I’ll tell Aunt Cissy you want to dance with Bulstrode,” I threatened. Draco immediately froze with a horrified look on his face.
“You won’t,” he whispered. I laughed at his expression and ran to the ballroom. “Jaaaaaaaaaade!” Draco called out, following me.
I stopped in the middle of a room with a vaulted ceiling and perfectly polished floor. Draco was beside me moments later, looking around the room.
“There,” I exclaimed, eyeing the piano in the corner. I marched over to it, Draco following me. I had never played the piano before, except for a few minutes of key bashing when I was a baby at the Lestrange Estate. That had ended with my father sending a shocking spell at my hands then yelling at me.
“Jade,” Draco said, sounding apprehensive. He was worried about Lucius coming home and punishing us.
“He has lots of meetings today. He won’t be home till dinner,” I reassured him. Draco cast a nervous look towards the door. “You just listen. I’ll play.”
“You don’t know how,” Draco responded with a laugh.
I turned and gave him an offended glare, feigning outrage. “Never underestimate a witch on a mission,” I declared. Draco burst out laughing at me for trying to act like Narcissa. I wagged a disapproving finger at him. “You are not being proper Mr. Malfoy,” I teased.
“You are so stupid,” he said in between giggles.
“Pfft, piano playing people are smart,” I disagreed.
“So where’s the songs?” Draco challenged. I looked all around for a piece of parchment with a song on it. Nothing. Draco let out a snort and opened the piano bench, revealing a stack of parchment.
“I knew that,” I muttered, making Draco giggle again. I grabbed the top piece of parchment, looking at the strange writing. How the heck did people read this? Draco pulled out a book that had been at the very bottom. He flipped through a couple pages before handing it to me.
“Good luck,” he said, skeptical that I could make sense of it.
Thankfully the book had plenty of drawings, even if I didn’t fully understand them. It took about thirty minutes of going through the book and glancing at the actual piano all while trying to understand the notes of the song I’d chosen. Finally I was ready to give it a go. I closed the bench and climbed on it. Draco sat down beside me, waiting patiently. I spread out my arms so I could reach all of the keys and began.
After I finished the first page of the song I stopped and turned towards Draco. “You sound like you’re killing it,” he said with a serious face. I gave him a small glare but didn’t respond. Yeah, I had to admit he was right, it had been quite awful, nothing like I’d expected it to sound like. I must have been missing something. After going over the book again, I was ready for another try. “Better,” Draco commented when I finished.
I frowned and picked up the parchment with the song. “All these squiggles are hard to read.”
“The end was ok. Just not the start,” Draco added, trying to be helpful.
I tried again but was finding it hard to press the other end of the piano with my small size. “Do this –” I said, hitting a few keys, “after I do this –” I hit the correct keys on my end.
“Which ones?” Draco asked, confused. I showed him again and he practiced a few times until he got it right.
“Ok, both now.”
It took a few times but eventually Draco and I were able to play the first page flawlessly.
“Page two?” Draco suggested.
We sat there for a couple more hours, slowly working our way through the pages. We’d just finished a difficult bit on the fifth page when a voice drifted into the room.
“Draco? Jade?” We both froze before whipping our heads around as Narcissa stepped into the room. “What are you doing?” she questioned immediately.
“Nothing,” we answered at once. Narcissa looked unconvinced, probably because we were still sitting at the piano with parchment on the floor around us and the book left lying open by my foot.
“You know you aren’t supposed to touch family antiques,” she scolded, walking over to us.
“But mum –”
“Draco, you know how your father feels about this.”
“But we learned how to play,” I insisted.
“Jade, you're –”
“Listen mum, please?” Draco pleaded with wide eyes. Narcissa was a sucker for those eyes and Draco and I both knew it.
“One time,” she reluctantly agreed. Draco nodded at me to begin. We played all the way through till the end of the fifth page then looked back up at Narcissa, beaming. “How did you learn that?” she asked, confused.
“Pictures!” I answered excitedly.
“How long have you been –?”
“Since father left.” Draco told her.
“Today?” Narcissa questioned, sounding surprised.
“Mhmm,” Draco said proudly.
Narcissa picked up Draco and sat next to me before placing Draco in her lap. If he hadn’t been so relieved about not getting in trouble, I think he would have put up more of a fuss. “Play it again,” Narcissa instructed us.
The three of us spent the rest of the day sitting in the corner of the ballroom as Draco and I learned the whole song, delighting Narcissa.
It became a tradition for us. Whenever something seemed wrong with Narcissa we would wait until Lucius was gone then pull her into the ballroom and play her a song. Sometimes Draco would even do a small dance with her, instantly bringing a smile to her face.
I always felt a bubble of guilt surface whenever I remembered this day. What if that day a year before had gone as planned? What if Dobby hadn’t checked in on me? What if Narcissa hadn’t convinced Lucius to owl Snape? That first day at the piano certainly would never have happened. None of those days spent playing music would have. Would Narcissa ever have been happy again? I’d almost ripped her son away from her, twice actually. Twice within four years. She would have been left alone. She and Draco were alone now. I’d left them with Lucius, the Dark Lord and who knows how many Death Eaters.
Snape said it wasn’t my job to protect Draco and Narcissa but it didn’t feel that way to me. I owed it to them after everything I’d put them through. How were they coping now? Would they always be stuck with Lucius? And even if I could convince them to leave Malfoy Manor, where would they go?
I expected Snape the next day so I wasn’t surprised by the knock on my bedroom door that afternoon. However I was surprised to find Dumbledore and not Snape on the other side. I hadn’t slept, my mind was even busier now that I was worrying about Draco and Narcissa, and I wasn’t exactly feeling patient at the moment. I don’t think telling Dumbledore to bugger off and come back at a better time would go over too well though. Plus he’d probably become worried and drag Snape here to speak to me. Better to just get this over with.
“Miss Lestrange,” Dumbledore greeted.
“Professor Dumbledore,” I replied, moving aside so he could enter. “You can have a seat on the chair if you want,” I offered, closing the door. “Sorry it’s not as plush as your office chairs.”
“I must admit it is rather odd being the one offered a seat. It seems of late that I have been the one welcoming others,” Dumbledore said pleasantly as he sat down.
“Maybe you need to get out more,” I suggested, sitting down on the bed. “Or maybe not,” I added in an undertone when Dumbledore picked up the copy of the Daily Prophet I’d been reading earlier. It was open to a story about Dumbledore being demoted from Chief Warlock on the Wizengamot for his speech about the Dark Lord returning.
“Journalists always have a unique way with words,” he commented as though we were talking about something as trivial as the weather. “‘Doubtful he can even remember where he left his wand in the morning,’ that is a new one.”
“You should save it, frame it even, and ask them about it after they wise up and realize Fudge is an idiot.” Dumbledore looked up at me, amused by my suggestion.
“I can see now why you and Severus get along so well.”
“Because we’re both sarcastic, grudge holding jerks?”
“Perhaps I would not phrase it that particular way.”
“That’s because you’re too nice. Personally I would have stunned then hauled all the free Death Eaters into the Ministry and forced them to chug a liter of Veritaserum so they would tell the Wizengamot everything. That’s just me though.”
Dumbledore considered this before speaking. “I do not believe Severus would have approved of the misuse of his stock.”
“Good point,” I conceded. “He is very picky about those sorts of things.”
“Severus and I had a rather interesting discussion the other day.” Let me guess, Shacklebolt?
“Really? I find I have rather interesting discussions every time I talk to him. I assume you were hinting at Shacklebolt.”
“I was surprised you suggested him.”
“Why? He’s competent, doesn’t blindly follow Fudge, and is an asset to the Order. He’s probably your best asset at the Ministry since everyone knows Mr. Weasley is loyal to you.”
“There are other reasons you suggested him besides his importance to the Order,” Dumbledore said, intently watching me over his half moon glasses.
“The Death Eaters don’t have anything to gain by Shacklebolt joining the Order.”
“I was not speaking about the Death Eaters.” Something about Dumbledore’s knowing look sent a spark of annoyance through me.
“I don’t have anything to gain either.”
“No,” I replied stubbornly.
Dumbledore observed me for a minute before speaking again. “You should ask him.”
“Ask him what?”
“That is something only you can know the answer to.”
“You ever get bored of the wise old wizard routine?” I asked with an edge in my voice.
Looking slightly perturbed, Dumbledore didn’t respond right away. “Should I fetch Severus?” he finally asked.
“I don’t need Snape for everything,” I snapped back.
“I do realize that,” Dumbledore said calmly. “However you have been rubbing your shoulder for several minutes now.” I immediately lowered my right hand.
“It’s a habit,” I muttered, choosing to stare into my lap instead of at Dumbledore.
“If you’re in pain –”
“I’m not,” I said firmly.
“Not all pain is physical.” I gave Dumbledore a hardened glare.
“You and Snape both think I’m some ticking time bomb. Maybe you should focus on the person who actually is just waiting for the right minute to explode – Potter. He watched someone die last month, he watched the Dark Lord return. That’s not something you get over after a couple weeks. And now he’s become the punch line for the Daily Prophet, how do you think he’s going to react to that? How do you think he’s going to feel when he learns you’ve left him in the dark about what’s going on, not to mention the people you’ve got tailing him twenty-four hours a day. What exactly do you plan to gain by having Potter think you don’t trust him?”
“I trust Harry –”
“Really? I must have missed that part while you were deliberately telling his best friends not to tell him anything,” I said sarcastically.
“I don’t expect you to fully understand my choices, but I assure you I am working with Harry’s best interests –”
“‘Best interests?’ All you adults are the same. You think children have to be sheltered, protected from the evils of the world. Not everybody is some fragile piece of glass waiting to shatter at a moment’s notice.”
Dumbledore surveyed me critically without speaking. The silence made me realize just how quickly and badly I’d become annoyed with the Headmaster. Maybe I did need Snape but my pride wouldn’t let me admit that out loud.
“Perhaps it would be best if I left you to your thoughts,” Dumbledore said, standing up. “I trust you are steadily working on Minister Obolensky’s project. I loaned several books to Severus that should be of assistance to you.” Considering a couple of those books were sitting on my desk, Dumbledore didn’t feel the need to wait for an answer before heading to the door. He paused before turning the handle. “You should speak with Shacklebolt. It would benefit you both.”
After Dumbledore left I felt agitated and started pacing. I couldn’t stop the anger and annoyance flowing through me. Less than twenty minutes, that’s how long it took for me to go from fine (albeit tired) to this. All because of bloody Dumbledore. In a burst of frustration I kicked the chair Dumbledore had been sitting on, sending it flying onto the floor several feet away.
I started rummaging through my trunk, making a mess. I could clean that later, right now I was focused on finding one thing – an unbreakable glass bottle filled with Dreamless Sleeping Potion. Something from Snape who told me to use it only when I really needed it since the last thing I wanted was to get addicted. Right now though, that bottle was looking pretty nice. I didn’t want to feel angry, sleeping was a much better alternative.
I sat down on my bed and removed the stopper. Three very large mouthfuls later my vision started fading. I didn’t like how relaxed my body was becoming, it felt very unnatural, but at least the anger was ebbing away.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I was slowly coming around. My eyes weren’t open yet but I could tell I was in bed, lying down properly with blankets covering me. I could also smell food. My stomach growled and I started to move when a voice broke through.
I turned on my side and opened my sleep filled eyes. “How long have you been here?” Snape sat down the book he was reading and turned towards me.
“Only a few hours.”
“Don’t you have anything better to do than watch teenage girls sleep?” I asked, rubbing my eyes.
“Actually I was becoming quite intrigued by your book.” He must have noticed my confused expression because he held up the book he’d been reading and showed me the cover. It was the teaching tips one.
“Aren’t you supposed to read that before you become a teacher?”
“I may have skipped over it.”
“You don’t say,” I muttered, sitting up. “Is that for me?” I asked, spotting a platter of food on my desk. Snape stood and retrieved it for me. It was full of food – bacon, eggs, sausages, muffins, toast, a bowl of oatmeal and half a dozen pancakes.
“Not exactly house elf service but I’m sure you’ll manage,” Snape said as he sat back down. Personally I thought it tasted great or maybe I was just that hungry.
“She may be overbearing and meddling, but she does make a good meal,” I remarked in between mouthfuls. Snape gave me a look of contempt. “Want a muffin?” I asked a bit cheekily.
“No,” he responded, sounding revolted.
“When’s the last time you had a nice home cooked meal?”
“Last night. When I made myself dinner.”
“I don’t think a cold can of tomatoes count.” Snape raised an eyebrow at me. “That’s what I imagine you eating during the summer when you’re not at Hogwarts.”
“Not even remotely close.”
“I make a rather impressive braised lamb.”
“Really?” I asked laughing.
“No,” Snape answered sharply, glaring at me. “Did you drink this?” he questioned, holding up the bottle of Dreamless Sleeping Potion.
“After Dumbledore left?”
“Are you asking or telling me?”
“After Dumbledore left,” I repeated firmly while rolling my eyes.
“At four in the afternoon?”
“Is that what time Dumbledore left?”
“How much did you tell me to take?”
“Snape.” He gave me a very dark look. “A couple sips.”
“Define a couple and a sip”
“You know, Dumbledore and I were just talking about this. You’re very…fussy when it comes to your potions.”
“Really? Just talking about it, were you?” There was something about his tone that confused me.
“Dumbledore was here two days ago. Actually a little over two and a half days ago.” I froze. Two and a half days? “It took considerable effort to convince everyone that you were not trying to harm yourself after a fight with Dumbledore and were in fact, just unimaginably foolish.”
“Two and a half days?” How the heck does a sleeping potion knock you out for that long?!
“Your knight in shining armor took it particularly unwell.”
“Do you have another waiting in the wings?”
“What happened to Fred?” I asked, instantly worried.
“Unsurprisingly, walking in here and finding you seemingly not breathing tends to go over badly. Add an open potion bottle beside your body and you can see where this is going. It took Lupin and Black, along with two of his brothers to pry him away from your body so I could examine you. After he regains consciousness you should work on reminding him that you are fond of living, despite your actions. Considering your attitude when you awoke, I’m assuming that you were not trying to injure yourself, no matter how angry Dumbledore made you.”
I was feeling guilty and very confused now, yet one part of Snape’s words jumped out at me. “Regains consciousness?”
“Yes,” Snape answered, looking miffed that this was the part I questioned first. “He was looking dreadful and hadn’t slept for two days. His parents approved of slipping him something to bring an end to his unnecessary guarding.”
“You drugged him?!”
“I hardly think I’m responsible for what people use my potions for. Especially when I tell them one small sip will suffice,” he said, pointedly glaring at me.
“Well I didn’t think it would matter if I –”
“Didn’t think it would matter?” Snape held up the potion bottle again. “Does this look like an ordinary Dreamless Sleeping Potion to you?”
“It’s. Not. Purple.”
“Are you kidding me? It absolutely looks purple –”
“It’s lavender,” Snape growled.
“Those are the same –”
“No, they are not,” he snapped, cutting me off. “I told you one small sip and you go and down half the bottle then wonder why I’m constantly worried about you.”
“I didn’t think you were going to try and poison me,” I muttered bitterly.
“There wouldn’t have been an issue if you would have listened.” I shot him a glare but kept eating. We were quiet for a few minutes until, “What’s at Nettilling Lake?”
“Nettilling Lake. You were muttering in your sleep. I couldn’t understand most of it but you kept saying Nettilling Lake.”
“I don’t even know where that is.” Snape stared at me, like he was trying to figure out if I was lying.
“It’s in Canada,” he said at last. “Near Greenland.”
“Never heard of it. What’s there?”
“Snow and ice.”
“Well that’s really useful,” I mumbled sarcastically. “I don’t remember dreaming about it.”
“Dreamless Sleeping Potion. You’re not supposed to be having any dreams.”
“Then you explain it.”
“You’re the one dreaming, you tell me.”
I rubbed my head trying to think back. Had I ever come across Nettilling Lake before? Maybe it was only mentioned once in a sentence I’d read years ago. “Anything even slightly interesting there?”
“I don’t think you understand what interesting means.”
“As far as I can tell, there is nothing interesting there. There’s barely twelve thousand people on the entire island. Certainly nothing I could find that would draw your attention.”
I picked up on the way he said ‘your’ and guessed his reason for bringing it up at all. “What about a Death Eater’s attention?”
“I considered the idea of Karkaroff heading there.”
“Wouldn’t he be better off in a populated city? He’d blend into the crowd.”
“That would be an option. Not the one I believe he would choose however.”
“Yeah, isolate yourself until you’re surrounded,” I scoffed. “Great plan that is.”
“Feeling compassion for him?”
“You think he deserves to be killed?”
“Yes,” I answered, remembering what Karkaroff had done, what he’d paid to have done.
“No sympathy for those who blackmail you, I see.” So that’s where he was going with this.
“Some people don’t deserve sympathy.”
“I remember you telling me Viktor Krum and irreconcilable differences were the reason for your dismissal.”
“Which is essentially true.”
“Blackmail is something entirely different.” I let out a sigh. “Does he know?”
“Do not take this lightly. If he knows and the Dark Lord finds him, Karkaroff is a cockroach with an uncanny ability to survive, he will tell the Dark Lord to save himself.”
“He doesn’t –”
“Do not underestimate him either. He didn’t get this far by being a bumbling idiot.”
“Even if he had the slightest inkling about something being off, there is no way he would trace it back to you.”
“Karkaroff? No. The Dark Lord would though. I need to know, have we been compromised?”
“No,” I answered firmly even as my mind drifted to Dimitri. He wouldn’t tell, I was sure he never would but I doubt Snape would have taken my word for it.
“We should discuss Dumbledore.” I let out a low growl. “Still annoyed with him?”
“He’s so…” Weak. “I don’t approve of how he’s handling things.”
“Which things in particular?”
I let out another sigh as I crossed my legs and leaned back against the wall. “Everything?”
“I’m not sure you realize everything he’s doing.”
“He’s working with the misfits, oddballs, loners, and outcasts of the wizarding society, meeting in secret every few nights and having Potter tailed. If this is the best he’s got I’m not exactly sensing a favorable outcome.”
“That’s not all he’s doing –”
“He could have had the Minister on his side.”
“Fudge is an idiot, you know that.”
“Why not show him Potter’s memory? Surely Dumbledore’s got access to a Pensieve. You’re telling me not once did the idea of showing Fudge that the Dark Lord was back come to mind?”
“You are not the first person to suggest that –”
“Then why not? This just plays perfectly into the Dark Lord’s plans.”
“There is something Dumbledore does not want the Minister or public at large to know –”
“Anyways, it has already been too long for Fudge to accept a memory of it. He would simply claim Dumbledore and Potter concocted it.”
“He should be doing more. Most of us are just cleaning a house for Merlin’s sake.”
“What precisely do you think you should be doing?”
“Learning how to fight –”
“You’re not even of age –”
“I bet I could beat over half those blokes in the Order. You’ve got the Weasleys, Hermione, and Potter. That’s not even counting others at Hogwarts who are smart enough to know the Dark Lord is back. We should be doing something, anything more useful than this, but we’re not.”
“You want to train children to fight Death Eaters?”
“Don’t say it like that. I’m not talking about some dewy eyed first year.”
“No one would ever approve of their child –”
“Approve? A Death Eater isn’t going to ask for approval to kill someone underage. They’re not going to wait until you have a permission slip signed before attacking you.”
“We’re not anywhere near that point –”
“That’s exactly why Dumbledore should be starting now. He should be –”
“Building an army?”
“You realize that’s what Fudge believes is already happening?”
“So? It’s not illegal. You and I both know that’s what the Dark Lord is doing. Dumbledore should be –”
“Dumbledore is recruiting overseas.”
“I understand that you feel…under utilized here. At the present time it is necessary. I’m certain the Weasleys, Granger, and Potter will find a way to assert themselves into a fight. And I’m even more certain that you will, despite any warning I give you. But for now, this is what you need to do.”
I let out an annoyed huff. “I hate it when you’re being so reasonable.”
“Oh I know,” he mocked.
“I still don’t approve.”
“I’ll be sure to pass the message along.” I’m betting it was taking all of Snape’s will power not to roll his eyes at me. “As reluctant as I am to anger you –”
“I’m not angry.”
“As reluctant as I am to annoy you, I feel obligated to ask about Shacklebolt.”
“How are you not bored of that yet?”
“It is my responsibility not to become bored of these things.”
“Such a worrywart.”
“It’s pure selfishness,” I confessed. I could see now that Snape was never going to lay off unless I told him. It had already been going on for far too long. I didn’t have to give him all the details, but I could tell him this. “I am selfishly trying to figure something out about Shacklebolt.”
“Whether he’s guilty,” I answered, rubbing my shoulder.
“Letting me go live with the Malfoys.”
“It wasn’t his decision.”
“Guilt isn’t rational.”
“That’s an understatement, especially coming from you.”
“He shouldn’t feel guilty. He has no reason to.”
“Then why do you care?”
“I don’t know,” I muttered. Why did it really matter if Shacklebolt felt guilty? It didn’t change anything.
“Perhaps you already know the answer but are unwilling to admit it to yourself.”
“Thanks for the insight, Dumbledore,” I grumbled sarcastically.
A/N: The information about Dumbledore is from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling, Chapter 5, The Order of the Phoenix.
Snape wasn’t exaggerating about trying to convince everyone I had not purposely overdosed on his potion. Admitting I hadn’t followed Snape’s directions took a hit on my pride but at least nearly everyone accepted that answer. Fred on the other hand, started checking up on me hourly. I had to sit him down and candidly tell him about not sleeping then becoming upset with Dumbledore and just wanting to rest afterwards before he accepted that I was not actively trying to harm myself. The only other people who seemed less than reassured were Mrs. Weasley and Lupin. They were both more discreet about making sure I was still fine. Yet I did eventually notice their pattern on the third day back to cleaning.
Dumbledore, well I hadn’t seen him at all. After Mrs. Weasley found out about us listening, or at least trying to listen in on Order meetings, she started putting an Imperturbable Charm on the kitchen door so we couldn’t hear. That took away any reason for me to stray anywhere near Order meetings where Dumbledore would be.
Kingsley Shacklebolt I had seen a couple more times at dinner. He didn’t talk to me yet I thought I saw him glance my way a few times, I suppose that could have just been wishful thinking on my part. Why did it matter so much to me if he was guilty? Why did I care if he regretted standing aside and watching some Ministry official give me to the Malfoys? I couldn’t help wanting to talk to Shacklebolt but I wouldn’t do it in front of everyone and I didn’t have enough nerve to ask to speak to him alone.
Over a week after my…er, accidental two day power nap, the Weasleys, Hermione and Black were upstairs cleaning. I was taking a quick break to use the loo when the door bell rang. The portrait of Mrs. Black started screaming and I heard someone, probably Black, run down the stairs. As I walked out of the bathroom I could hear Black telling the visitor not to ring the door bell. Well that’s what it sounded like, it was a bit hard to hear with all the insults being shouted. Whoever it was must have helped close the curtains over the portrait because the yelling stopped after a minute.
“…not with work,” I heard a deep voice say. Shacklebolt. “I’ll leave Dumbledore a report.”
“We’ll let him know,” Black replied before starting back up the stairs. I quickly hid in the bathroom and he passed by without noticing me. The thud of the kitchen door made me realize something. The Weasleys, Hermione and now Black were upstairs. Lupin was on guard duty. Nobody else was here. It was my chance to talk to Shacklebolt alone. What were the odds of this happening again?
Just do it.
I headed down after a peek up the flight of stairs to make sure no one was there. At the kitchen door I paused. ‘You’re supposed to be a bloody Gryffindor,’ I mentally scolded myself.
When I opened the door, Shacklebolt glanced up at me. After a moment he returned to writing on a piece of parchment as he sat at the table. I walked over to the sink and slowly washed my hands. I thought it was a decent cover until I could think of how to start a conversation. You can’t exactly start with ‘Hey, know that whole sending me to live with the Malfoys thing from thirteen years back? How’d you feel about that?’
“Nobody washes their hands that long,” Shacklebolt said as he continued writing. Well that’s one way to strike up a conversation, I could work with that.
“I never read the book on stalling tactics.”
“That’s because they teach it to you first hand in Auror training.”
“Since I’ve never had the desire to become an Auror, I’ll have to take your word for it.”
“I imagine you see enough dark wizards as it is.”
“There is that.” I sat across the table from Shacklebolt. He looked up at me for a second before going back to his report.
“You’ve been watching me for over a week, how much longer are you going to put off whatever it is you want to say?” Bloody hell, was I really that obvious?
“Why did you become an Auror?” This made him pause but he didn’t answer. “Too personal?”
“Why’d you only ask about your mother?”
He already knew about the connection to my father, I didn’t see how giving him an honest answer would hurt anything. “I already knew my father was still in Azkaban,” I said, tapping my head.
“Not really when you’re two years old and don’t know how to block out the Dementors.” Shacklebolt’s expression was unreadable. “No worries,” I continued in offhand matter, “by four I learned that ignoring them and focusing fully on what was around me helped. As did a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies a day.” A flash of surprise passed over Shacklebolt’s face before quickly disappearing. “Shocked that the Malfoys allowed cookies? The secret was waiting seventeen minutes after Lucius went to bed. And yes it was seventeen because fifteen’s much too short, he’d still be awake and twenty…well who waits twenty minutes for cookies? After that you just sneak down to the kitchen where Dobby the house elf would have a plate of the absolute best chocolate chip cookies and glass of milk waiting. Four years I did that, never once got caught. It’s an impressive streak.”
“What changed after four years?”
“I outgrew it I guess.” There was a silence between us until I risked another question. “Why didn’t you join the Order last time?”
“Didn’t know it existed.” I let out a skeptical scoff.
“The Prewetts and the Longbottoms were both in the original Order, along with Moody. You didn’t know that a fourth of your department, including your boss, was working hand in hand with Dumbledore?”
“We were overrun back then,” Shacklebolt replied, sounding a bit defensive. “As long as they had my back out in the field and weren’t working with you-know-who I didn’t really care what they did on their own time.”
“Why join this time then?”
Shacklebolt definitely took a while before answering this time. “Last time the Ministry was working alongside Dumbledore. This time they’ve got their heads stuck in the sand. They’re more worried about popularity and gold than doing what’s right.” His distaste for the Ministry was genuine but there was something else there too, and I had a fairly good idea about what it was.
“The Ministry was like that back then too. How many Death Eaters got out of Azkaban by claiming bewitchment? How many of those were rich purebloods who happened to loose a sack full of Galleons just before being declared innocent?”
“Not my choice. I would have put them all away.”
“Without a doubt.”
“You didn’t stop anyone from sending me there.” Shacklebolt froze. “I suppose it wasn’t really your choice. It was just some Ministry bloke who needed a bit of gold. Or maybe he thought I deserved it after what my parents did.”
“No child deserves to be used as a pawn, especially by Lucius Malfoy, no matter who their parents are.”
“Is that why you feel so guilty? Because I was nothing but a pawn for Lucius? One that everybody else but you seemed to be blind to?” Shacklebolt let out a sigh and laid down his quill before looking up at me and responding.
“You were only two years old and already afraid of the Lestranges. You’re still afraid, I can see it in your eyes mixed with hate. And you had a chance to escape from it all. A chance at a normal life away from fear and then some Ministry idiot was blinded by Lucius Malfoy’s gold and sent you right back into that life. A bag of Galleons was more important than a child’s future. That never should have happened.”
“I could have easily been sent to my grandmother. You think that would have been better?”
“There were other options.”
“Who?” I asked sarcastically. “The Tonks’?”
“They would have been better –”
“No, they wouldn’t of.”
“You can’t have enjoyed growing up at Malfoy Manor.”
That’s when it clicked. I realized it wasn’t Shacklebolt’s guilt I needed an answer to. It wasn’t even guilt at all, it was regret. My own regret. Did I regret the Ministry sending me to the Malfoys? Did I wish I would have been sent somewhere else? Had all the pain been worth it? Was sneaking down to the kitchen for cookies, a day spent learning to play the piano, jumping off a small dock into a pond, pretending to duel with sticks, playing hide-and-seek in the woods, throwing up small rocks to practice Seeking worth the abuse I’d suffered at the hand of Lucius? Was starting a food fight in the kitchen, making fun of the guests at various parties, learning to slide down the banister, scaring the peacocks then running away from said angry peacocks, picking flowers for Narcissa, staying up till midnight eating Bertie Bott’s Beans, and catching fireflies at dusk worth the heartbreak I’d felt watching it all come crashing down? There was one thing linking all these moments, Draco had been with me every step of the way. The memory of two kids, one with blonde hair the other with black, lying in the grass, staring up at the sky flitted through my mind. We’d spent hours lying there talking about everything we were going to do at Hogwarts and even after Hogwarts when we weren’t going to be under Lucius’ thumb anymore. Draco had made every minute worth it. That was something I would never regret.
“Stop feeling guilty,” I told Shacklebolt. “I don’t regret growing up with the Malfoys.” He looked at me skeptically as I stood up. “Really, I don’t,” I assured him. “I needed to live with them. I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t.”
I left the kitchen, heading back to the room I’d been washing. Growing up with the Tonks family or any other family might have been more stable but I wouldn’t trade my time at Malfoy Manor for anything. I’m going to save them all. It would be easier to focus on the people already against the Dark Lord, that wasn’t everybody though. It would be easier to just fall into line behind Dumbledore’s protection but I couldn’t do that forever. The Draco Malfoy I knew, not the Hogwarts bully, not Lucius Malfoy’s perfect pureblood son, was still there. I wouldn’t give up on him until I’d gotten both him and Narcissa out of danger. It wasn’t going to be easy and it wasn’t going to be quick but it was worth it. Draco was worth it.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO BE WATCHING HIM!”
The Weasleys, Hermione and I all jumped, startled by Mrs. Weasley’s shouts. We all gave each other a small glance before quickly going to the bedroom door. Mrs. Black’s portrait had started screaming too but we were still able to hear part of the argument taking place downstairs by the front door.
“HE WAS EXPELLED?!” I had a shrewd idea about who ‘he’ was but hoped I was wrong. “I WILL NOT CALM DOWN! HE WAS ATTACKED BY DEMENTORS!”
“Harry,” Hermione gasped.
“They’re having him watched all the time,” Ron began, “how could Dementors –”
“DUMBLEDORE GAVE YOU ONE JOB BUT STOLEN CAULDRONS WERE MORE IMPORTANT TO YOU?!”
“Mundungus was on guard duty tonight,” I whispered. “They’ve got to be talking about Harry.”
“They can’t expel Harry, can they?” Ginny asked fearfully.
“Don’t underestimate Ministry incompetence or malevolence. Fudge is going to have a field day with this,” I replied grimly.
“But there are laws! He’s allowed to use magic in life threatening situations. If he was attacked by Dementors –”
“Doesn’t he live in a muggle neighborhood? Muggles can’t see Dementors, there won’t be any eyewitnesses.” Mrs. Black was silent now and everyone else had retreated into the kitchen. I crept over to the railing, looking down to be sure.
“Extendable Ears?” George asked before him and Fred popped away. Hermione, Ginny, and Ron moved closer to the railing. There was definitely a lively conversation taking place down there, we just couldn’t tell what was being said. The twins popped back holding several Extendable Ears that they immediately passed around. The flesh colored strings were dropped over the railing and moved closer to the kitchen door.
“…Dumbledore will sort it out Molly,” Lupin was saying.
“The law is on his side,” stated Tonks. “Harry has every right to protect himself from Dementors.”
“Why were Dementors even there in the first place?” Black said viciously. “Snape’s been saying Voldemort wasn’t going to recruit them yet.”
“I’m sure Dumbledore will ask Snape the same thing at the next meeting –”
“Come on Remus! How much more of Snape’s information is true?” I let out a growl. Fred wrapped his fingers around mine, probably to remind me not to do something rash, like go down and punch Black.
“What are you going to tell the lot upstairs?” Tonks asked.
“The truth?” Ginny muttered resentfully.
“Not likely,” came George’s reply.
“Harry will tell them the truth anyways,” Lupin responded.
“Or Snape’ll tell her.”
“You think he won’t? How do we know what’s in that little book of theirs? They won’t even let Dumbledore see it –”
“She trust Snape more –”
“We don’t know what they talk about! She could be mining information –”
“She is not working for Voldemort,” Lupin said harshly. “Just because she feels more comfortable with Snape doesn’t mean –”
“Something is off about them Remus! You don’t see the way he looks at her.”
“And you don’t see anything past Bellatrix when you look at her.”
“This has nothing –”
“You know that’s a lie. You’re incapable of looking past Bellatrix and what she’s done. Jade is not her mother. You above all people should know that our parents don’t determine who we are.”
“Don’t you compare her to me –”
“Enough.” I was surprised to hear Shacklebolt. I hadn’t even known he was here. “Molly, tell them the truth about Harry, they’ll learn it eventually anyways. I need to get back to the Ministry, my shift starts in an hour.”
The sound of chairs moving caused us to yank up the Extendable Ears. The kitchen door swung open and we backed away from the railing. As the sound of the front door opening drifted up, I turned, planning on going straight for my room. Before I could take two steps, someone grabbed my arm.
“Don’t listen to him,” Fred muttered into my ear.
“I’m fine,” I whispered back. “I just need a few minutes.”
When I closed the door to my room I let out a shaky breath. Despite what I’d just told Fred, I was not fine. ‘Something is off about them. You don’t see the way he looks at her.’ Staying here for the summer was a bad idea. Black was already suspicious. How long would it be until the others were too? Dumbledore and most of the adults were preoccupied with Order business but the Weasleys and Hermione, and possibly Potter? Well I suppose the twins and Ginny weren’t the real issue, Hermione though? How long would the Order keep her attention? Once we were back at Hogwarts she’d worry less about what the Order was doing and maybe she would start noticing holes and shortcomings with Snape’s explanation for things.
A knock on the door interrupted my thoughts. Lupin poked his head in. “We’re meeting in the kitchen. There are some…events we need to discuss.”
“I’ll get it from Fred later,” I responded. For a minute I thought Lupin was going to oppose this but he nodded and closed the door.
There were thousands upon thousands of books in the Hogwarts Library. If Hermione became suspicious and started researching, what were the odds of her finding the right book? A few books might briefly mention it but for anything substantial she would need a very advanced Dark Arts book. Those were bound to be in the restricted section. I could easily warn Snape to check them out discreetly. That would effectively cut off Hermione’s information source. I was fairly confident that would work.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
After scratching out what felt like the hundredth mistake, I laid down my quill. I couldn’t focus tonight. Part of it was the upcoming arrival of Potter. Hermione and Ron would likely recap everything going on in Grimmauld Place and everything they learned, including what they now knew about me. That’s why I decided to stay in my room all evening. I’d rather have the others deal with Potter first.
There was also the fact that I was impatiently waiting for the Order meeting to end so I could speak to Snape. After I’d gotten over the idea of Black being suspicious, I processed what happened to Potter. Two Dementors very far from Azkaban don’t just happen to find a wizard in a muggle neighborhood. And the odds of that wizard being Harry Potter? Probably less than a million to one. Had the Dark Lord sent them? Snape had been sure the Dark Lord was waiting to free Azkaban and recruit the Dementors. What if Snape had been fed false information? What if the Dark Lord didn’t believe Snape had been baiting his time at Hogwarts and knew Snape really did side with Dumbledore? Every time Snape met with the Dark Lord there was a chance he might not leave there alive. It was gut-wrenching for me.
The sound of yelling coming from the floor below tore me from my thoughts.
“…I’VE BEEN STUCK AT THE DURSLEYS’ FOR A MONTH!”
I guess Potter’s here. I tried to tune out his ranting, not feeling particularly interested in his whining. I’d much rather have been outside than this house, even if I was being followed. I wonder how Fred and George are going to feel about all the yelling since it would likely interfere with their Extendable Ears. Apparently the Order meeting tonight was a big one and the twins were trying to get some information.
“…DUMBLEDORE MADE YOU SWEAR…”
Well Potter sure didn’t sound fond of Dumbledore. He and Black would get along swell then because Black had recently begun acting moody (well more than normal) if anyone mentioned the Headmaster.
After some more yelling, it sounded as if Potter had got all that built up rage out. Good for him. Screaming at your best friends, real classy.
I moved from my desk to my bed. I sent Snape a quick message, telling him to let himself in if I fell asleep, before I laid down and closed my eyes.
A/N: I made the Prewetts Aurors because well…it fit in nicely. Plus it did take five Death Eaters to take them down, seems like they would have been more than qualified to be Aurors.
I know, it’s moving so slow, we’re only at the beginning of the actual events with Harry. Expect a very long story this time. A very long story. There’s a lot of information to get through.
Harry’s quotes are from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling, Chapter 4, Number Twelve Grimmauld Place and the information about Harry being attacked by Dementors then expelled is from Chapter 1, Dudley Demented and Chapter 2, A Peck of Owls.
I jerked awake from a loud thump and my eyes immediately scanned the room. I let out an annoyed huff finding only Snape. He’d purposely dropped my journal on my desk to wake me.
“There are other ways to wake people up.” I sat up and leaned against the wall, crossing my legs in front of me.
“A jet of water seemed unnecessarily cruel.” Snape pulled the chair out and sat down facing me.
“Normal ways of waking someone. Knocking, shaking my arm a bit.”
“Those seemed far too nice considering how annoying you’ve been.”
I let out a sigh and rubbed the back of my head. “Sorry,” I muttered, frustrated that my emotions were slipping through once again.
“Actually it’s only bits and pieces I’m picking up. Not being able to connect it all together is surprisingly more annoying than seeing it all.”
“You want more slipping through? Do you need a hobby? Or do you just want all the information so you can sound all-knowing and impressive whenever I have a problem?” I asked rudely.
“Your attitude always starts showing when you get defensive.”
“I’m not being defensive,” I said sharply. “I haven’t been having the greatest day.”
“What’s bothering you?”
“I assume you mean the ones that attacked Potter.”
“Are they joining –?”
“No. Well not yet,” Snape answered briskly.
“As I told Dumbledore, the Dark Lord was surprised and angered that Potter had been attacked.”
“Why would he be angry?”
“Don’t let over exposure to Black tarnish that bright mind,” he sneered. “The Dark Lord does not want to draw attention to himself. As long as nothing strange happens, people will be more likely to side with Fudge. If the public hears about Dementors attacking wizards, they could start questioning if the Ministry really has control over them.”
“Potter lives in a muggle neighborhood, that works in Fudge’s favor. He can just claim Potter’s making it up,” I countered. “Plus if the Dark Lord didn’t send the Dementors, who did?”
“That is something I do not have an answer to.”
Well it wasn’t terribly enlightening but I had other concerns to voice. “Black thinks your information is wrong.” Snape rolled his eyes. “What if he’s right?” He narrowed his eyes at me. “What if the Dark Lord doesn’t trust you?” Snape looked much less offended when I explained my reasoning.
“Always a possibility. However I am inclined to believe that while not fully trusting me, he does not think I am actively helping Dumbledore.” Snape eyed me critically. “Is this really what’s bothering you?” he asked in disbelief.
“I don’t want anything to happen to you,” I mumbled pathetically.
“Perhaps unnecessarily cruel was not so unnecessary,” Snape ridiculed. “Do not worry about me, I’m more than capable of surviving.” I still couldn’t stop feeling worried. “I’m going to be fine,” he said harshly. “I don’t have much of a choice since you wouldn’t make it a week without me.”
I let out a huff and rolled my eyes. ‘Black suspects something,’ I sent through the link. Snape raised an eyebrow at me. ‘He knows there’s something…er, between us.’
“Hardly anything to worry about,” Snape scoffed. I wasn’t so sure though. ‘What if someone else starts looking into it, like Dumbledore?’ “Too busy,” he replied, brushing off the idea. ‘Hermione?’ Snape considered that. “Unlikely.” ‘Not impossible. Remove any books from the library, even the restricted ones.’ “You’re underestimating my preparedness.”
“You’ve already –?”
“Long before now.” Well that was smart of him. I couldn’t help wondering how long you could keep a book checked out without Madam Pince hunting you down. Huh, maybe it was different for teachers. “Anything else?” Snape asked. I thought about Draco but Snape would just tell me I was worrying too much. “He’s fine,” Snape said, almost sounding sympathetic.
“There have been a couple dreams.” I let out a frustrated groan. “He’s fine. I saw him last week,” Snape assured me.
“She is confused more than anything. She’s torn between believing your story or thinking you’re under Dumbledore’s protection. But she doesn’t know why you would accept Dumbledore’s assistance. Let alone how you would convince Obolensky to lie for you.”
“All that from Legilimency?”
“Your…perspective does have its usefulness while reading her actions.” In other words, Snape was using my knowledge of Narcissa to figure her out. “You’ve been thinking of them more lately,” Snape added.
“I’m always thinking about them.” Bugger, how much had Snape seen?
“You had been more focused on Weasley.”
“I can think about more than one person at a time.”
“It was merely a surprising shift –”
“That doesn’t mean it came from a Death Eater,” I snapped.
“That was not what I was implying,” Snape replied cautiously. I mentally berated myself for losing my temper. “Are you angry?”
“No. Frustrated with myself. Sorry.”
“Spoken to Shacklebolt?’
“Yeah,” I answered, thankful of the subject change.
“Guilty or not?”
“I didn’t think it mattered to you.”
“If it matters to you, it matters to me.”
“Hell of a way to live.” I tended to overlook everything Snape had done for me or else I’d start feeling like I was –
“You’re not a burden,” Snape interrupted.
“Merlin, I hate that,” I complained.
“I’m not a fan of unwarranted guilt or self pity.”
“I don’t pity myself,” I said, glaring at him.
“But we agree on the unwarranted guilt?”
“Bugger off,” I muttered, looking away.
“Those little reminders of just how young and unremarkably ordinary you truly are. I find them encouraging time to time. I assume this means you are not going to tell me.”
“Hard to believe I used to enjoy that snarky behavior.” Snape gave me a doubtful look.
“Enjoy it?” he asked skeptically.
“It was a nice change from Lucius and Narcissa,” I replied, shrugging. “Why did you think I was always pestering you whenever you came around?”
“You were a child. I assumed being annoying was part of the package.” I laughed at Snape’s repulsed look, causing him to glare at me.
“You’d be a great dad,” I blurted out.
“I’d throttle them before their first birthday,” he said, looking at me like I was mental.
“No,” I replied, smirking. “You’d be great.”
“You’re being sentimental.”
“Sorry,” I apologized, rolling my eyes.
“Always so annoying,” he muttered darkly as he stood up.
“Yes. Before you get any worse.” He returned the chair to its usual position before facing me again. “Potter arrived this evening.”
“Yeah, the ranting scream fest gave it away.”
“As much as I loath saying this,” Snape began, “you should attempt to be friendly towards him.”
“You want me to be nice to Potter?” I asked suspiciously.
“I’m hoping it benefits you. It’s completely opposite of how any Death Eater feels. Perhaps it will help keep you from latching onto their emotions that feed on hate and contempt.”
“The less emotion I share with Death Eaters, the less likely I am to be swayed by them?”
“That’s the theory.”
“Dumbledore’s theory?” I questioned. Snape’s eyes narrowed and I knew I was right.
“It’s a logical theory. It isn’t going to hurt you to test it out. You’re in the same house and year as Potter. Not to mention both against the Dark Lord, it would be beneficial for you to get along. And then there’s the whole Weasley relationship.”
“You actually want me to befriend Potter,” I said in disbelief.
“You can start by using his first name.”
“I’m not being nice to Black,” I stated firmly.
“I’m not that cruel.”
“Fine,” I consented, “I’ll be nice to P-Harry.”
“Good. Now go get one of the Weasleys to let me out. Dealing with Lupin and Black is annoying.”
“Hypocrite,” I muttered, walking past him and out the door. He followed me down the stairs, but chose to stand against the wall when I poked my head in the kitchen. Mundungus and Tonks were the only non regulars left, well besides Potter…er, Harry, who was sitting next to Black. I suppose he was considered a regular now that he was spending the rest of the summer here. It seemed like every time I got used to all the people at Grimmauld Place, someone else was thrown in.
“Er…” I said, getting everyone’s attention. Potter didn’t look surprised to see me, meaning Hermione and Ron already handled that part. “Mr. Weasley, could you unlock the door?”
Mr. Weasley seemed to irritate Snape the least. Unsurprising I suppose, when the only other options were Mrs. Weasley, who always insisted Snape stay for dinner (much to Snape’s annoyance), Lupin and Black.
“Of course,” Mr. Weasley answered, standing up.
“He leaving already?” Black asked arrogantly. “No cutting remarks or sarcastic reminders?”
“Sirius,” Lupin growled.
‘Summon me a bright pink feather duster,’ I told Snape mentally. A second later it was placed in my left hand. I transferred it to my right then threw it at Black. “Want a matching bonnet and apron?” I mocked. I heard Snape give a quiet, appreciative chuckle, something he rarely did. Lupin however, did not look amused.
“Both of you, all three of you actually,” Lupin corrected, knowing Snape was beside me, “can surely go one night.”
I moved aside so Mr. Weasley could pass me. Snape followed him towards the front door as I entered the kitchen, taking a seat beside Fred who had a nice habit of sitting far away from Black. Mr. Weasley rejoined the room a minute later. Much to my annoyance, the conversation didn’t pick up like it had been prior to me opening the door.
“Feel free to talk again,” I said sarcastically after Mrs. Weasley placed a bowl of stew in front of me.
“You two don’t like each other?” Potter-Harry-whatever asked, glancing between me and Black.
“We’re absolutely smitten –” I began, callously.
“They’re both immature,” Lupin said, cutting me off. Black and I both gave him a dark look. “You’d think after a month they’d be through with it, apparently not.”
“You know, I can actually hear you,” I pointed out.
“The both of them need to be locked together in a room until they can act their age,” Lupin continued, acting as if he hadn’t heard me.
“Rather spend the day with Kreacher,” Black and I muttered at the same time, much to my disgust. Lupin let out an amused scoff.
“They’re too much alike.” I glared threateningly at Lupin. “Ignore each other if you can’t be civil,” he added before Black could speak.
The meal continued and the conversation did pick up. I mostly listened to the twins and Ron talking to Mundungus. I did notice Potter, I mean Harry, Merlin this was stupid, curse Dumbledore and Snape for their stupid theory. Harry was mainly talking to Black. How was I supposed to befriend him if he was best mates with the person I hated most in this bloody house? It’s not that I had something against Harry, he seemed like a decent chap, it’s just I really didn’t like Black and surely godfather outweighed best friend’s brother’s romantic interest. Maybe at Hogwarts it would be easier. I suppose I could at least act decent to Harry for a few weeks until then.
“Nearly time for bed, I think,” Mrs. Weasley said after dessert.
Black didn’t agree. He turned to speak to Harry. “I thought the first thing you’d do when you got here would be to start asking questions about Voldemort.”
The whole atmosphere in the kitchen changed. The Weasley parents tried to keep information from their children, was Black going to do the opposite? Being Harry’s godfather sort of made him in charge of Harry, didn’t it? Was more information about Order business about to be shared? Mrs. Weasley obviously didn’t approve. She tried to send all her children upstairs, unsuccessfully though, except in Ginny’s case. I was certain Hermione would share whatever was said anyways.
Honestly, I was less than impressed. Maybe Snape was telling me more than he was supposed to. I already knew the Dark Lord was lying low, trying not to draw attention to himself. And that he was rebuilding his army while the Order was trying to recruit people too. Snape had also informed me that Fudge believed Dumbledore was building an army. The only thing of interest was Black letting it slip that the Dark Lord had other plans he was concentrating on, something besides gaining followers.
“Stuff he can only get by stealth.”
Guard duty. The Order was guarding two things, well one now that Harry was here. So this “weapon,” that’s what the other item was. What else would the Dark Lord possibly need? And who had it now if the Order could only guard it?
I’m almost certain Black would have told Harry everything if Mrs. Weasley hadn’t returned. Even against her children’s protest, she directed us all up to bed.
A/N: The quotes are from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling, Chapter 5, The Order of the Phoenix.
A/N: Quick note, the beginning of this chapter is not from Jade’s pov. After the “* * *” it will go back to her. And when someone speaks and it's entirely in italics, it means they’re speaking a different language.
As the Weasleys and Hermione ate lunch on the other side of the room, Harry and Sirius remained beside the tapestry, looking over the Black family tree. Sirius scanned the names, telling Harry about the typically less than pleasant members of the Black family. Harry was shocked to hear that Sirius was related to Tonks.
“Her mother, Andromeda, was my favorite cousin. She was blasted off after marrying a Muggle-born, Ted Tonks.” Sirius informed Harry, pointing to a small burn mark.
Harry was more interested in the names beside the small burn. On one side was Narcissa Black who was connected to Lucius Malfoy by two golden lines. A vertical line in between them led to the name Draco Malfoy. On the other side was Bellatrix Black who was connected to Rodolphus Lestrange, with a vertical line leading down to Jade Lestrange.
“You’re related to Jade!”
“All pure-blood families are related in some way. There aren’t many choices when you’re only allowed to marry other pure bloods.”
“But –” Harry wanted to ask why Sirius and Jade seemed to hate each other when they were so closely related and to be honest, quite similar. The answer came to him quickly – Snape. Sirius and Snape loathed each other and based on what Ron and Hermione told him last night, Jade and Snape were very close.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I wasn’t sure if it was because Harry was here or maybe Black and I had run out of insults, but life at Grimmauld Place was running a bit smoother. It was almost on the verge of being pleasant…as long as I didn’t run into Black too often. There were times I would catch Harry watching me but I pretended not to notice. I also had to finish this whole bloody school reform idea for Obolensky since I would be returning to Bulgaria in a couple weeks. I still didn’t think I was the right person to be suggesting ideas, Obolensky should have been asking Dumbledore. Besides teachers possessed by the Dark Lord, a Basilisk petrifying students, Azkaban escapees, and Death Eaters disguised as other people Hogwarts was…well it was ok. Maybe not perfect, but you know, no school really is. It was better than the other three schools I’d been at, alright.
I was sitting in my room working on ideas, taking an occasional glance at Dumbledore’s books when there was a knock on my bedroom door. “Come in, Fred,” I called out as I kept writing.
“That was definitely not my regular knock,” he complained, walking in and closing the door behind him.
“Nobody else tries to knock in a jingle except you.”
Fred let out a comical huff as he stood behind me, looking over my shoulder. “That’s a very well thought out idea indeed,” he said in a posh accent. I smiled and shook my head.
“Learned how to speak Bulgarian, have you?”
“I’m afraid I don’t have any turnips at the moment,” Fred responded, not having a clue what I’d said.
“Go sit down,” I told him, laughing.
“Not the right answer?”
“It was very close,” I teased. I heard Fred plop down on my bed a moment later.
“Nearly done with that?”
“Not really,” I admitted, frowning. “There’s a lot of information and rules to read through. So many rules.”
“Me and George must have broken nearly all of them,” Fred said proudly.
“Actually I’m sure you’ve hardly broken half of them. They have rules for nearly everything. ‘Students are not permitted to use peach ink.’ Does anyone even sell peach ink?”
“I am most certainly buying a bottle of it for next year. I may need to import it though.”
“Expelled for excessive peach ink use. That will be quite the story.”
“All made possible because of you.”
“No you don’t,” I declared. “I will not be dragged into this.” Fred laughed as I continued writing.
“Any other fascinating rules?”
“You and George want to go on a rule breaking spree, don’t you?" I accused. "Only one year left to break the rest of them. ‘Students are, under no circumstances, permitted to bring a Chimera onto school grounds.’ That’s one you two can’t break.”
“That’s entirely prejudice. What have they got against Chimeras?”
“I’m going to assume the whole viciously murdering everything that crosses their path is the main concern.”
“There is that,” Fred said thoughtfully. “Would it be selfish of me to ask you to stop writing and come sit with me?” I turned around to look at him and he patted a spot on the bed beside him.
“Alright,” I agreed, setting down my quill and joining him. He intertwined his fingers with mine as soon as I was beside him. We sat there for a minute before Fred spoke again.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Er…something personal?” A spasm of worry shot through me before I answered.
“Why exactly do you and Sirius Black not get along?”
“Because he’s an obnoxious git,” I said immediately.
“That’s not really the best answer considering you’ve said the same about me,” Fred replied cautiously.
“He’s annoying,” I responded, trying to bite back the frustration in my voice.
“You called me annoying when I was trying to snog you last week.”
“You’re not like Black,” I said impatiently.
“He’s your cousin –”
“Lots of people are my cousin. Lots of people are your cousin. That’s how it works in pureblood families.”
“He’s related a lot closer to you,” Fred continued. “Like Tonks, but you dislike them so much.”
“Tonks is…ok,” I admitted. She’d spent a lot of time at Grimmauld Place and yes, to be perfectly honest, I did find her decent enough to be around. That didn’t mean we talked to each other and I never would have chosen her over Draco. She seemed cheerful like Fred and George, and kept everyone entertained with her metamorphic skills.
“So, what’s the issue with Black?”
I knew what the issue was, but that didn’t make it easier to explain. I didn’t want to lie to Fred though, and I couldn’t say nothing. Fred deserved the truth, not once all summer had he asked about Snape. He hadn’t even said one insulting thing about the Potions master while I was around. Odds are Snape was always going to be part of my life and I really wanted Fred to be too. Eventually we would have to talk about Snape, why shouldn’t it be now?
“He doesn’t like Snape.”
“I gathered that…very quickly actually.”
“Well I do. It’s a bit of a deal breaker with Black.”
“Black and Snape hate each other so you’re –”
“Taking Snape’s side,” I finished. “I’ll always take Snape’s side.”
“I didn’t know he meant so much to you.” Fred was trying to keep his voice level but I could hear an edge of bitterness in his words.
“I know you don’t understand –”
“You never gave me the chance to understand.”
“Nobody but the Malfoys even knew I knew Snape. It wasn’t directed at you.”
“I know. Guess I just thought…I don’t know, I was different–we were different.”
“You are. You really truly are.”
“Then tell me why. Why does he mean so much to you?”
I wouldn’t lie. Telling the complete truth wasn’t an option either. Would there ever be a time when I didn’t rely on half truths?
“He was there for me when nobody else was. On more than one occasion, really. You have such a big family, a loving family who you can talk to and share things with. A family who helps you. Lucius was never like that. It’s better to keep your mouth shut and your head down.” Too bad I was rarely like that, ending up on the wrong side of Lucius’ anger on more than one occasion. “Snape was there when I needed him the most. For that I’ll always be grateful. I know he’s not the…warmest or nicest person, or the most pleasant to be around. And Merlin knows he can be an annoying git who makes you want to throttle him for being such an insensitive jerk, but I trust him, more than anybody I’ve ever known. When he tells me to do something, nine times out of ten I’m going to listen. I might not always like it or agree but I genuinely believe he knows what’s best. Even if he is a bit snarky, well a lot snarky…constantly snarky.” Fred couldn’t help but smirk. “I know with every fiber of my being that Snape is not a Death Eater, he definitely isn’t the man Black thinks he is.”
“Only you could make Snape sound so decent,” Fred stated. “At least I know why you’d rather face him than my mother.”
“He threw me to the wolves that day,” I muttered darkly. Fred started laughing and wrapped an arm around me.
“You have the most…peculiar taste in people.”
You don’t even know the half of it.
“Am I allowed to ask you a question?”
“Why wouldn’t you be?”
“Whatever happened with the World Cup bet?” I asked curiously.
“Oh that. Well he wasn’t backed by Gringotts.”
“Who?” I wasn’t sure if Fred would tell me or not.
“Ludo Bagman,” Fred confessed.
“Bagman? Tournament judge and Ministry employee Bagman?”
“That would be the one.”
“Is that why you and George were always trying to talk to him?”
“Was it that obvious?”
“I didn’t think it was for money. He really didn’t pay you? Wait, yes he did after the match. I remember Percy looked furious.”
"Of course you remember. Nice to know even with dozens of other people around you still can’t take your eyes off me,” Fred said smugly. He leaned in, possibly for a kiss but I stopped him.
“Finish the story.” He looked a bit disappointed but continued.
“He paid us in leprechaun gold.”
“That slimy git,” I muttered, narrowing my eyes. “Do you want me to curse him?”
“As entertaining as it would be, I doubt it would do much,” Fred said, amused. “We weren’t the only ones he ripped off. A whole horde of goblins weren’t pleased either, plus now they think the Ministry’s trying to cover it up.”
“They probably are.”
“Probably,” Fred agreed.
“What about your shop? You and George needed the money to start it up and –”
“We’ve got enough money now.”
“Er…anonymous donation,” Fred said awkwardly, making me worry.
“Fred, you really shouldn’t accept random people’s –”
“We know who he is. I’m just not sure if he wants everyone to know he gave us the money.”
I bit my tongue. I didn’t need to know where Fred and George had gotten the money. Yet I couldn’t help but propose another idea. “Accepting other donations?” Fred stared at me curiously before a look of understanding came over his face.
“I don’t want your money,” he said firmly.
“So other people are allowed to donate, but not me?”
“It’s one other person.”
“I’m not allowed to lend you more?”
“We don’t need more.”
“Shops are expensive,” I pointed out delicately.
“We don’t need more,” Fred repeated, making me frown. He leaned in for a quick kiss before I could stop him. “Really, we don’t need more,” he assured me. “We have a whole plan ready for our last year. We’re going to use it to test products and see what people want from a joke shop.”
“You’re going to use your last year as market research?”
“Such fancy words,” Fred teased. “That is the idea though. We already have a few inventions to sell, the Extendable Ears for one. We’re still working on the Skiving Snackboxes. Still trying to perfect the Fainting Fancies, Puking Pastilles, and Nosebleed Nougats.”
“When do you come up with all these ideas?” Fred and George’s wild ideas always impressed me.
“Usually in the shower.”
I snorted and rolled my eyes. “Of course,” I said sarcastically.
“Know what else –” Fred began suggestively as he leaned towards me.
“Behave,” I warned.
“You don’t even know what I was going to say.”
“I have a very good idea,” I replied, raising an eyebrow. “What would your mother think if she walked in here?”
“You’re annoyingly good at killing the mood,” Fred complained, scowling. “Next time,” he promised, swiftly pecking my cheek.
A/N: A couple more chapters and we’ll be back at Hogwarts. Wow, the before school stuff sure took up a lot of time.
The quotes from Sirius and Harry’s conversation are from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling, Chapter 6, The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. And Fred’s revealing of what Bagman did is from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling, Chapter 37, The Beginning.
“Try not to look so guilty.” Harry jumped, probably because he hadn’t expected me to be sitting on the stairs in the dark at five thirty in the morning. His eyes found me and he gave me a look of confusion. “You need to give off the impression that you haven’t done anything wrong, that there’s no reason for you to be expelled,” I advised. “Confidence while still being respectful is the key.”
“Haven’t you been expelled from three schools?” he asked hesitantly.
“I like to think it was more impressive being accepted to three schools after being expelled from the previous ones.” Harry considered that but I could see he was still worried about being expelled from Hogwarts at his Ministry hearing today. “Improper Use of Magic Law thirty seven, Article three, Section J.”
“If you do get expelled, and that’s a very big if, just tell them you’re going to file for home schooling. Since your cousin already knew about magic, you didn’t break any secrecy laws so they can’t destroy your wand. And since you didn’t gravely injure or kill anyone, you’re still perfectly fit to continue your magical education. Worst case scenario, you end up back here with Lupin teaching you and never have to attend another boring class again.”
“They’d allow that?”
“It’s the law, a very specific, written down law they aren’t about to break.”
“It sounds a bit…er, dodgy,” Harry said, sounding unsure.
“The proper term is loophole and considering Fudge is doing everything in his power to convince people you’re a nutter, you really shouldn’t hesitate using one of his own laws against him.”
Harry nodded and turned to continue down the stairs. “Thanks,” he said, sounding sincere.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Harry returned for lunch with the unsurprising news he’d been cleared of all charges. Fred, George and Ginny began doing a small jig, chanting “He got off, he got off,” as everyone congratulated Harry. Hadn’t they all been reassuring him he wouldn’t be expelled? Well they certainly seemed quite relieved now that it was official.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
In two days I would be headed back to Bulgaria for the last days of summer vacation. There was still no Hogwarts school list so I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do about that, but at least I was finished writing about schools. There was a lot more to it than I imagined. If Dumbledore had to deal with this on top of everything else, well that was pretty damn impressive. I thought I’d done a decent job with my suggestions though a few of them may have been more ideal than practical. Obolensky could use whatever ideas he liked, I suppose, I’d done my part.
“Mum wants us downstairs,” Fred announced, suddenly poking his head in the room.
“No idea. She’s told everyone else to hurry up too.”
I nodded and followed Fred down the stairs. Hermione and Ginny were in front of us, George, Ron, and Harry behind. As we passed Mrs. Black’s portrait Ginny glanced back.
“Any idea what’s going on?” she asked.
“Someone arrived about ten minutes ago,” George answered. “No idea who it was.”
We made our way to the kitchen to find Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, along with Lupin, Black and to my surprise, Snape.
“Professor,” Hermione said meekly, freezing. While Snape was frequently at Grimmauld Place, he usually avoided any contact with the Weasley children, Hermione, and Harry. Something they seemed only too happy to oblige with. This sort of direct contact was a bit of shock to them. Snape, who’d been staring at the large fire on the opposite end of the room, turned to glare at Hermione. Something in his eyes was different though, it worried me instantly.
“What happened?” I questioned.
“Nothing,” Lupin responded. “We need to discuss some finer details is all.”
“Sit down and stop asking questions then perhaps you’ll find out.” I was taken off guard by Snape’s brisk and impatient answer. I’d gotten much too used to Snape over the summer. I guess this was his way of settling back into the role we’d take up during the school year. At least I hoped that was the reason behind his mood. Instead of being difficult I walked over to the table and took a seat, facing Snape. The others moved to sit around the table was well. Fred was going to sit next to me but was stopped by Snape’s next words. “You two sit apart,” he ordered.
“You aren’t together anymore.”
“Why not?” Fred asked boldly.
“Because that’s how you ended the year and that is how you are going to act when you go back to Hogwarts.” Fred looked at me, then back at Snape before moving two seats away.
“Why does it matter how they act?” George questioned. Snape gave him a withering glare.
“The Dark Lord,” I guessed, still watching Snape.
“What does Vold-” Harry began.
“You have recently entered the forefront of the Dark Lord’s mind,” Snape told me. “More so once he found out how close to the Weasleys you were. He is not pleased Lucius sent you away, despite Lucius’ attempts to convince him that Obolensky could be an ally.”
“Obolensky would never side with the Dark Lord.”
“I know he wouldn’t,” Snape said impatiently. “Dumbledore knows he wouldn’t.”
“How does you-know-who even know about Jade and Fred?” Hermione asked. “Draco Malfoy?”
“And you,” I muttered, understanding why Snape seemed so off.
“There were not a lot of options.”
“It’s fine. I should have expected it sooner or later. Why now and not before?”
“The Dark Lord and Lucius were not aware of your…relationship until recently.”
“I thought Malfoy told his dad everything,” Ron blurted out. Snape sent me a quick glance. Snape and I both knew that wasn’t true.
“Draco is not the primary source of information.” I couldn’t stop that little bubble of hopefulness deep inside of me. My Draco was still there and he would never be reporting information back to Lucius.
“That still you then?” Black asked rudely.
“There are other Death Eaters trying to gain favor with the Dark Lord,” Snape sneered. “The Notts being one of them.”
“Nott was the one to bring me up?” I asked suspiciously. Although I hadn’t spared more than a passing glance or two at Theodore Nott since I entered Hogwarts, I had met him on a few other occasions. He was arrogant with an entitled attitude I loathed. He was also a firm believer in the ‘proper pureblood’ way where girls were expected to loyally follow their father and husband’s commands. And this was nearly ten years ago, I could only imagine how obnoxious he’d grown up to be.
“I assume his initial displeasure was due to –”
“Shut up,” I snapped at Snape, sending him a glare.
“Due to what?” Fred asked instantly.
“While jealousy is always a possibility –” I let out a growl. I really should have known better than to tell Snape to shut up.
“Jealous of what?” Fred questioned before Snape could continue.
“I believe he’s more offended. You dealt a severe blow to his ego.” Snape finished, ignoring Fred.
“Offended by what?” Fred asked loudly. I looked at him, internally wincing. Even the idea of voicing the reason made me cringe.
“I was…betrothed to him,” I admitted in disgust.
“WHAT?!” Several Weasleys and Harry shouted.
“You’re fifteen!” Hermione exclaimed.
“Well I was five when the idea was planned.”
“The joys of being an acceptable pureblood,” Snape ridiculed
“He’s offended by you?” Fred asked me, confused.
“By you,” Snape corrected.
“What has Fred done?” Mrs. Weasley asked sharply.
“Being passed over for a Weasley was more the issue. The Notts are very proud wizards.”
“Annoying wizards,” I mumbled.
“I assume your past exploits have also not been forgotten.”
“Past exploits?” Fred questioned.
“I may have been…less than impressed when Nott told me I needed to follow his orders,” I confessed. “And may have –”
“May have?” I glared at Snape again.
“Alright, I pushed the pompous git into a pond.”
“You pushed him into a pond?” Fred asked incredulously.
“He was very annoying.”
“Bloody hell,” Fred said in awe. Mrs. Weasley scolded him but he didn’t seem to care. “You’re like the perfect woman.”
“Now I’m going to be sick,” Snape muttered sourly.
“Why would a five year old have an arranged marriage?” Lupin cut in. “What do the Notts have that could benefit the Malfoys?”
“It wasn’t Lucius. My grandmother set it up with Mr. Nott ages ago. They’re old friends and it wasn’t the first time they tried to connect their families. Catherine Nott, Theodore’s much older sister was supposed to marry my uncle, Rabastan.”
“What happened?” Ginny asked.
“She ran off,” Black answered before I had the chance. “Made quite the scandal.”
I eyed Black for a moment, surprised he knew the story. “Australia,” I said, turning back to Ginny. “Supposedly she went there. That’s why the Notts had Theodore, who was groomed by his father much more carefully since it was the Nott name that would continue on,” I explained. “My grandmother wasn’t impressed by the Death Eaters who avoided Azkaban, Mr. Nott being one of them. Eventually a few years later they reconnected and rehashed the old marriage plan again. So I met the Notts and well, wasn’t particularly thrilled.”
“So they called it off?” Hermione assumed.
“Er, not exactly –”
“They likely voided the arrangement once you were sorted into Gryffindor,” Snape interrupted.
“Yeah, probably,” I agreed. “Oi! That’s how she found out, I bet!” Everyone else looked confused except Snape. “The Howler. Lucius certainly didn’t tell her about me. Huh, well that explains that. So little Theo’s going to be watching me this year?”
“Yes. Do not underestimate him,” Snape warned.
“You say that about everybody,” I replied, raising an eyebrow.
“Because you tend to believe you are smarter than everybody,” he snapped back.
“Not everybody.” Snape glowered at me. “Fine, Fred and I are not speaking,” I said, frowning.
“I assume the two of you can rebuild your blooming romance. Merlin forbid either of you be unhappy. Just make it believable,” Snape spat out. “Make this one instruction you are capable of following,” he told Fred harshly.
Instead of glaring at Snape or giving a typical Weasley twin response, Fred nodded and in a level voice said, “Alright.” Snape hadn’t been expecting it to be so easy and gave me a look that showed he was appalled by Fred being so compliant.
“You three,” Snape continued, facing Hermione, Harry, and Ron, “act distant. She wasn’t talking to you before summer and she isn’t now. Since you all seem to be under the impression that you and you alone are more knowledgeable and therefore must run in and play the heroes, blatantly ignoring any person or rules in your way, I imagine it shouldn’t be too difficult.”
“I don’t think Harry, Ron, and Hermione need the extra commentary, Severus,” Lupin said firmly, cutting off Black. Next Snape turned towards Ginny and George.
“You can follow his lead,” he told George, gesturing at Fred. “I don’t care what you do as long as you manage not to act like you spent the entire summer with her,” he instructed Ginny.
“I trust you all understand how important this is?” Mr. Weasley asked, glancing around. He received nods from around the table.
“What happens at Christmas?” Hermione questioned in a small voice, looking around the room. There was an awkward moment before Snape spoke.
“As long as he hasn’t heard any odd news about Miss Lestrange, the Dark Lord will likely be distracted by then. Hence why it is necessary you follow your role.”
“Likely?” Fred asked, sounding worried. “What if –”
“Nothing is going happen if you control yourself,” Snape said curtly.
“Worst case scenario, I slip away at King’s Cross and disappear for two weeks,” I added. This didn’t have the desired result I’d expected.
“You’re not spending two weeks on the streets of London,” Fred said instantly.
“Of course not,” Lupin said calmly. “She’d be here if it came to that.” Black and I both looked at Lupin in alarm. Then I turned quickly to Snape with a look that clearly said ‘that is not happening.’
“It isn’t going to be necessary as long as you all keep your mouths shut.” Fred and Hermione didn’t look fully convinced but Snape switched gears, looking directly at me. “Have everything ready to leave early Thursday morning.”
“What about my school list?”
“It will be mailed to Narcissa. You should find her before the train leaves.”
“And Lucius,” I muttered.
“Letting him see you with Obolensky will be better.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I said unhappily. Then Snape reached into his robes and pulled out a letter, dropping it in front of me.
“That arrived in Bulgaria for you.” I picked it up, looking at the handwriting. Only one person wrote my name like that. I could feel Snape’s eyes on me so I forced myself not to react or let anything slip through the link. “Recognize the handwriting?” he asked almost casually.
“Yeah,” I answered smoothly, stuffing the letter into my pocket even though I was dying to rip it open.
“I do actually have a couple of those,” I said, looking up at Snape. He seemed to be mentally debating something and his eyes flickered over to Fred for a fraction of a second.
“An American friend?” He knows. Of course he knew…well I suppose he didn’t know the real reason for the letter, but he knew it was from Dimitri, or at least the Dimitri I’d invented a back story for. “Wait until you’re in Bulgaria to mail a response.” Now I was feeling quite thankful we were in a room full of people or Snape certainly wouldn’t have given up that easily. Instead he swept from the room, Lupin and Mr. Weasley following him. I waited until just enough time had passed for Snape to leave Grimmauld Place before standing.
“Good chat,” I said flippantly. “I’ll be heading upstairs now.” Before anybody had the chance to respond, I was gone. I passed Mr. Weasley and Lupin as they were locking the door and went straight up to my room, closing the door behind me. I probably wouldn’t have much time before Fred came after me so I quickly opened the letter. It was from Dimitri and written in Russian.
Rumors of your home’s possible though likely severe infestation have reached me. Along with news that our common slippery friend has not returned home. I hope you have been separated from both, however no visible evidence has presented itself. I would like to hear from you but my first two owls appear to be confused. A timely response would be appreciated or I will feel compelled to seek out your close friend.
I let out a frustrated groan. Dimitri had heard about Karkaroff not returning to Durmstrang and the Dark Lord being back. He was also trying to find out more information, like if something happened to me. ‘First two owls’ meant this wasn’t his first time writing, probably making him worry more. And if I didn’t send a response soon, he was going after Snape for answers. That was the absolute last thing I needed right now.
A/N: About Nott, while I did randomly add him in here, I think having him makes a more complete story. Also, god I love writing him. He doesn’t need to be nice or put on any mask, he can be a pure and selfish jerk. He’s not like Draco, he doesn’t have that more humane side. And he’s everything Jade hates about purebloods. He’s just great. I think I spent more time on Nott then even Umbridge.
The information about Harry’s trial and the reactions when he got back to Grimmauld Place is from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling, Chapter 9, The Woes of Mrs. Weasley.
Nestled in the mountains, surrounded by a massive forest, sat the Bulgarian school of magic. It was much different from Hogwarts. With its open courtyard, it resembled Salem the most. Obolensky told me it had once been a monastery that had been deserted then transformed into a magical school. Unlike Salem, it wasn’t comprised of several buildings, just two. A small building that housed the Headmaster’s office and another building, four stories tall, surrounding it and the courtyard. Honestly I couldn’t see why anyone would choose Durmstrang over this. Yes, the grounds were smaller but it was a much brighter looking place with its painted ceilings and open design.
Since the Bulgarian school year didn’t start for another two weeks, there were hardly any people here. Only the Headmaster, caretaker, and some house elves. I was surprised to find out that the caretaker was actually the Headmaster’s wife. She was very…motherly, reminding me of Mrs. Weasley. Though the couple was much older than the Weasley parents. They were also very welcoming, offering me a tour of the school immediately and insisting I could ask the elves for anything I needed.
The first afternoon there I spent in the Headmaster’s office with his wife and Obolensky, going over everything I’d written down. Some of the ideas weren’t practical and others would take a while to transition into but some ideas, like the prefect/Head Boy and Girl system I’d taken from Hogwarts, were met with enthusiasm. They also liked my suggestion for more career focused classes for the students in their last two years of school. Sure core classes were great and covered a wide range, but if you planned on going into, say Healing, it would be more useful to have a class solely based on that once a week. I thought overall it had gone alright, not a thousand Galleons to Lucius alright, but well enough. Now I had to wait here a couple days until an approved Portkey (unlike the one I took to Bulgaria) would take me and the Minister back to England on September first.
I spent the next two days exploring the school and doing a lot of thinking. The main thing on my mind was Dimitri. I’d written him back that night and planned on mailing the letter from here as soon as possible. When I woke up the next morning the letter was gone. Even though my door was locked from the inside and there was no way someone Apparated into the room without waking me, I still felt worried. Against my better judgment I’d asked Kreacher about it. He claimed he hadn’t seen anyone up but he could always be lying, it wasn’t as if he was bound to be truthful to me. I kept reminding myself that no one else in Grimmauld Place knew Russian, so they wouldn’t have been able to read it anyways. That left Tsukino. She’d done this before, but I still didn’t know how. How exactly would you get into a house being protected by a secret keeper? Let’s just add that to the list of things to ask Kuniye. I also really needed someone to talk to about the end of last year. Maybe I should have talked to Snape, I wasn’t really sure why I hadn’t. He certainly tried several times to bring it up. That wasn’t all he tried to talk about, he knew I’d been thinking of Draco and Narcissa more and attempted to bring them up as well. I would see them again on the first, along with Lucius. Lucius and Mr. Nott (who apparently ordered his son to watch me) were both serving the Dark Lord. I didn’t know how long it would be until my parents were freed and went back to serving him too. And then on top of that, Snape had to act like a loyal servant or risk being killed. Dimitri was going after Snape if I didn’t write him back quickly. The letter I’d written was gone, that should mean he wouldn’t though, right?
Yeah, it was a circular thought process that brought me right back around to the first part. Two whole days of worrying like this. Fantastic.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“You are ready to depart?” the Headmaster asked.
“Yes. Thank you for allowing me to stay.” I took one last look out the window before adding, “You have a beautiful school.”
“Come back any time,” his wife said, forcing me to take a wrapped package with more food. Bloody hell, she really was like Mrs. Weasley. “Take care.”
“I will. Thank you.”
“I will write and tell you how the students are enjoying their new year.”
“Alright,” I responded with a laugh, shaking the Headmaster’s hand. I stepped back and tightened my grip on my trunk. Seconds later there was a jerk behind my navel and I was off. First stop – Bulgarian Ministry of Magic. I touched down in a wide room with a bored looking wizard off to the side, carrying a clipboard. Beside him I expected to see Minister Obolensky, instead it was Mr. Levski, the Bulgarian Quidditch Director.
“Miss Lestrange,” he greeted, coming forward. “There has been a slight change in our plans, but no cause for concern, you will be in London for eleven.”
“Is Minister Obolensky alright?” I asked.
“He has an emergency meeting with the Romanian Minister. A vampire couple has been causing some issues in the north,” he explained. “The meeting is to discuss our Ministries working together to halt this before someone is killed.”
Somehow a vampire couple didn’t seem like ‘no cause for concern’ but I kept quiet and nodded as Levski introduced the two wizards who would be accompanying us to London. They were the Bulgarian equivalent of hit wizards. Levski said we’d be taking a Portkey to the English Ministry then me and one of the hit wizards would go to King’s Cross because he had a meeting with the new English Magical Games and Sports Department head.
“Hard to imagine Bagman leaving,” Levski remarked. “He did appear to love his position.” I wasn’t going to say anything, yet the memory of Bagman ripping off Fred and George changed my mind. It wasn’t like Bagman’s story was a secret, even if the Daily Prophet hadn’t reported it, so why not be honest about it?
“I assume he’s on the run.” Levski looked at me, surprised. “Huge debt with the goblins, not to mention all the people he ripped off at the World Cup.”
“Perhaps I should be thankful my wife ordered no gambling that week,” he said frowning.
“One minute sir,” the wizard with the clipboard announced. One of the hit wizards pulled out a piece of rope. His partner grabbed one end before Levski and I each took a hold as well.
Again there was a jerk behind my navel and I was transported to another room with several people. I didn’t recognize a single one of them. Two approached and spoke English as one of the Bulgarians translated for Levski. After checking our wands and giving us each a silver badge to pin to our clothes, Levski was introduced to the wizard who took over Bagman’s job. The guy didn’t look particularly cheerful and in an undertone as he was bidding farewell to me, Levski jokingly added, “Looks like a joyful man, yes?”
A Ministry wizard led me and the second Bulgarian to the lifts which we rode down to the Atrium. It wasn’t packed considering it was well past ten and the morning rush was long over. I did notice the Bulgarian bloke looking around a lot, like he was scanning the entire area. We walked to the far end of the Atrium where we were directed into what I remembered was called a phone booth. First the Bulgarian wizard and I went up to a side road where there was a black car waiting. When the driver’s side door opened, the Bulgarian moved forward and in front of me ever so slightly. Then I realized what he was doing. He was acting like a body guard. I rolled my eyes, I didn’t need a bloody guard, I was fifteen, not five.
There was a noise behind us and I turned to see the English wizard bringing my trunk up the phone booth lift. After storing my trunk in the back, the three of us, along with the driver loaded into the car and took off. I’d never been in a car before and I was sorely tempted to press all the buttons by my seat just to see what they did. Except it would probably look immature so I kept my hands at my side until we reached King’s Cross. Again the Bulgarian went on guard duty, walking directly beside me as I pushed a trolley through the station.
Once we were on Platform 9 ¾, I started glancing around, looking for the Malfoys. After a few minutes I spotted Lucius who was scornfully watching the people around him. He saw me after I took a few reluctant steps his way and his eyes immediately narrowed. Suppressing a groan, I kept heading towards him, spotting Narcissa and Draco. When Narcissa saw me she turned and told Draco something who nodded and turned to leave. This caught Lucius’ attention and he stopped Draco to tell him something. The only words I could make out were ‘remember’ and ‘right.’ I suppose it could have been ‘write.’ Lucius telling Draco to write about what was happening seemed more likely. I couldn’t hear or see Draco’s response but he must have said the right thing because Lucius let him board the train.
“Aunt Narcissa, Uncle Lucius,” I greeted neutrally when I was near them. Lucius glanced at the Bulgarian wizard, looking miffed. Narcissa came forward though and brushed a strand of hair behind my ear. It was one of her many warning signals that Draco and I had deciphered long ago. I don’t think she even realized it despite the fact that we did. Next she handed me the two wrapped packages she was holding.
“Your new books,” she explained. “Welcome home. How was your summer?”
“Long,” I answered truthfully. “Former monasteries have much less to explore than Hogwarts.”
“I hope you were polite.”
“Very,” the Bulgarian wizard answered, speaking up in nearly perfect English. “Minister Obolensky was very delighted, along with our Headmaster. You are Mr. Malfoy?” he asked Lucius, who nodded. They shook hands and the Bulgarian continued. “Minister Obolensky regrets that he could not escort Miss Lestrange back. An urgent meeting with another Minister came up and could not be postponed.”
“Understandable, of course,” Lucius replied. I could tell he wasn’t happy though. He’d been expecting the Minister, most likely for further ‘proof’ that Obolensky could be an ally for the Dark Lord.
“He wished he could thank you personally, however he sends you this.” The wizard pulled a crystal bottle out from his muggle suit and handed it to Lucius. “A bottle of our finest Bulgarian made Rakija, along with an invoice for Miss Lestrange’s payment.” He pulled a thin envelope from his suit and gave it to Lucius too. No way I was ever seeing a Knut of that. “A pleasure to have met you, Miss Lestrange.”
A whistle sounded and the noises of the Hogwarts Express starting up began. “Tell Minister Obolensky I said thank you,” I told him before I reached down to pull my trunk up and move closer to the train.
“Have a good year,” Narcissa said.
I wish I could have told her something to lessen the fearful look in her eyes. With Lucius here the best I could do was nod and tell her, “You too.” I lifted my trunk onto the train and stepped onboard.
“We’ll be speaking again soon,” Lucius said, barely masking the threatening undertone.
“I can hardly wait,” I muttered sarcastically. Thankfully I was turned away from him and the whistle sounded again so Lucius didn’t hear me. “Alright,” I replied nodding and looking back at him.
As the train started moving, I pulled my trunk down the corridor looking for a compartment. One had three small, nervous looking kids I didn’t recognize, meaning they were probably first years. When I opened the door they looked up at me with wide eyes.
“Er…room for one more?” I asked, attempting to appear non-frightening. I don’t think I had much success because only one nodded and even that took a while. I stored my trunk and sat down. I think I would have preferred Luna Lovegood at this point.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The ride to Hogwarts was uneventful. Fred and George passed, Fred stopping momentarily. I gave him a discreet shake of my head then George pulled him away. I was glad he had because not two minutes later Theodore Nott walked by. He slowed down and I saw him look back the way he’d come from. He probably passed the twins on his way. He kept moving but walked by around three then again an hour before we arrived at Hogsmeade. This was going to get annoying if he kept it up all year.
Hermione and Ron also walked by a couple times too and I noticed something pinned to Hermione’s robes – a prefect’s badge. Good for her, she was a much better candidate than Parvati or Lavender. It almost looked like Ron had a badge too. That was…well actually I’m not sure if it was all that surprising. Harry being prefect would have made everyone claim favorites from Dumbledore’s end. Seamus, Dean, and Neville seemed like decent students, definitely on par with Ron. I’m sure Ron would be an efficient prefect, even if Hermione had to force it out of him.
Seeing who the Gryffindor prefects were made me wonder who else had gotten a badge, especially in Slytherin. Draco, Nott or Blaise Zabini were the obvious boy choices. I knew who I wanted to get it, even if I would likely never voice it aloud.
A/N: Finally, back at Hogwarts. It only took 11 chapters. Oh, and Rakija, it’s a drink that’s supposed to be popular in the Bulgarian region (according to google). I’m sorry if I’ve been completely misinformed of this.
Dumbledore may not be my favorite person, but at least when he spoke people listened (even if most of them currently thought he was a senile old man). The new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Umbridge, did not have that gift. Nearly all of the Great Hall tuned her out as she interrupted Dumbledore to give her own little speech.
I’d barely been paying attention to what I was eating during the feast, yet alone fully listening to the speeches. My mind was stuck on Tsukino and Kuniye. I was sure I’d be whisked away to the Japanese estate tonight. My attentiveness didn’t improve as Umbridge droned on. Teaching a noble profession, blah, blah, blah, Ministry interfering at Hogwarts, trying to stop radical ideas because obviously Dumbledore not standing aside as the Dark Lord took over was crazy, right? None of this was new information, other than the fact that Fudge seemed to have found a way to place his own personal puppet at Hogwarts. A half toad puppet with a grating voice. One who apparently didn’t own a mirror to see how ridiculous she looked in that pink cardigan with a bow on top of her hair. I didn’t know people over the age of seven even wore bows. I had the distinct impression that this year wasn’t going to consist of the most helpful Defense classes.
When Dumbledore dismissed us I made my way up to the tower with the rest of Gryffindor house, my mind racing. Would they already know what happened? Of course, they always knew. But would they bring it up? I would if it came to that because I couldn’t ignore it. It would drive me crazy not understanding why. Demanding answers never worked though because I had no leverage. But I needed to know and if I didn’t get a suitable answer I would refuse to go back.
Up in the dormitory I ignored Parvati and Lavender who were content to continue their whispered conversation about Harry, Dumbledore, and the Prophet. After changing in the bathroom I returned to the room to find Hermione getting ready for bed. The other two girls had stopped speaking but were shooting daggers at Hermione. I gave Hermione a quick congrats on being made prefect then got into bed, closing and spelling the hangings around me. Forcing myself to shut down my mind, I closed my eyes. It took several deep, calming breaths and all of my patience but soon I was drifting asleep.
It felt like I had only just slipped into darkness before the Japanese estate appeared in front of me. The gate was open and the trees were swaying lightly in the breeze. I felt different, this should have been different too but it wasn’t. It was the exact same as it had always been. It felt…wrong. I pushed that feeling aside for now and continued through the gates, looking around for any sign of Kuniye. Seeing nothing I walked up the path, scanning the surroundings.
It was only a quarter of a mile until I reached the courtyard, I stopped here and took in the grounds. Still no sign of anyone. I’d never had to search through the buildings for Kuniye before and I didn’t have the patience to start doing that today.
I did a double take towards the pond on the left side. Sitting on a bench, facing away from me, was Kuniye. I walked towards her, slightly worried about why she wasn’t moving. Surely she heard me coming, but all she did was stare at the pond. I paused beside her, her eyes were open and she was definitely breathing. Although she still hadn’t acknowledged me, I sat down on the opposite end of the bench.
We sat there in silence until my patience wore thin. “Why?” I blurted out, hoping, well more assuming, she’d know what I meant.
“Not everything has an acceptable answer,” she responded without so much as looking at me.
“Then give me an unacceptable answer,” I said, frustration getting the better of me.
“Because it was meant to be.”
“That implies I don’t have a choice –”
“You always have a choice.”
“If it’s ‘meant to be’ where does the choice come in?”
“You assume the choice will take you down the right path. That is not always the case. Sometimes the right path leads you to the choice.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” I pointed out.
“It doesn’t have to,” she replied. I let out a low, annoyed growl but kept quiet. “You’ve changed,” she said softly. I’m not sure why but my first instinct was to reach up and rub my shoulder. “Not on the outside,” she added. “Your heart and mind have changed. You’re growing up, becoming more independent, learning to make your own way through life. Most parental figures have a hard time accepting that.” I raised an eyebrow at this. I didn’t really have parental figures unless you counted Narcissa who’d been letting me do my own thing for years now. “They aren’t always biological,” Kuniye clarified. Oh, so it was Snape she was talking about. I wasn’t so sure he counted as a parental figure, more like a…I’m not sure, partner in crime? I liked the sound of that. I guess he could be an annoying, naggy, overbearing mother when he thought I was acting reckless.
We sat in silence for a long time. There was so much I wanted to ask and have explained to me. I just wasn’t sure how to breach the topic. I guess I was going to have to settle for bluntness.
“This…all of this, doesn’t happen to other people, right? I’ve never read any books about this. It doesn’t make any sense to me. Why me? I’m always asking myself that, even asking others but I never find out. Normal people aren’t connected to a horde of Death Eaters, they don’t have access to their father’s mind. How many people out there have a wand from an elusive monk? Regular people aren’t being suffocated by their magic at four. Ordinary people don’t…” I drifted off, realizing I was rambling.
“You are not ordinary.”
“Really?” I snapped. “I hadn’t figured that out yet,” I said sarcastically.
Kuniye turned to look at me for the first time. “Figuring it out is one thing, accepting that you are indeed extraordinary is completely another.” I stared out at the water feeling moody. This conversation was not going as planned. I didn’t have too much time to sulk before Kuniye was speaking again. “There have been billions upon billions of people on this planet. Where ever you go, in any country, in any culture, there is one thing they all teach their younger generations – history. Why? So their children will not forget their ancestors’ sacrifices and because they hope their children will not make the same mistakes. Yet there are always wars destroying civilizations for one reason for another. And people are always faced with the same dilemma. Do you stand up and face the incoming threat, risking your own life and the life of everyone you love or do you do nothing and hope for the best? Is fighting really worth it? Why should you risk so much while others will risk nothing?” She looked at me, waiting for an answer.
“Some things…some people,” I corrected, “are worth fighting for.”
“The knowledge and strength to save the people you love. The right path to protect those who matter most. That’s what’s important. Not what it took to get there or what you sacrificed. Doing whatever it takes even if you don’t have all the answers. Isn’t that what ultimately matters?”
All the questions I planned and all the answers I wanted slipped away. Was she right? Was my own curiosity more important than learning how to help people? Was I really going to refuse help if they didn’t tell me what I wanted to know? I had a right though, didn’t I? I deserved to know what this was all about.
“I don’t have all the answers. Even if I did, it would never be enough. If I answered one, would it not lead to another? Would you ever truly be satisfied? I don’t know what your final role is, I don’t know what you are meant to do, but I know that you are not ready to face the evils of this world. It is my task to prepare you for that, if you are still willing to accept my assistance. The choice is, and has always been, yours.”
Blatantly refuse the help I was offered? I couldn’t do that. If there was even some slight chance of using this training to help Fred or Draco or anyone, then I couldn’t say no. It would be selfish to say no.
“Alright,” I agreed softly. It was the least I could do.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Before climbing out of bed the next morning, I laid there for several minutes deep in thought. Twice during the summer, mostly in passing, Snape had mentioned Harry having a “hero complex.” I hadn’t thought about it much then, but now I was stuck on it. Would Snape think I had a hero complex problem too? Was that why I wasn’t telling him about what happened at the end of last year? Actually come to think of it, ever since Durmstrang I’d been keeping information from him. I’d come close to telling him everything on more than one occasion but I could never bring myself to do it.
I let out a frustrated groan and pulled the covers off myself. There wasn’t a reason for not telling Snape, that’s just how it was at the moment. Maybe someday I would tell him, a day where I had enough time to listen to him lecture me about waiting so long to tell him, but for now it didn’t seem necessary for Snape to have all the information. And maybe a small part of me wanted to keep something from him like he’d done to me. That was a bit petty though.
I rubbed my shoulder as I opened the hangings around my bed. I pushed all thoughts of Snape and the Japanese duo out of my head. It was September second and the first day of classes. I needed to focus on that. And remember to keep my distance from Fred for a few days. And I should probably attempt that whole friendship thing with Harry Potter. Then I could worry about what to do with Draco. There was also Dimitri’s letter. And of course Nott.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Figures that after I’d decided not worry about Snape I would have double Potions. Unfortunately I had an hour of History of Magic to speculate just how Potions would go. Would Snape single me out and hand me a detention where he would surely force me to tell him exactly what was going on? No, no I suppose not. That was too suspicious and not only to Draco or Nott but now Hermione knew the real purpose of those detentions so they needed to stay limited. Without Moody here I could probably go down to Snape’s office whenever I needed to, that’s what he would expect me to do. I had no intention of doing that any time soon. I needed to keep calm and collected then hopefully it would be a very long time before I was forced into having an uncomfortable talk with Snape.
I’d been worrying myself for nothing. After a very…er, intense reminder that Snape expected everyone to receive a passing O.W.L. we were instructed to brew a Draught of Peace. I always sat by myself in Potions and today was no different. Snape seemed perfectly content to ignore my table. Although he may have just been distracted as he criticized every other Gryffindor’s cauldron (except Hermione’s of course). I rolled my eyes in irritation when he went after Harry.
‘Are you trying to make me befriend him purely out of pity?’ I sarcastically messaged Snape after he used an Evanesco to empty Harry’s cauldron. The minuscule pause as Snape strode towards the front of the classroom let me know the message was received. Then we were given a foot long essay on moonstones. A whole summer of spying on the Dark Lord and Snape was still the same teacher. I guess some things never change.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It took all of forty-seven seconds into Defense Against the Dark Arts to realize I was never, in a million years, going to like Umbridge. That was before copying her course aims and reading one page into her required textbook. I happen to be very fond of reading yet I cringed in disgust after reading such a short amount. Even if the Ministry didn’t believe the Dark Lord was back, there was no justification for this shoddy piece of rubbish. This book had to have been published with Umbridge’s approval because surely no body else would have thought teenagers needed to be treated as if we were two years old.
Hermione’s upright hand in the air was even more interesting than the book and not just for me. Nearly every other Gryffindor was watching her and there was no way Umbridge didn’t notice. Finally she couldn’t ignore it anymore and called on Hermione.
“There’s nothing written up there about using defensive spells,” Hermione pointed out.
It all went downhill from there. What had Snape said, Fudge thought Dumbledore was building an army? It appeared Umbridge was here to stop anyone from learning anything that could be used against the Ministry.
I was glad when Dean Thomas spoke up in defense of Lupin when Umbridge mentioned “extremely dangerous half-breeds” because if he hadn’t I’m certain I would have snapped at her. I couldn’t afford to react though, no matter how much I was tempted to. Instead I clenched my fists under my desk and bit my tongue.
When Harry uttered the Dark Lord’s name the entire atmosphere in the room changed. The satisfied look on Umbridge’s face made me furious. She was baiting him. She wanted him to react this way so she could make an example out of him.
“I saw him, I fought him!”
I closed my eyes, mentally pleading for Harry to shut up and sit down. Who cares if some idiot from the Ministry believes Fudge? Just let it go. But he didn’t and ended up being sent to McGonagall as the rest of the class watched silently.
A/N: The information about the welcoming feast is from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling, Chapter 11, The Sorting Hat’s New Song. The first day of classes and the quotes are from Chapter 12, Professor Umbridge.
After a double lesson of Charms there was a double lesson of Transfiguration. Both classes started off with a lecture on O.W.L.s which was getting annoying. ‘They are a monumental part of your education,’ ‘They will affect your future,’ ‘Everyone is capable of receiving a passing grade.’ How was I supposed to make a career choice when I didn’t know what I was going to be doing in ten months let alone ten years?
I could already tell Care of Magical Creatures was going to be a long class before I even made it to Hagrid’s hut. I was walking several feet behind a group of Slytherins, including Draco, when I heard someone behind me, matching my pace. I stopped and turned around to find Theodore Nott. He stopped walking when I did and was now staring intently at me.
“What?” I asked rudely. His eyes flickered down to Draco’s group then back to me and a smirk came over his face as he shook his head. “I’d warn you that your face might stay like that, but it would be an improvement so…” Then I shrugged. Nott’s eyes narrowed and he moved beside me. “Cat got your tongue?” I mocked. When he still didn’t talk I took a step down the path.
“I’ll be watching you,” Nott said threateningly.
“I can’t imagine why you don’t have a girlfriend,” I replied sarcastically, rolling my eyes as I continued towards the rest of the class.
As I situated myself near the other Gryffindors, Draco’s head slightly turned in my direction before Nott fell into line behind the Slytherins, capturing Draco’s attention. Out of the corner of my eye I saw them glare at each other. Nott’s disgusting smirk had returned. Their stare down went unnoticed by the rest of the students and ended when Professor Grubbly-Plank began class.
We were instructed to break into groups of threes then sketch and label the bowtruckles we’d be studying today. Groups of three meant I’d be paired with Parvati and Lavender who already seemed fascinated by the small, pixie looking tree guardians, but who did not want anything to do with wood lice. Letting out a sigh, I stepped up to the table the bowtruckles and bucket of lice was on. As I stretched my arm towards the bucket, mass hysteria broke out among the bowtruckles and they scurried to the opposite end of the table. My hand froze and confused murmurs traveled throughout the class.
In the middle of the table was the smallest bowtruckle who was gazing up at me. It hesitantly moved closer to me as the other bowtruckles watched on, refusing to budge. When the brave bowtruckle was under my still frozen hand, it cautiously reached up and started poking me with its wooden fingers. When I didn’t move, it leapt up and climbed onto my hand. It looked up at me before it stepped to the end of my fingers and reached down into the bucket, grabbing as many lice as it could hold. The other bowtruckles started inching closer and the small one began throwing lice at them while eating several itself. I laughed when a couple lice bounced off one of the other bowtruckle’s head.
The rest of the class snapped out of their daze and Grubbly-Plank told us to get back to work as she eyed me suspiciously. I grabbed a handful of wood lice and carefully backed away from the table, making sure the bowtruckle wouldn’t fall. I kept my hand steady as I sat down away from the table. Parvati and Lavender joined me a minute later. After they shared a look between each other, they took out some parchment, ink and a quill to start sketching. I nudged the bowtruckle onto my left palm so I could begin as well.
Harry’s outburst caused everybody to turn towards him. His bowtruckle was escaping and running straight for me. The Slytherins laughed as Grubbly-Plank reprimanded Harry for mishandling the creature. The bowtruckle climbed up my arm and sat on my palm with the other one who was kind enough to offer it some wood lice.
This was definitely not normal bowtruckle behavior.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I skipped dinner in the Great Hall and snuck down to the kitchens. The bowtruckle thing was weird, really weird, tell-Snape-asap weird. So that’s exactly what I planned on doing…through a note. Smart, right? It let me avoid seeking out Snape but also kept him informed. Who knew having Dobby around would come in use?
I found Dobby working with the other elves, sending up food to the Great Hall. I sat out of the way and pulled out everything I needed to write a letter. A heaping plate of food was set down beside me as I dipped my quill into the ink.
“Miss must eat,” Dobby said before hurrying off to the opposite side of the kitchen.
I was going to ignore the food for now but when I couldn’t think of what to write, I laid down my quill and picked up the fork instead. Obviously I wanted to tell Snape what happened. The problem was I didn’t want to make it sound like a big deal that he would want to discuss face to face. Finally I settled on slipping it in casually, hoping it would sound offhand.
I think I’ll take Auror department heads over Umbridge any day. How does Fudge find these people? Congrats on your performance with Potter but I do have one tiny critic. It was a bit overdone, wouldn’t you say? Zero points for a grey potion? May I direct your attention to Goyle’s napalm concoction? Care of Magical Creatures was odd, I think I had a cheesy ‘soul mate’ connection with a bowtruckle even though the other ones freaked out when I was near. Sadly our love affair was cut short when Potter’s (nearly snapped in half) bowtruckle joined us. Nott is being…well Nott. ‘Do not underestimate him.’ I know, I know. He’s not exactly being discreet. Is Pansy Parkinson really the best you could find for prefect?
P.S. I think the Bulgarians want to adopt me.
It hit all the important points at least. Maybe all the waffle would distract Snape from the important bowtruckle part. Probably not though, this was Snape we were talking about. He had a knack for narrowing in on the most pressing issues.
I finished eating then gave the sealed letter to Dobby, telling him to leave it on Snape’s desk. Not expecting a reply until at least tomorrow morning, I made my way to Gryffindor tower and chose a table in the corner. I had so many essays to finish that I didn’t pay attention to the rest of the common room until someone was directly beside me.
“Hi,” Fred said, sounding nervous.
“Hey,” I greeted, glancing around the common room. Everybody was too absorbed in their own activities to notice us.
“Er…can I sit down?” I nodded and pulled out the chair beside me. Fred looked at the rolls of parchment in front of me after he was seated. “Crazy O.W.L. year, huh?”
I could tell he was trying hard to follow Snape’s rule of ‘slowly rebuilding our relationship,’ only he wasn’t quite sure how to go about that. I gave his hand a quick, reassuring squeeze.
“It’s a bit annoying actually,” I told him honestly.
“Imagine how it is for everybody else,” Fred said grinning. True, this was one time where remembering everything came into use. The amount of time wasted on studying would have been alarming.
“How’s N.E.W.T. year treating you?”
“Well, after the long lecture about exams we managed to learn some interesting Charms. And Sprout has us working with some plants that have very…wide ranging uses, which always makes class more entertaining.”
“Detention already?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Definitely not. Angelina would end up chewing us out like she did Harry for getting detention during Quidditch practice.”
“I have a feeling Harry will be the victim of many more detentions if Umbridge has her way,” I said in a low voice.
“Yeah, I heard what happened. I think the whole school has.”
“It’s what she wants.”
“Umbridge. She was goading him until he snapped. Then she gives him detention and the other students see what happens when you go against her. Of course no one wants that so they back down and follow Umbridge just so they won’t get in trouble.”
“You make it sound like…like some sort of mind game,” Fred said, confused.
“It is. She’s trying to isolate him. It’s how dictators stay in power. Isolate and brand the resistance as troublemakers that you’ll be punished for helping. Then people fall into line, become mindless sheep who will never stand up for themselves.”
“It’s been happening for thousands of years and still people do nothing. Over and over again and every single time people cower and follow proper protocol.” They’re cowards. “They’re cowards.” And weak. “And weak.” They don’t deserve to be saved. “They don’t des–”
Something pressed against my temple, startling me. A hand wrapped around my right hand and pulled it away from my left shoulder. I realized it was Fred who kissed me to get my attention. He was also looking very concerned.
“Are you ok?” he whispered, still holding my hand.
“Sorry. I-It’s just annoying seeing Umbridge do Fudge’s dirty work. Trying to make Harry look as cracked as Dumbledore.”
“Maybe you should –” Fred began.
“Let’s talk about something else,” I interrupted. I didn’t need to worry Fred. I especially didn’t want him to think I should go and see Snape, which I had a feeling he was about to suggest. “How’s the product testing?" I asked, seizing the first topic that came to mind. Fred didn’t look too keen to change the subject though. “Really, I’m ok,” I assured him. “I ramble, remember? I know what to do if it gets worse.” Fred frowned but thankfully accepted this answer.
“Hermione won’t let us test on students. Apparently it’s ‘too dangerous.’ Complete rubbish.”
“Ah, so that’s what she was upset about.”
“She threatened to write to mum,” Fred said darkly. “How are we supposed to test products if Hermione keeps getting in the way?”
“I think this is where creative marketing comes in.”
“We can’t get testers.”
“You can’t pay them to test for you. You two have already tested them and worked out most of the problems, right? Show people what your products do. Then add a disclaimer saying things could be potentially dangerous –”
“You want us to tell people our stuff is dangerous?”
“Disclaimer Fred, a very small disclaimer. First you make a big show of how much fun and entertaining your stuff is. Let them see you and George using it so they see you’re fine afterwards. Slap a tiny warning label on your products and sell them for a bit of a discount. You’re making money and testing out products on a range of people.”
“It’s not not allowed. You’re warning people about an assumed risk before they use your stuff. They aren’t going to worry so much about it after you’ve already taken the stuff yourself. Plus Hermione can’t get you in trouble for selling something that does exactly what you say it does.”
“You know, sometimes it’s like you were meant to be our third twin, or triplet I guess it would be.”
“Society generally frowns upon siblings dating, not to mention I could never pull off red hair.”
“I try and compliment you and you twist it around into something obscene,” Fred responded, shaking his head and letting out an exaggerated sigh.
“But you agree with the whole looking horrible as a ginger?”
Fred observed me carefully before cringing. “You’re just not as fabulous as me, I suppose.”
“You absolute git,” I said laughing.
This ‘rebuilt relationship’ with Fred probably wasn’t going as slow as Snape would have liked but there was something about Fred Weasley that made me feel happy and disgustingly sappy inside.
A/N: The bowtruckle lesson is from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling, Chapter 13, Detention with Dolores.
The next morning there was a sealed letter on my nightstand. At first I thought it was too out in the open, then I spent half an hour trying to open it, casting spell after spell until finally I was able to get it unlocked.
As ever your attempt to bury the real purpose of your letter is noted.
I assume you’re able to ignore Umbridge even if others are not. It is important that you do so.
Just because every other one of those dunderheads believe Potter is receiving a zero does not mean that is the case, though I am quite certain forgetting one of the easiest steps is indeed worth nothing. Unfortunately that would lead to at least 95% of all my students failing, which as satisfying as it would be for me personally, is not acceptable by Dumbledore’s standards. As for Goyle’s potion, any day he does not injure others is a day he far exceeds my lackluster standards for him.
Now onto bowtruckles. Dobby is also able to sense you at times, do not let it overly worry you, although I would suggest practicing caution until I have sufficient time to look into it. Did others realize your affect on them or not?
As for Nott, while I applaud your mantra of not underestimating him, do kindly also try not to shove him into the Black Lake or I will be required to assign you detention.
I do not choose prefects so feel free to pass your complaints on to the Headmaster. Personally I would have thought you’d be more interested in the other Slytherin prefect.
P.S. Do not mistake politeness for affection.
P.P.S. Why are we writing letters when you are perfectly capable of walking down to my office? This seems like a rather poor attempt to avoid me. At least put some effort into it.
I rolled my eyes and penned a quick response.
Yes other people saw the bowtruckles, there was nothing I could do to prevent it. I’ll keep back in class to make sure it doesn’t happen again. No comment on the matter of prefects, I regret ever bringing it up.
P.S. I have about a dozen different essays to write and as lovely as it would be to speak to you face to face, you do tend to go on and on and on in a rambling matter that cuts into precious homework time.
It was a lie. I knew it was a lie. Snape would know it was a lie. Still I wasn’t ready for a one on one talk. It would have to happen eventually, I just wanted to put it off for as long as possible. As long as nothing too serious transpired, I was hoping Snape would keep accepting letters. That’s why I didn’t point out Dobby only sensing me when something serious was wrong.
I planned on popping down to the kitchens before heading to the Great Hall so I could give Dobby the letter but it became unnecessary. As soon as I stepped out of eyesight of the Fat Lady, Dobby popped beside me in the corridor.
“Bloody hell,” I muttered, jumping. “Is he having you follow me?” I whispered.
“Sir is telling Dobby Miss would send a morning letter. Dobby is meeting Miss so Miss does not have to keep coming to Dobby.”
“Why do I get the feeling you two plot more than you’re letting on?” I said, pulling the letter out of my bag.
“Dobby is only trying to do what is best for Miss.”
“That’s not a denial,” I pointed out, handing Dobby the letter.
“Have a good day, Miss,” Dobby squeaked before popping away.
I raised an eyebrow at his abrupt departure then continued on to the Great Hall.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Snape had to resist another glance at the clock. She had to be awake by now. She would have spotted the letter immediately. Maybe he was wrong. Maybe he was reading too far into it.
There was a pop beside him and he felt his apprehension grow. “What happened?” Snape asked Dobby quickly. Dobby held out a letter, his gaze cast downward. After opening and skimming the letter he set it aside. “How long?” Dobby fidgeted but didn’t answer. “How long?” Snape asked again, more firmly.
“Thirty minutes, sir.”
“How strong of a spell did you use?”
“Dobby is using his strongest, sir.”
“You’re certain you did it correctly?”
“Dobby is sure. Dobby is checking many times to be sure.”
Snape reread Jade’s letter as he rubbed his head. Half an hour. A brief thirty minutes to break a house elf’s strongest sealing spell. “Can you pick up on the magic yet?”
“Dobby-Dobby is trying but Miss is hiding it well. Only when Miss touches Dobby can he feel it. It is very strange –”
“Dobby doesn’t know,” he said, wringing his hands. “It is different than before.”
“Stronger?” Snape asked cautiously. Dobby nodded reluctantly. “If the bowtruckles are already sensing it then who else can?” Snape wondered aloud.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Unsurprisingly I was given more homework that day…a lot more. It was like the professors were trying to drown the fifth years in essays before the first week was even over. Were four more essays really necessary? Were they trying to induce nervous breakdowns? At least nothing strange happened during the day.
That night I lingered in the common room in case Dobby returned with another letter. There was also the fact that writing so many essays took time. After I finished Astronomy I pulled out Defensive Magical Theory and began reading. It really was as horrible as I’d imagined. Not only did it seem like it was written for people ten years younger, but it was like the author didn’t have a shred of practical experience, defensive or offensive.
Slowly the common room emptied out until finally there was only me. Dobby never came so maybe Snape wasn’t going to write. Well that saved having to make up another lie about not coming to see him.
It was well past midnight when the portrait hole opened and Harry came through, looking exhausted. Instead of going to bed he sat down at a table and started pulling out parchment and his Potions book. He hadn’t even noticed me with the dim lighting.
“Moonstones, eh?” I said out loud, causing him to jump.
“You’re still up?” he asked, finding me sitting in the corner.
“I function better with less sleep. You on the other hand, look like you’re about to pass out.”
Harry didn’t respond, instead he grudgingly opened his text book and dipped his quill into ink before writing a few words. I didn’t have anything better to do so I sat there watching him. He looked up at me and frowned before writing a bit more.
“Er…is there something you wanted?” he asked after a couple minutes.
“You’re a bit behind on your homework if you’ve barely started Potions,” I replied instead of answering his question.
“Thanks for pointing that out,” he said roughly, jabbing his quill into the ink bottle again.
“Want me to write it?”
“Do you want me to write your moonstones essay?”
“I –why are you offering?” he asked suspiciously.
“Obviously it’s a Death Eater plot,” I said, rolling my eyes. “They want you to be well rested and receive a passing grade in Potions. It certainly isn’t because I see that you’re dead tired and know you probably have half a dozen other assignments you need to finish so I’m attempting to be friendly and offer to help you with one.”
“Why are you trying to be nice? You don’t even like me.”
“I never said I didn’t like you.”
“Snape doesn’t like me –”
“Snape doesn’t like anyone,” I snapped at him. Of course after Crouch Jr. influencing me to help Harry with the second task last year, Harry would be suspicious of any help I offered now. I rubbed my head, deciding to be frank. “Death Eaters don’t like you –”
“Yeah, I had picked up on that.”
“–I’d like to…differentiate myself from them. Being nice to you is a good start. Considering we’re both on the same side, I don’t think it’s asking a lot from you to help out a bit. And while I don’t think we’ll be staying up till the wee hours of the morning, sitting in the common room as we roast marshmallows and gossip, I would settle for not being so suspicious every time I offer a little assistance.” I let out a sigh. Sounding this rude wasn’t the best strategy when you’re trying to befriend someone. “I also happen to think you were right to call Umbridge out over Cedric Diggory’s death. Claiming it was an accident is an insult to his memory. Not many people would have stood their ground, it takes guts to do that.”
Harry and I sat there in silence for an awkward minute.
“Why don’t you like Sirius?”
“The same reason he doesn’t like me,” I answered wearily. “We’re both very…er, opinionated. We happen to have radically different views on something, or rather someone.”
“That would be the one.” Snape wasn’t the whole reason but I didn’t think it would go over so well if I started badmouthing Black at the moment.
“Snape would know the difference between our handwriting,” Harry muttered.
“You do realize we’re wizards and there are spells for getting around these types of problems?”
I pulled a blank piece of parchment out of my bag as I moved over to Harry’s table. “Write every letter,” I instructed. “And zero through nine while you’re at it.” He looked at me like he was trying to figure out if I was joking or not. Seeing that I wasn’t, he wrote out the alphabet and jotted the numbers below. After he was done I took the parchment back and on a fresh sheet wrote out a few words, embellishing the writing so it looked nothing like Harry’s. Two spells later my words had morphed into Harry’s usual scrawl. “Magic,” I said dramatically, handing Harry the parchment so he could inspect it.
“You have spells for everything, don’t you?”
“You’d be surprised what sorts of spells come in use. So…moonstone essay?”
“Er…aren’t you tired? Do you really want to spend two hours flipping through books for an essay you’ve already finished?”
“Who said anything about books?” I responded. I pulled Harry’s essay towards me and began writing before he could stop me. “I figure I should leave a few errors or sloppy directions. He’d be suspicious if you suddenly handed in a Hermione worthy essay.”
“I would suggest doing McGonagall’s questions. Those will take more time than the bowtruckle essay.”
For an hour we sat there silently working. Every once in a while I could see Harry look up, likely confused about how much I could write without needing to look in a book. At two in the morning I laid down my quill and after casting the two spells to change the writing into Harry’s, I rolled the essay up.
“Done?” I asked ten minutes later when Harry closed his Care of Magical Creatures book.
“Yeah, finally,” he answered, looking relieved. I handed over the Potions essay and started packing my stuff into my bag. “Thanks,” Harry said awkwardly. “I’d probably still be working on Potions if you hadn’t helped.”
“You should read over that essay during breakfast so you at least have some idea about what moonstones do.”
“Right,” he agreed, packing his own things.
I wasn’t sure what came over me but before I could stop myself I blurted out, “He didn’t give you a zero.”
“Huh?” Harry asked.
“On your potion. He didn’t give you a zero. I…er, might have mentioned some unfairness from his end and he let it slip. Just thought you should know even if this does end up being your last year in Potions, well you won’t fail it. Try and keep it to yourself though.”
Harry looked quite taken aback for a moment before nodding. “I will. Thanks for the heads up.”
As we both went up our separate staircases, I couldn’t help but think maybe being friends with Harry Potter wouldn’t be so bad. Or maybe he’d been really desperate for some Potions help.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Saturday evening Fred sat down beside me in the common room. He looked tired and miffed about something. I’m guessing it was Quidditch related since he still had his team robes on. When I looked closer at his uniform, I spotted dark red drops.
“Is that blood?” I whispered fervently.
“What? Oh, yeah.”
“Are you hurt?” I asked, alarmed by his offhand answer.
“No, course not. Why–oh! No, no. It’s Katie’s blood. She…er…had a bad nose bleed during practice. She’s fine now. Madam Pomfrey patched her up.”
“Bad practice?” I questioned delicately.
“I’m not sure how it could have gone worse,” Fred answered, letting out a sigh. “Ron’s acting like he doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing even though he’s played loads better at home.” Ron Weasley had been chosen for Gryffindor’s new Keeper only yesterday.
“Angelina wouldn’t have picked him if he didn’t have enough skill. Anyways, it was his first practice, he’ll do ok. He comes from a talented Quidditch family.”
“Well look at you,” Fred said, smirking. “Any more compliments tonight?”
“Hmm? Oh! I meant Bill, Charlie, and George. But yeah, you too, you’re pretty decent,” I teased. Fred’s smirk slid off his face.
“You’re a heart breaker, you know that?” His eyes narrowed. “This is about the ginger thing, isn’t it?”
“I haven’t any idea what you’re talking about.”
“Why you cheeky, little –” I raised an eyebrow at him. “–wonderfully, beautiful lady.”
“Good save,” I commended.
“I’m always at the top of my game when I’m with you,” Fred replied with a grin. For a few minutes I sat there reading as Fred traced his fingers over the top of my hand. When I turned the page he spoke up again. “I don’t suppose you have any dirt on Malfoy we could use against him.”
“What?” I asked sharply.
“He and the other Slytherins in your year were at practice, taunting us. I have a feeling they’re going to be a permanent fixture after they saw how much they got to Ron. Me and George were thinking about giving them a taste of their own medicine. Malfoy’s their ring leader, might as well go for him.”
“No, I don’t know anything you could use,” I lied. “Don’t sink to their level.” I quickly changed topics before Fred could respond. “How’s the joke shop coming along?”
A/N: Just going to say this, I personally don’t approve of fully doing other people’s homework for them, even if they are Harry Potter. That’s my public service announcement for the day.
Ron’s first Quidditch practice is from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling, Chapter 14, Percy and Padfoot.
Absolutely not. This was mental. Completely nutters. What the heck was the Ministry thinking?! Umbridge as the first High Inquisitor?! How could anyone let Fudge have this much control over Hogwarts? So not only was he allowed to muck up wizarding society as Minister, but he was giving himself more and more power at Hogwarts too? It was ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous. And Umbridge was an immediate success?! Do they even know what those words mean? As far as I could tell, very, very few students enjoyed her teaching methods, let alone Umbridge herself. How was it that the one teacher who couldn’t teach was going to be allowed to judge all the others?
I reread Lucius’ quote three times, the scowl on my face deepening. “Our children’s best interest at heart.” What a load of – when had Lucius – never, never once in over fifteen years. He didn’t care about Draco unless it reflected on the Malfoy name. Draco was nothing more than a continuation of the Malfoy family to Lucius.
While my annoyed mood lasted through History of Magic, it was mostly replaced with curiosity after Snape handed back our moonstone essays. There was a large A scribbled on the top of mine but it was written oddly, not at all like Snape’s usual writing. When Snape announced he’d graded them based on the O.W.L. scale I realized what happened. It had started as an E that he must have quickly changed his mind about. So now he couldn’t give me the grade I earned? Or was he doing what he did with Harry, publicly giving me a lower grade but privately marking it higher? I stuffed the essay into my bag and caught Harry doing the same thing. I sent a questioning look his way. He saw me but obviously couldn’t say anything during class. I guess I could ask him later about it.
Turns out I didn’t have to wait long to find out about Harry’s grade because he hung back at the foot of the dungeon stairs. We were the last two people and were able to have a quiet, private conversation.
“How did –?”
“P,” he answered before I finished the question.
“P? That was definitely A worthy.”
“I guess he didn’t feel that way. How’d you do?”
“An A,” I admitted bitterly.
“That’s…er, good, right?”
“Lowest passing grade,” I corrected him.
“Oh, maybe Snape –”
“Even Parkinson got an A and she’s about as smart as a sack of rocks. Honestly, a P,” I complained, shaking my head. I was starting to get a feel for the blatant discrimination Snape held towards Harry.
“You’re actually surprised I got marked unfairly in Potions?”
“He could at least be a bit discreet about not liking you.”
“Er…have you ever met Snape?” Harry asked incredulously. “I’m just impressed I didn’t get a D.”
“Well when you put it that way,” I muttered.
“There’s Ron and Hermione, I have to go.”
“Yeah, bye,” I mumbled as he caught up with the other two.
Really Snape, a P?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The next day, despite not having Defense, Umbridge was still in two classes. First there was Transfiguration. I was impressed with McGonagall’s handling of Umbridge, though at the same time, a bit worried. She may have put Umbridge in her place but everyone knew McGonagall was loyal to Dumbledore, surely that made her someone Umbridge would love to replace.
Umbridge showed up again during Care of Magical Creatures. We were still studying bowtruckles and I know I should have remained behind the rest of the class, but when I saw a familiar small bowtruckle looking up at the students, I stepped forward. As Grubbly-Plank answered Umbridge’s questions I reached my hand down towards the table. The bowtruckle hopped on, surprising Dean Thomas and Parvati who were on either side of me.
“Miss Lestrange,” Grubbly-Plank called out sharply. “We are simply observing today.”
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes, instead I nudged the bowtruckle, hoping it would get the hint. Unfortunately it didn’t seem to care. It climbed its way up to my shoulder and sat down, observing its surroundings. “Miss Lestrange,” Grubbly-Plank said disapprovingly.
“That was all him,” I pointed out, raising my hands in surrender. She frowned and stared at me suspiciously but then continued on with the lesson. Umbridge was also watching me closely. I tried to ignore it. It was just a bowtruckle, there was nothing sinister or against school rules about it.
After interrogating students about the class, Umbridge asked about injures sustained during lessons.
“A hippogriff cut me,” Draco told her quite simply.
“O–” I stomped on Harry’s foot, effectively shutting him up so he wouldn’t land another week of detention. The gesture went unnoticed by Umbridge but not by Draco who gave Harry a dark look, full of loathing.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Er…hi,” Hermione greeted awkwardly, standing next to the table I was seated at in the back of the library. “Can I sit down?”
“Yeah, go ahead. Why do you sound so nervous?” I asked curiously.
“I wanted to talk to you about something,” Hermione said, glancing around to check if there was anyone eavesdropping. I cast a few spells around us, surprising her.
“Privacy spells,” I explained.
“Oh, alright. Well, I wanted – want to form a study group.” I certainly wasn’t expecting that.
“You know, O.W.L.s are like eight months away. I don’t think you need that much time to prepare.”
“It’s not for O.W.L.s…not fully. It’s-it’s a practical defense study group.”
“A practical defense study group?” I repeated.
“Yes. That’s the idea.”
“What else besides O.W.L.s are you trying to accomplish?” I asked suspiciously.
“Umbridge is a horrible teacher. We need a proper one, someone who can help teach us how to defend ourselves against V-Voldemort.”
“I’m not entirely sure why you’re here,” I told her.
“I’ve already talked to Harry and Ron about it. I just…how would we go about it? Obviously we don’t want Umbridge finding out –”
“Study groups are allowed.”
“I know but this one is a bit…radical, don’t you think? She’d probably ban it if she found out.”
“So you’re here because I’m the best person you could think of for tips on sneaking around?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.
“No,” Hermione said hastily. “I meant…I think people who want to, should be allowed to join and learn how to defend themselves but it’s like the…the Order,” she whispered. “Last time Wormtail was a spy and nobody knew. How do we know someone isn’t going to tell Umbridge?”
“Just how many people are we talking about?”
“I’m not sure, but I’m certain there’s quite a few who would want to learn from Harry.”
“Harry’s your teacher?” No offense but if anyone was going to teach spells, Hermione was the logical choice.
“I thought it would be good for him. To show him not everyone believes all this Ministry rubbish. And he’s good at spells and knows what it’s like facing those situations. It would also show the others in the group that Harry isn’t what the Prophet is trying to make him seem like.” Well when she put it that way.
“He agreed to teach however many students you recruit?”
“Er…I think he will. We haven’t gone into all the details yet but he did say he’d think about it.”
“Ok. Throw some names at me, who do you plan on asking?” As surreal as this idea sounded, it was nearly the same thing I’d wanted over the summer, so why not? Let’s have one of the people who’s faced the Dark Lord and managed to live through it, teach others about defending themselves.
“Me, Harry and Ron. The rest of the Weasleys,” she named first. “I…I thought you might join, unless you can’t because of…your situation. I would understand,” she said quickly. Wait, me not join? What sort of crazy nonsense was that?!
“There’s Dean, Neville, Lavender, and Parvati. I think the rest of the Gryffindor Quidditch team would join. Lee Jordan, the Creevey brothers.”
“These are all Gryffindors,” I pointed out.
“A few Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws in our year. Ernie Macmillan and Hannah Abbot. Maybe Susan Bones but her aunt does work at the Ministry. And I’m sure Cho Chang would want to join.”
“So, like twenty?”
“I’m hoping for a few more if I can manage. Maybe the Ravenclaw prefects. Anthony and Padma are nice enough and it would be nice to have the six prefects unified.”
“Alright. What idea did you have for getting them to keep quiet?”
“Ideally a secrecy charm, but we can’t possibly cast that on everyone –”
“Well not directly,” I added.
“I’m not sure we should start placing spells on everyone we’re trying to recruit,” Hermione replied with a touch of disapproval in her voice.
“Well if you’re going to be noble about it,” I muttered.
“I was thinking I could cast a charm on a piece of parchment then everybody’s signature would bind them to it. So if they ever did tell, we’d know who it was.”
“So discreetly casting a charm on them isn’t allowed, but letting them unknowingly bind themselves to a sheet of parchment is ok by you?”
“It’s just to tell us if they do tell someone,” Hermione rationalized. “It doesn’t stop them from telling.” I chose to let it go and moved on to the next obstacle.
“Where are we all going to meet?”
“I thought I could get the word out about a meeting in Hogsmeade during the first visit.”
“You’ll need to contact everyone during the next week without making yourself look suspicious,” I warned her. “You can’t just walk up to somebody unless you have a good cover story in case you’re questioned about it.”
“I’ll manage,” Hermione said confidently.
“Where in Hogsmeade?”
“I checked the rules and even asked Professor Flitwick about it. The Hog’s Head seems like the best choice –”
“Hermione…there would be two dozen of us in one place. We’ll stick out immediately if we go there.”
“The Three Broomsticks would be better.”
“It’ll be packed! Anyone could hear us.”
“That’s why they invented privacy charms in the first place. Or better yet, we’ll get our own parlor for an hour and place spells all around that.”
“You don’t think that will stand out?” Hermione asked skeptically.
“Trust me, I know a lot about sneaking around. We’ll be fine.” Hermione didn’t look completely reassured but nodded nonetheless and said she’d start reaching out to people. She began to rise from her seat but paused, looking like she was having a mental debate. “Yes?” I asked.
“I was wondering…last year during Defense, when Moody – well Crouch Jr., cast the Imperius Curse on us all.” Internally I froze, worried about what Hermione was about to say. “What did it feel like for you?” I looked up, confused by the question. “You fought it off so fast, I just…I was wondering if there was anything different you did.”
Honestly I hadn’t felt a thing. I couldn’t admit that to Hermione though, it would lead to questions I couldn’t answer. “It…it was like someone trying to take control of my limbs,” I lied. “I suppose I fought it off so quickly because I wanted to stay in control. Plus I’ve got some practice with that,” I said, tapping my head pointedly. Hermione’s eyes went wide.
“I–I’ll leave you to get back to your homework,” she said awkwardly. “Bye.”
Well at least mentioning my father in my head was useful at making Hermione clear off quickly.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“That’s the standard rate.”
“I’m only using it for two hours.”
“Fifteen Galleons an hour.”
“I at least want a free bag of crisps thrown in.” Madam Rosmerta reached under the counter and pulled out a small bag of crisps, setting them down in front of me. “If I’m giving you thirty Galleons you can at least spare a bigger bag.” The barmaid rolled her eyes but did replace the small bag with a much larger one. I reached out to grab it, only to have Rosmerta stop me and hold out her hand expectantly. I counted out thirty gold coins and handed them over.
“Room two, down the hall on your left. And you need to sign this.” She held out a slip of parchment.
“What’s this for?” I asked suspiciously.
“It’s saying you agree to pay for any damage that occurs.”
“I’ve already paid you thirty Galleons, you really think I’m going to do anything that would cost me more?” I said in disbelief.
“It’s happened before with students,” Rosmerta responded coolly. “I think it’s only fair you pay for excessive damage. If you don’t break anything then you won’t owe anything.” Grudgingly I signed the parchment before handing it back. “Have a nice day,” Rosmerta said before turning towards a different patron at the bar.
“You too,” I muttered sarcastically. I grabbed the crisps and worked my way through the crowd back to the table Fred, George, and Lee Jordan were sitting at.
“Were you haggling Rosmerta?” Fred asked, laughing.
“I was not haggling,” I said defensively as I sat down. “I was getting my money’s worth.”
The three boys glanced at each other. “Haggling,” they declared in unison.
“Just for that I’m not sharing these,” I replied, opening the bag of crisps and purposely making a show of eating them. I swatted Fred’s hand when he tried to reach into the bag.
“Aren’t you supposed to be casting privacy spells while we play look out?” George reminded me.
“Right. Two of you stay here and keep an eye on things.” I stood up again and Fred moved to join me. “Er…” I said awkwardly. “It might not look…appropriate if…if you and me go into a private room together,” I explained, my face feeling warm. George let out a snort of laughter and Lee smirked.
“Guess I’m up then, seeing as it can’t be either of you,” Lee said.
“You sure?” Fred asked me.
“We’ll be fine. Just keep an eye on the crowd out here. You know who to watch for. It should only take fifteen to twenty minutes. Oh, also Hermione, Harry, and Ron might show up early.”
“I’ll behave myself, mate,” Lee said jokingly, standing up.
I cast a glare at him as George took a swig of his Butterbeer. “It’s not Fred you have to watch out for,” he advised. Lee glanced at me, the smirk slipping off his face.
“Come on,” I ordered. “Let’s see if you can make yourself useful.” Lee followed me, looking sheepish as Fred and George happily split the crisps.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Well it definitely could have gone worse. Especially with the number of people Hermione had recruited. Nearly thirty of us met in room two in the Three Broomsticks and for most of the time, everybody’s eyes were on Harry. I don’t think Hermione quite explained all the details to him because he looked very shocked to see us all. It was crowded with us all in one room but we managed. Things did get heated with a Hufflepuff bloke, Zacharias Smith, but he was quickly silenced by Fred and George. I also expected Hermione to keep arguing with Luna Lovegood who I was honestly surprised to see there.
Then as we were wrapping up, Hermione pulled out a quill and parchment. “I-I think everybody should write their name down, just so we know who was here.”
I’m sure nobody else found the rest of her words odd, yet I picked up on the other meaning. It was a thin warning that signing meant you agreed not to tell and if you did, Hermione would know about it.
This is where people showed a bit of reluctance. The Gryffindors all signed but a few of the others didn’t feel comfortable with it. In the end, Hermione’s assurances that she would keep the list safe convinced them, even Smith, though he was the last to sign.
There was a pause afterwards, like no one knew what to do next. I glanced up at the clock on the wall.
“Er…you’re all going to have to clear out before I get charged another fifteen Galleons.”
A/N: Alright, did Hermione really need Jade’s help for setting up the D.A.? Not particularly. So ask yourself, why was Hermione really there?
Hermione’s quote and the first meeting of the D.A. are from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling, Chapter 16, In the Hog’s Head and Umbridge being made High Inquisitor is from Chapter 15, The Hogwarts High Inquisitor.
Any and all satisfaction I had from Hogsmeade evaporated Monday morning. Hanging on the Gryffindor notice board was a new sign – Educational Decree Number Twenty-four. Every organization, society, team, group or club was banned. The only way they could be reformed was if you got permission from Umbridge.
At breakfast I expected to hear or maybe even see which one of Hermione’s recruits had sold us out but it never came. Not one person showed any sign of blabbing. Then how did Umbridge find out? Was it me? Were my spells faulty? No. I’d checked and double-checked and even triple-checked them. I set up protection against Extendable Ears. I spelled every window, every wall, the door. It should have worked, it had to of worked. There was no way it was a coincidence. What had slipped through?
Even Quidditch teams were disbanded. Of course they would be, it was something Umbridge could hold over Harry to instill obedience. The Slytherins on the other hand, were approved before classes even began that morning. Draco was bragging about it before Potions, much to the delight of the other Slytherins. The Gryffindors were glaring at Draco from across the corridor as I tried my best to block out Draco’s words.
“…they’ve been looking for an excuse to sack Arthur Weasley for years…” I tried to shut it out, I really did, but Draco’s next words made my ears ring. “…it’s a matter of time before the Ministry has Potter carted off to St. Mungo’s…apparently they’ve got a special ward for people who’s brains have been addled by magic.” Draco did a crude impression with his mouth sagging open and his eyes rolling. The other Slytherins howled with laughter.
Something inside me burst. One second I had been leaning against the wall and the next I was swinging my fist at Draco – hard. He dropped to the floor and the other Slytherins fell silent. Actually everything was quiet except for the blood pounding in my ears. Crabbe and Goyle were looking from me, down to Draco and back at each other, seemingly confused. They decided on helping a stunned Draco back to his feet. Draco pushed them away though, getting up on his own as he clutched his bleeding nose.
He looked at me, right at me and for the first time in over seven years, I didn’t avert my eyes. It was like he was looking at me for the very first time. I didn’t feel anything except fury and a sickening need to hit Draco again and again.
“What is going on?” a firm, cold voice asked. I didn’t look away from Draco and he didn’t seem to be able to look away from me either. “I asked what is going on here?” Snape repeated from beside us. Still neither of us moved. Snape reached out towards Draco who flinched away and turned to glare at Snape before his eyes drifted back to me for a fraction of a second. Without another word he reached down to pick up his bag then gave me a last look of contempt before marching out of the dungeons.
There was a pause of silence as everyone took in what just happened and then…
“She’s mental!” Pansy Parkinson shrieked. “She lunged at Draco and broke his nose!”
“Lestrange, detention tonight. Everyone inside now,” Snape ordered. The rest of the class began slowly shuffling into the classroom but I didn’t move. “Lestrange,” Snape barked.
I jumped when someone grabbed my right shoulder. It was Hermione who looked as nervous and scared as she had the night of the third task. She gently nudged me towards the doorway and I finally moved. I didn’t want to look at Snape. I didn’t want to look at anybody. I spent the entire double Potions lesson obsessing over my Strengthening Solution and blocking out everything around me.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I didn’t talk to anyone for the rest of the day. Hermione had tried during Arithmancy but after a harsh glare she fell silent. I ate lunch and dinner in the kitchens. It was nearly six when Dobby told me I needed to go to Snape’s office. A spark of annoyance mixed with anger shot through me. I squashed it down the best I could and traveled to the dungeons.
There was not an immediate answer when I knocked on Snape’s door and I debated whether I could just leave. Before I had the chance to turn around, the door swung open and Snape was standing there. Again I couldn’t meet his eyes.
“Sit,” he instructed. There was no tedious, disgusting, faux detention work set up. Just a single chair in front of Snape’s desk. As tempted as I was to kick the chair over, I sat down and Snape closed the door then cast a number of spells. After that he sat down behind his desk as I stared down at the floor waiting for whatever he was going to say.
“Seven years,” he finally said, sounding tired. “Nothing for seven years as guilt has consumed you. And the first thing you do is break his nose.” I said nothing and continued gazing at the stone floor. “You’re not even going to tell me why? Or at least attempt to explain yourself? A dozen other students witnessed it and the story is already making its way around the school but you won’t tell me why it happened?” Snape let out a frustrated sigh when he realized I wasn’t going to answer. “Did you see who was in class today? Umbridge was there and very curious about why Draco was not.” I hadn’t noticed her at all, I hadn’t noticed anything not pertaining to my potion. “If I had known, if there had been any indication that you would have reacted this way after what happened last June, I would not have used that method for securing you.”
Now a spark of bitter resentment shot through me.
“Of course not. Merlin forbid I actually know what’s going on inside my own head.”
“If I had known for sure, there was always a chance I was wrong –”
“So what, you’re going to wait until you’re absolutely, one hundred percent certain you’re right? I’m just supposed to wait around for Severus Snape to decide if he’s sure before I can be told anything? Is that how you plan on keeping control?! Keep me in the dark until the last possible minute?!”
“I hardly think you’re in the position to lecture me about keeping information to myself,” Snape replied in an even tone. “I’ve been waiting for over three months for you to say something but you ignore it. I’ve asked you about it outright but you still refuse to speak to me.”
“What makes you think you have the right to know?” I responded coldly.
“Haven’t I always tried to give you the best advice I could? Haven’t I tried to do what’s best for you?”
“What’s best for me isn’t always your choice to make!” Something about Snape’s calmness was infuriating me.
“I’m trying to keep you alive and sane in the best way I know how.”
“That’s not enough!” I snapped, shouting at Snape as I leapt up from my chair.
“Then what do you want?” Power. Control. Everything. “A servant?” Snape asked, still using the same calm voice. “A loyal follower?”
I felt my stomach churn as I realized just what I was thinking, or more precisely, who I was thinking like. The Dark Lord was the one who wanted power. He was the one recruiting loyal servants. Here I was feeling the same desires. It made me disgusted with myself.
“I’m not like him,” I muttered weakly.
“I know you’re not. That doesn’t stop the emotions from being there.”
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “I was perfectly fine until today.”
“You’re lying. And not very well either. This isn’t the first time you’ve been furious lately. It’s not the first time you’ve snapped without hardly any provocation.”
“I’m fine nine days out of ten,” I said defiantly.
“I do realize that, but all it takes is one day. You know that.”
“It’s not going to get that bad –”
“You’re already jumping from extremes. It’s not just the anger. There’s the crushing guilt, not to mention your visible recklessness which worries me more than anything else. I will not sit around and hope you don’t inflict more damage upon yourself.”
“I’m not some loony nutter,” I said bitterly. Snape let out a sigh and rose from his chair. He gripped my right arm and directed me back into my chair before returning to his own.
“I do not, nor have I ever, believed you were. However,” he said cautiously, “certain precautionary steps should be taken.”
“Precautionary steps?” I asked, not liking the sound of that at all.
“I want you to take up the journal again. It’s easier to recognize discrepancies when they’re written down. Much easier than when it’s going through your head. You have to be honest though, choosing to keep something locked up because you’re ashamed of it isn’t going to help you. I certainly won’t judge whatever you write.”
“Ok,” I agreed softly.
“Alright. We’ll use Dobby as a messenger.” Snape paused for a moment before continuing. “There is something else I would like you to consider.” He pulled a potion out of his desk drawer and set it in front of me. I stared at it darkly, remembering what it did. It was one of Snape’s own concoctions. A strong calming potion mixed with a mood altering solution that left me feeling exhausted. “I don’t expect you to take it everyday. Only when you feel like you have today. You don’t even have to use it at all if it truly bothers you that much, but at least take it with you in case you do need help balancing yourself.”
Not feeling up to protesting this, I took it and slipped it into my pocket. “Thanks,” I mumbled.
Snape leaned back in his chair and folded his hands. “I won’t make you talk about Draco if you choose not to. Still you should remember about trying to keep a low profile. And if you indeed feel that you would like to keep the events of last June private, I will respect your wishes. However my door is always open to you, day or night, should you require it.” A part of me wanted to tell him, maybe so I didn’t feel the pressure of keeping it locked inside. Or maybe I only wanted answers and had fooled myself into thinking Snape had an answer for everything. I couldn’t do it though, I couldn’t bring myself to tell him. One day, I promised myself. One day I would find a way to tell him, just not any day soon.
“Although, there is one final thing I do wish to question you about.” My mind drifted to the now illegal study group Harry and Hermione were carrying on with, the one I would be attending, illegal or not. “Your...friend. Mr. Dimitri.” I think I’d rather be interrogated about the defense group now. “I did not realize you were still in contact with him.”
“I’m allowed to have a foreign friend.”
“You had given me the impression he wanted to be more than friends.” Internally I cringed, regretting the fake back story I had invented for Dimitri during my third year. I told Snape Dimitri was a student at Salem, one I got along with and enjoyed being around. Of course Snape being Snape, pounced on this instantly, asking if the bracelet I’d been wearing was from him, which it was. I hadn’t at all claimed Dimitri fancied me (because that was completely nutters, the Russian was in his thirties for Merlin’s sake!) but Snape interpreted it that way and instead of correcting him, I went with it.
“People of the opposite gender are capable of being just friends,” I pointed out.
“I assure you I am aware of that. That being said, most boys do not…gift girls jewelry without…other intentions beyond friendship.”
“It’s not some –”
“Just because you do not see it as a romantic gesture does not mean he feels the same.”
“There is not a shred of romantic feelings between me and Dimitri,” I snapped. Snape sat there looking thoughtful for several minutes before it annoyed me too much to ignore. “What?” I asked rudely.
“Nothing,” he answered, looking surprised by my question.
“I hate that,” I said angrily after letting out a growl.
“I know there’s something but you won’t come out and say it. You always do that.”
“You complaining about normal teenage things is oddly reassuring.”
“Are you going to tell me what you were thinking?” I asked sharply.
“I would prefer not to antagonize your anger.”
“Not telling me is antagonizing my anger.” Snape rolled his eyes in exasperation.
“I was curious if Mr. Weasley was aware of your…pen pal.”
“Fred? Why does it matter if –” A sudden realization of what Snape was thinking, not only now but back at Grimmauld Place, made me narrow my eyes at him.
“And there’s the anger,” he lamented quietly.
“I am not cheating on Fred,” I said threateningly.
“I never thought you were. I was merely curious –”
“Well stop being curious,” I snarled.
“I can’t imagine why I initially chose not to say anything,” he muttered sarcastically. I gave him a look of loathing. “Would you prefer puncturing pus pods or grading first year essays to dull the fury?” I roughly pulled over the stack of parchment he had indicated.
After quickly reading the top essay I snatched a quill off Snape’s desk. Midway through marking a three at the top, Snape spoke up. “He’s a Slytherin.” I glanced up and glared at Snape. Then I changed it into a two. “Point taken.”
A/N: Draco’s lines before Potions and the new Educational Decree are from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling, Chapter 17, Educational Decree Number Twenty-four.
The next morning at breakfast Fred sat down beside me and gave my hand a supportive squeeze. I was thankful he never asked what happened or if I was ok. Maybe word had gotten around about what Draco had been saying before I hit him and Fred realized why I had lashed out. The other students were not so polite about it. Whispering and pointing followed me around for the next few days, well not so much whispering on Pansy Parkinson’s part. Next to her the only ones as vocal about how “mental and dangerous” I was were the other members of the Slytherin Quidditch team. They even claimed I was part of a plan to injure their Seeker to increase Gryffindor’s odds of winning.
By Friday morning they became far less vocal, and I wasn’t sure why. I kept getting dark looks though. Pansy Parkinson had the deepest look of disgust out of everyone, as if she would like nothing more than to send a curse my way. I would see her whispering to the other Slytherin girls and their eyes would drift over to me, but they never said anything while I was within earshot.
One Slytherin who did appear to be thoroughly enjoying himself was Theodore Nott. Every time I spared a glance at him he had that nauseating smirk I oh so badly wanted to wipe off his face. I should have ignored him, right? Avoided looking at him completely? Well that might have worked if he didn’t seem to be in every damn place I went.
At least three times a day he would pass me in the corridors. He must have been nearly living in the library because he was always there when I was. Every morning, noon, and night he was sitting at the end of the Slytherin table, watching me as I left. I’m also willing to bet Nott spent most of his meals watching me too because whenever Fred and George sat across from me, they spent most of the time with scowls on their face, looking over my shoulder. It was maddening. Finally I decided to make a more permanent move to Gryffindor tower, even if it meant extra trips to the library for new books and spending each and every night in the common room.
As far as Draco was concerned, I refused to look at him and you know what? I’m betting he was doing the same thing about me. I didn’t hear him speak once during the entire week in fact. Something that, as much as I was still furious at him, made the pit of my stomach fill with guilt.
The only high note of the week was Wednesday night and the first meeting of the newly named Dumbledore’s Army. I paired up with Luna Lovegood to practice the Disarming Charm but she was much more interested in staring at me and making small talk.
“I was hoping to see you on the train,” she said absentmindedly, casting a spell my way that I effortlessly blocked.
“Er…I was a bit late getting to the station,” I explained. Luna nodded at this and continued attempting to disarm me. However she had a habit of taking long pauses to watch me, awkwardly long pauses. Finally it got to the point where I couldn’t ignore it anymore. “Something wrong?” I asked, forcing myself to sound politely curious.
“You look different,” she answered, tilting her head to the side. “Conflicted.”
“Right,” I replied, slightly sarcastic. “Sorry to change so much.”
“Oh, no. I find it fascinating how much people can change over such a small amount of time.”
“A year is a small amount of time?” I questioned.
“Not quite a year. Only since June.” Surprised by her response, I completely forgot to block her Disarming Charm and my wand flew over towards Parvati and Lavender. Instead of simply calling it back to me, I walked over to retrieve it, giving me time to collect my thoughts. Over my first few encounters with Luna I’d been left with the impression of an eccentric ditz, but now she seemed far too observant. Rather than keep the conversation going, I chose to act like she’d never said it and instructed her to continue casting spells at me.
Despite Luna and the odd conversation it had been a good meeting. Harry was doing better than I’d anticipated, even if he did look a bit overwhelmed by people following his directions. Before we left for the evening, another meeting was scheduled for next week.
I couldn’t stop myself from wondering what Snape would say if he found out about this. I suppose first he would tell me to quit immediately and chastise me for taking such a risk. He’d also probably be flabbergasted at why I was even in a Defense group taught by Harry Potter in the first place. There was something about the D.A. though, something that felt right. This is what everyone in the school should have been doing, learning how to defend themselves properly. And there was just something exciting about working directly in opposition to the Ministry.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
To avoid Nott I ate dinner in ten minutes, leaving before he even arrived. It gave me enough time to visit the library and check out half a dozen books to bring back to Gryffindor tower. Planning on storing five in my trunk, I headed up the girls’ staircase. As I opened the door to the fifth year girls’ dormitory I was met with the sound of frantic movement. Inside I found Hermione sitting on her bed, looking very suspicious.
“Oh,” she breathed out, sounding relieved. “I thought it might have been someone else.”
“Er…sorry to alarm you then,” I said, crouching beside my trunk. “What are you doing?” I asked curiously, taking the key from around my neck.
“I – well I thought we needed a better way to contact everyone in the D.A. So it doesn’t look so suspicious every time we plan a meeting.”
“That’s a good idea,” I agreed. “What did you think up?” Hermione bit her lip and paused before standing. She pulled back her comforter, exposing a few golden Galleons and two dozen metal disks. I walked over and bent down, confused. I picked up one of the Galleons, well I thought it was a Galleon but the Gringotts logo wasn’t quite right. “These are fake?”
“You’re making counterfeit gold?”
“It’s for the D.A.,” she said defensively. “I was going to cast a Protean Charm on them. That way Harry could change the serial number bit to reflect the next time and date of the meeting. You can carry them around without worry because Umbridge can’t punish us for carrying around a Galleon.”
“Er…Hermione? You realize this is illegal and you can be sent to Azkaban for it,” I said delicately. Somehow Hermione model-student-and-rule-abiding-prefect Granger was turning into something more Fred and George want-to-see-how-many-detentions-we-can-get-in-the-next-hour? Weasley. It was surreal to say the least.
“Seeing as I’m not using the gold to purchase items, I’m certain it won’t come to that,” she replied impatiently.
“You’re making counterfeit gold,” I repeated as it set in.
“Yes,” Hermione exclaimed, giving up. “I’m making counterfeit gold!”
I dropped the fake Galleon back onto the bed and turned towards Hermione.
“Need some help?”
A/N: Yeah…really short chapter. I didn’t feel like it went well with the next part so I separated them.
I think at this moment, we’re about a quarter of the way through the story, so let me know what you think. Like how it’s going? Excited to find out about Jade and Draco’s childhood? It’s coming up eventually. And of course we haven’t even started on the Lestrange’s breaking out of Azkaban. Don’t be shy about reviews!
The first D.A. meeting is from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling, Chapter 18, Dumbledore’s Army. Hermione’s fake Galleon idea is from Chapter 19, The Lion and the Serpent.
As November set in, a presence took over the castle – Quidditch fever. Slytherin versus Gryffindor, the very first match of the year. D.A. meetings were put on hold so the Gryffindor team could practice daily. The only time I could have a decent conversation with Fred was during lunch. Any other time I saw him he was going to practice or I was heading to class. And while Fred normally woke up early every other morning to spend time with me, I put a hold on that when he started drifting off every few minutes. Quidditch was important to him so I didn’t mind spending a few more mornings alone so Fred could get enough sleep.
The morning of the match, Fred ate breakfast with the rest of his team as I sat a dozen seats away, facing the wall. There wasn’t anybody near me and I didn’t expect anyone to sit that close either. I especially didn’t expect Theodore Nott to sit directly beside me with barely any space between us.
“What are you doing?” I asked rudely, doing a double take after he sat down.
“Eating breakfast,” he replied, biting into an apple. His back was leaning against the table as he watched the rest of the Great Hall. Of course that insufferable little smirk was on his face.
“Let me rephrase that. What the hell are you doing over here? The obnoxious gits table is on the other side of the Hall, feel free to rejoin it.” I was attempting to keep my voice down because by now several others near us had noticed Nott, Fred included. I gave Fred a discreet shake of my head when his eyes narrowed at me and Nott. George whispered something to Fred, hopefully making sure Fred didn’t do something rash.
“I thought we might enjoy breakfast together,” Nott answered, “for old time’s sake.”
“I’m more likely to poison you than enjoy breakfast with you.”
“Why do you think I brought my own,” he responded, lifting his apple to take another bite.
“Leave before I do something I promise you I won’t regret,” I told him threateningly.
Nott let out a humorless laugh. “Always the same, aren’t you? Here I thought you would appreciate my gesture.”
“I would appreciate you buggering off so I didn’t have to feel the bile start to rise in my throat from prolonged exposure to you.”
“You know, out of all the mindless filth, obnoxious windbags, and arrogant toerags in this school, it’s remarkable that today of all days, you and I should be feeling nearly the same way,” Nott said, ignoring my previous statement.
“Really?” I asked sarcastically. “I didn’t know you were seriously debating whether to jab this fork into your thigh too. Of course I’d love to be the one to do it, but if you wanted to go ahead and do it yourself to save me the trouble of getting detention, I certainly wouldn’t stop you.”
Nott’s smirk got even larger as he turned his head to look at me. Then his eyes drifted over to Fred. I spared a quick glance and saw George talking rapidly to Fred. Fred didn’t appear to be listening though, his eyes were fixed on me and Nott.
“He doesn’t look happy, does he?” Nott said, amused.
I sent him a glare he ignored. Instead he gave Fred a mock salute. Fred pushed himself half way up off the bench before George forced him back down. Nott let out another little laugh at this before turning his attention back to the rest of the Hall.
“Go away,” I ordered.
“I wonder if he knows,” Nott said thoughtfully, ignoring me yet again.
“Knows what?” I asked before I could stop myself. It was a mistake, it would only encourage him to stay longer.
“How utterly torn you are today.”
“And how am I torn?” I was now shamefully curious about what the heck this was all about.
“Quidditch of course. You want Gryffindor to win, I mean why wouldn’t you? You’re in Gryffindor, your blood-traitor boyfriend’s in Gryffindor, he’s even on the team. And you’ve made such good friends with the rest of the scum on their team.” I felt a burning rage slowly start spreading through me. “But I know you,” Nott continued. “I know in the back of your mind you can’t help but hope maybe somebody else is holding up that Snitch at the end of the game.” Nott flashed a smirk across the Great Hall and it took all of my will power not to turn around. I was willing to bet everything I owned it had been directed at Draco.
“If you don’t leave within thirty seconds, the only thing you’re going to be seeing today is the infirmary,” I threatened.
“I get it,” Nott said in a faux soothing voice. “I know how you feel, I really do. I want Slytherin to win more than anything, and not just for house pride. There’s something satisfying about watching this red and gold cesspool of mudbloods, blood-traitors, and ignorant twits loose. It’s one of the best feelings imaginable. But I know in the back of my head exactly what will happen tonight. Those idiots, who I’m honestly ashamed to call my house mates, will spend hours praising and worshipping Draco Malfoy. It’s enough to make anybody’s stomach churn.”
I put down my utensils, forcing myself to keep it together. Nothing good would come from me rising to Nott’s taunts. As much as I wanted him to shut up and bugger off, it didn’t look like that was about to happen any time soon because he just kept on going. “I mean really, where’s his dignity, his self respect? He had to have his father buy him a position on the Quidditch team. And he’s yet to beat Potter, even when he had the better broom. Potter, who might I remind you, had as much practice on a broom as your average mudblood before coming to Hogwarts. It’s absolutely disgraceful.”
My fists were clenched at my sides and my blood was pounding. I wouldn’t react though. I wasn’t going to give in. I wasn’t going to let Nott win. He didn’t appear pleased with my self control and kept at me.
“I almost feel sorry for your uncle. He’s not perfect but he definitely didn’t do anything to deserve such a weak, pathetic, sorry excuse for a son. His ancestors must be rolling in their graves to see the filth that will carry on the family name. Between you and me, I think the most noble thing little Draco could do is put a halt to his despicable and miserable life and just…well, snuff himself –”
I lost it. I reached out for the fork laid near the edge of the table and was about four inches from stabbing it as hard as I could into Nott’s leg when his hand caught my wrist in a much stronger grip than I ever would have expected. There was a triumphant glint in his eye that made me want to rip his head off.
“Try and restrain yourself,” he whispered into my ear, leaning in very close to me. “I would hate for you to get expelled from a fourth school. Especially when things are getting so fun.” He released my wrist and pushed himself off the bench before taking off between the Ravenclaw and Gryffindor tables.
I threw my fork onto the table, furious, not just at Nott but at myself. I should have controlled myself better. I knew what Nott wanted and I still couldn’t stop myself. Typical Slytherin coward, provoking me in the Great Hall where I couldn’t lash out like I’d wanted to. Like I still wanted to.
You have the potion.
I know, dammit.
Bloody hell, now I was talking to myself again.
I looked up beside me and Fred was standing there. “Nothing,” I answered automatically. Fred scowled at me so I amended my response. “He was being Nott. It’s nothing more than I expected.”
“I would have come over, but –” Fred cast a dark glare down to George, “I was stopped.”
“I’m glad you didn’t.” Now Fred turned his glare towards me. “He wanted one of us to react,” I told Fred, standing up to face him. “And you can bet Umbridge would have…I don’t know, declared you unfit or given you detention or something else so you’d miss the game.”
“So I’m supposed to shove off and let him insult you?” Fred asked indignantly.
“No you’re supposed to trust that I can handle him myself,” I snapped.
“Yeah, it looked like you were really handling yourself well,” Fred said sarcastically.
My first instinct was a cutting retort but I was able to stop myself. Just because I was upset didn’t mean I had to take it out on Fred. He hadn’t done anything wrong, he only wanted to defend me. Now I’d gone and made him upset too. I refused to let Nott cause a fight between me and Fred and I also wasn’t going to be responsible for Fred being distracted throughout the first Quidditch game of the season.
“Fred,” I said, forcing myself to sound calmer than I felt. “I know you want to help, I’m not against that, but I know how Nott works. He would have loved nothing more than to mess up your focus before the game. He purposely came over here while Umbridge was around so he wouldn’t get in trouble.”
“And I’m supposed to do nothing?” he asked in disbelief.
“Tomorrow and any day after, you can slip him as many Nosebleed Nougats or Puking Pastilles as you can get away with. Today, just worry about Quidditch. Don’t let some Slytherin git like Nott affect your focus.”
“I don’t like that he can get away with whatever he wants.”
“Well neither do I, but there’s nothing we can do about that –”
“I know what I’d like to do about it,” Fred said darkly.
“Oi, go do something about beating Slytherin today.”
“You don’t even like Quidditch,” Fred replied, rolling his eyes.
“I like watching you win. You flying fifty feet in the air with crazy Bludgers trying to knock you unconscious is the part I’m not fond of,” I said lightly.
“Mate, we need to go,” George said, joining us.
Fred nodded and turned back to me, frowning. “Are you ok?” he asked softly.
“Yes,” I lied. “I got annoyed, it happens sometimes.’
“You’re…er…are other things ok?” he asked awkwardly.
“I’m fine.” Or at least I will be after Snape’s potion. “Go win the match.”
“Are you sure?” he questioned, still looking worried.
“Yes. You know they aren’t going to put the game on hold for you,” I teased.
“She’s got a point,” George added.
“Yeah, give me a minute, ok?” Fred told him roughly. George shrugged and stalked off in the direction of the doors. Realizing Fred was still moody, I took a risk and reached up to give him a quick kiss. It was the first kiss I’d initiated since June and he was surprised by it. “What was that for?”
“Motivation? Go win and maybe there will be a few more for you tonight.” Out of the corner of my eye I saw a blonde figure storming away from the Slytherin table, but I kept my attention on Fred.
“You’re bribing me with kisses?”
“Is it working?”
“I’m not sure. Why don’t you give me another one to check?” I rolled my eyes but did give him another peck. “Huh,” he said thoughtfully. “Once more for luck?”
“Quit pushing your luck.”
“OI, WEASLEY!” shouted Angelina Johnson, the Gryffindor Quidditch captain, marching up to us. “Save the snog sessions for after the game!” With that she dragged Fred away. He was wearing a goofy grin as he waved goodbye to me.
A/N: I got some feedback! Thank you, nice to know that there’s still people reading, lol. The approval time is really low at the moment, so I will try very hard to submit quite a few chapters over the next few days.
The rest of the school was heading out to the Quidditch pitch, I on the other hand, was swiftly making my way up to Gryffindor tower. It had taken a lot for me to put on a calm façade for Fred, especially when I wanted nothing more than to use Nott’s face as a punching bag. When I had accepted Snape’s potion I’d never planned on using it, certainly not for help in dealing with Nott. I wasn’t going to risk it though, feeling nothing was better than being one spark away from attacking the next person who annoyed me.
I dug the potion out from the bottom of my trunk and downed it. A hollow feeling started seeping through me. For a fleeting moment I wanted to fight it, I wanted to feel and not be an empty shell. The next moment the feeling was gone, replaced with a blissfully clear head. Nott wasn’t important, what he said didn’t matter. Nothing but making sure I didn’t miss the Quidditch game mattered.
Letting out a sigh, I stood up. The door opened seconds later, revealing Hermione. I couldn’t help but let out a groan, at least I was able to make it a quiet one.
“Hi,” she started awkwardly. Just get to the point. “I wanted to ask, since Ginny’s sitting with Michael Corner, I thought maybe you’d like to sit with me. If-if you’re still going.”
“Are you going to pester me with questions about Nott?” I asked bluntly, much to Hermione’s surprise.
“No, we can just watch the match, unless you want to talk –”
“I don’t,” I interrupted. “Let’s go before we miss it.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Taking Snape’s potion was probably one of the smartest things I’d done in a long time. If I hadn’t, I’m willing to bet quite a few Slytherins would be in the Hospital Wing and I would definitely be expelled and sent back to Malfoy Manor.
I couldn’t get the words out of my head. How could the teachers, how could Dumbledore, allow the Slytherins to mock the Weasley family with their deplorable song? Ron Weasley might not have been my favorite Weasley but insulting him and his family was sickening. If I had been in Fred or George’s place I would have sent a Bludger into the back of Pansy Parkinson’s head as she played choir director. Even worse was watching the affect the song had on Ron. He failed to block every shot and if Harry hadn’t caught the Snitch, who knows how many more goals Slytherin would have scored.
Then in a fit of rage, Crabbe sent a Bludger to the back of Harry’s head. The game ended in a fist fight between Draco, George, and Harry. There was a twinge of anger when both George and Harry double teamed Draco, but when I saw the glint from Draco’s ‘Weasley is our King’ badge, it nearly all evaporated. As for Fred, the three Chasers on Gryffindor’s team were doing everything in their power to prevent him from attacking Draco as well. Angry and confused, but mostly just angry, I left the pitch as the teachers sorted everything out.
That brought me to where I was now, pacing in Snape’s office. A part of me wanted to demand an answer for why he hadn’t stopped his students. To blame him for not taking a stand.
Or you’re just looking for a fight.
“Oh shut up,” I muttered, not having a clue whether that had been my own thought or Snape’s. It was easier to blame it on him. Now if only this Snape would hurry up because I’d already been waiting here in the dark for over an hour.
Ten minutes later there were footsteps outside the door. I stopped pacing and faced the door as it unlocked. Snape stepped in and when I was sure he was alone, I took off my Disillusionment Charm. He was surprised to find me here, yet like always, recovered from it quickly.
“You realize I keep this locked for a reason,” he said, casting spells on the closed door.
“Why didn’t you stop them?” I asked immediately.
“There was nothing I could do,” he answered after letting out a sigh.
“Why couldn’t someone else? McGonagall? Dumbledore? You’re saying not one of them could have done anything?” I questioned, my anger rising.
Snape pinched the bridge of his nose as he sat down behind his desk. “Nothing they were doing was against school rules,” he explained.
“They were mocking a student –”
“Chanting and songs are not banned.”
“This wasn’t some Go Slytherin chant! This was your entire house belittling a student and his family!” I shouted. “You’re telling me straight out bullying isn’t banned? That there’s nothing anyone could have done?”
“I can see how much it bothers you, as it should. I don’t support it either but –”
“But what?” I cut in heatedly.
“But getting angry at me isn’t going to accomplish anything. Unless of course you’re just looking for a target to vent your frustrations on, in that case, carry on.” I sent him a glare and started pacing again, trying to work out how to explain what I was feeling.
“I keep telling myself it’s an act. He’s acting this way because it’s what’s expected from him. That he isn’t as mean and as…cruel as he acts. Every time he does something that makes me wonder what the hell he’s thinking, I go back and justify it. He’s just trying to fit in, he doesn’t really feel that way, he’s filled with guilt over the things he does. And every single time he goes on to do something even more appalling and the cycle begins again. I’m tired of making excuses for him. I’m tired of trying to justify it. I can’t keep ignoring all the hurtful things he says or the pain he inflicts on others.”
“I understand your –”
“No, you don’t understand,” I snapped. “How could you when I don’t even understand it? I should hate him for what he does to other people but I don’t. It makes me sick to see what he’s turned into. And it keeps getting worse. He wasn’t anywhere near this bad third year. I knew he was a bully but ever since Easter I’ve heard all about younger kids who have been picked on by him. Then Dumbledore goes and gives him a prefect badge and he’s harassing even more people. I keep telling myself that deep down he’s still the same person but I’m not sure that’s true anymore. He wasn’t always like this. Before…before me, before what happened–what I did –”
“No,” Snape said, quickly rising. He came around his desk and grasped my upper arms, turning me towards him. “You did not turn him into a bully. The person he became was not because of anything you did. It was not your –”
“Don’t,” I whispered. “I don’t want to hear you say it again.”
“People change,” Snape said after a pause. “Everyone changes as they get older. Sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. You have absolutely no control over how Draco or anyone else changes.”
“Then what made him go so far? I can’t figure it out. What makes a person change that much?” Snape didn’t respond. “Just tell me,” I pleaded.
“It has not been since last Easter,” he informed me cautiously, leaning back against his desk.
“Well that makes me feel so much better,” I replied sarcastically. “So I’ve been what? Too blind? Too naïve to ever notice before?”
“It’s not your job to watch after –”
“How long?” I demanded. “Since Moody came? After Potter got picked as champion?”
“Since…Christmas,” Snape admitted at last.
“Christmas? What happened? Moody give him detention? He got a bad grade on an essay? One of the pretty girls rejected his invitation to the Yule Ball?” Snape was surveying me with a look of pity. “Tell me what happened!”
“Fred Weasley happened.”
Anger rushed through me and I fought to keep it under control. “You’re going to blame Fred for this?” I asked darkly.
“I am most certainly not,” Snape responded instantly. “I am simply trying to help you understand.”
“Help me understand that if it weren’t for Fred, Draco wouldn’t be acting this way?” I said harshly.
“Fred Weasley has as much control over Draco’s actions as you do. You wanted to know what happened and I told you. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t Draco’s own actions that led him this far. Jealousy is a very powerful motivator, usually for the worse.”
“Jealousy?! There’s no reason for him to be jealous!”
“You have found somebody who makes you happy –”
“So I’m not allowed to be happy because of –”
“That is not what I am saying. People don’t always think logically, especially fifteen year old boys. You have every right in the world to be happy. No one else except for you is allowed to dictate your happiness. You have a responsibility to live your own life. I know you care about Draco and you always will, but don’t let him affect what you do. He needs to grow up and learn that life isn’t only about him.” I gave Snape a dark look. “I’m not trying to insult him,” Snape said, frustrated. “It would be a lot easier to explain these things if you didn’t look like you were about to curse me.”
“You’d easily block it,” I mumbled, feeling less angry. I began pacing again, mainly for something to do.
“A curse perhaps. A fork on the other hand…”
I shot him a glare. “Next time at least wait a minute before bringing up Nott unless you really do want a curse sent your way.”
“I’ll keep that in mind. Are you going to attack me if I turn around and go back to my chair?” he asked. I sent him an annoyed scowl and he returned to his seat. “I never know when I’m about to anger you or calm you down,” he complained. “I used to be better at predicting it.”
“I distinctively remember you mentioning teenage mood swings once or twice before.”
“Only once or twice?”
“Eleven but I didn’t think you wanted an exact tally.”
“I don’t remember it hitting double digits,” Snape said thoughtfully.
“August ninth after the meeting. You seemed annoyed.”
“Ah, of course,” he stated. “Am I allowed to bring up Mr. Nott now?”
“No,” I answered briskly.
“Well I’m glad we had that enlightening discussion about you nearly stabbing him.”
“Nearly. He wasn’t actually hurt so what’s there to talk about?”
“Such Gryffindor stubbornness,” Snape muttered. “I do applaud you for using the potion at least,” he added.
“Yeah well, half your house would have been in the Hospital Wing if I hadn’t.”
“I would have spared the younger years.”
“How dreadfully compassionate of you.” I rolled my eyes and continued pacing. For a few minutes the only sound was from my footsteps. And then, “At the risk of incurring your wrath, I feel the need to inform you about what has happened since you’ve been down here.”
I stopped at once and turned to Snape.
“What has happened,” I repeated, not liking the sound of this.
“Yes. There was a reason I was delayed for so long. I would prefer you took another potion though.”
Now I definitely didn’t like the sound of this. Snape pulled another vial of his potion out and set it on his desk for me.
“Tell me what happened first.”
“If you’re refusing the potion, which is well within your rights, at least sit down first.” More out of impatience than anything else, I sat down. “Thank you, it’s –”
“Stop stalling.” Snape scowled at me.
“There has been another Educational Decree –”
“Are you bloody kidding me?” What were Fudge and Umbridge trying to control now?
“The High Inquisitor has been given authority over all punishments –”
“How,” I interrupted, “is that supposed to work? The rest of the teachers will have virtually no power if Umbridge gets it all. It undermines all their punishments.”
“Yes, that is undoubtedly what Umbridge and Fudge want.”
“The Ministry as made it legal.”
“No. Listen to me very carefully. You cannot risk any detention, understood? Even if I assign it to you, she has the power to adjust it, even to make it more than just detention. You must control yourself no matter who is provoking you.”
“Fine,” I agreed moodily. “No attacking Nott.”
“You really thought I was going to go all hex crazy hearing that?” I asked, slightly insulted.
“Umbridge has already used her authority,” Snape confessed.
“On who?” I questioned wildly.
“Potter and the Weasley twins.” I felt my heart sink. “They have been prohibited from playing Quidditch –”
“Prohibited? Like from the next game?”
“From all games.”
“All games,” I repeated. “They’ve been banned from Quidditch? For what?!”
“Fred didn’t do anything!”
“That is the case Professor McGonagall was trying to make to Dumbledore, however –”
“Umbridge has more power than Dumbledore?!”
“Over punishments, yes.”
“He’s the headmaster!”
“I realize this.”
“Crabbe! What about him? He attacked after the game was over. He’s been banned too, is that why you were there?”
“Crabbe was…given lines –”
“This is exactly why I asked you to take the potion first.”
“So Fred does nothing and gets banned, but Crabbe gets lines? In what universe is that fair? That foul, power hungry toad,” I said threateningly. “I bet she just loves this. She’d love to have all of Hogwarts under her fat thumb. A five year old would be a more competent teacher than her. And Dumbledore! How could he not find a new teacher? You’re telling me he couldn’t find one person?”
“It’s not a popular position –”
“You!” I exclaimed, focusing on Snape. “Why not you? You would have been a million times better!”
“You would have to ask Dumbledore about that,” Snape responded, unable to mask the bitterness in his voice.
“I need to go find Fred,” I stated, standing up.
“Please do not do something rash,” Snape implored. “And take the potion.”
I shoved the vial into my robes and tapped my wand against the top of my head, casting the Disillusionment Charm before leaving Snape’s office. I knew how much Quidditch meant to Fred and how being banned would anger him, especially when he hadn’t done anything. I really hate Umbridge.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
All Saturday night Fred, along with George and Harry, appeared to be in a state of disbelief mixed with fury. As did the rest of the common room. There was no celebration tonight. It was like Gryffindor hadn’t even won the game. I was too much of a coward to approach Fred who was sitting with the rest of the Quidditch team, minus Ron. I don’t think Fred noticed anything around him, let alone me.
Sunday morning came and I sat in the deserted common room staring out the window, looking over the freshly snow covered grounds. Snape’s words replayed over and over in my head. Draco was acting so cruel because of Fred, because I was with Fred. I felt stupid for not noticing it before. I also couldn’t stop the guilt. How many students was Draco going to bully or lash out at because of me? I could try and stop it though…I didn’t have to flaunt my relationship with Fred around the castle. What did it matter if I ate meals alone and couldn’t talk to Fred during breaks between classes? Fred and I could still be together in the privacy of Gryffindor tower. That’s what we’d done before the Yule Ball.
I felt a pair of arms wrap around me and someone’s chin rested on top of my head.
“Morning,” Fred greeted softly.
“Morning,” I responded, feeling guilty for what I was going to suggest.
“I didn’t see you last night.”
“You…er, looked busy with the team.”
“You could have joined.”
“I didn’t want to intrude.”
“You wouldn’t have.” He kissed the top of my head before stepping back. He wrapped his hand around mine and pulled me over to the couch closest to the fire place. We sat there for a few minutes, Fred’s arm around me as I mentally prepared myself.
“Fred?” I whispered.
“I–I think we should limit our contact around the school,” I said quietly. “Just outside of the tower,” I added quickly when I felt his body tense. “Any time we’re in here, I’m all yours.”
“Because of Nott?” he asked in a strained voice.
“Yes,” I lied, knowing I could never explain the real reason. He would never understand. “I spend nearly all of my time in the tower now. And I know this is a horrible time to bring this up.”
“It’s fine. As long as he backs off I’ll do it. But if I see him harassing you I’m not going to ignore it.”
“Alright,” I agreed, knowing I would never let Fred catch any Slytherin, Draco or Nott, bothering me.
We went back to sitting quietly on the couch until George woke up. Fred left with him to go get breakfast. As the portrait hole closed behind them I couldn’t help but feel like I was the worst person on the planet. Not only for what I’d suggested, but for straight out lying about the reason too.
A/N: The first Quidditch game and the fight after are from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling, Chapter 19, The Lion and the Serpent.
Suffice to say I didn’t have the best week following the match. I sat away from Fred, away from everybody actually. The only person I talked to outside of Gryffindor tower or the D.A. meetings was Hermione, and that was only during Ancient Runes or Arithmancy.
That wasn’t the only change at Hogwarts though, Hagrid was back and Tuesday he led us deep into the Forbidden Forest carrying half a cow. I tried not to look at it, worried about why Hagrid would even need it in the first place. When we arrived at our destination he dropped the cow and let out three shrieks to call whatever creatures he had planned on showing us. The trees were very close together making it dark. I couldn’t see far into the woods but I could feel something. Whatever that something was, it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. While most of the class was looking around for the creatures, I was looking around trying to figure out just what I was feeling.
“Oh, an’ here comes another one!” Hagrid exclaimed, gathering everyone’s attention. I didn’t see anything and apparently I wasn’t the only one. “Who can see ‘em?” I glanced around, only four students had their hands raised – Draco, Harry, Neville, and Nott.
Feeling that my own issues were more important than invisible creatures, I looked away. I was so sure that something or somebody was watching us. If only I could see a bit further…
“The only people who can see thestrals are people who have seen death,” Hermione said.
Alright, thestrals, invisible creature mystery solved. That didn’t solve the pressing issue though. I strained my eyes, trying to peer into the darkness of the forest. Nothing.
I probably would have spent the whole class period staring off into the woods if Umbridge hadn’t showed up. She treated Hagrid like he was a bumbling oaf. I didn’t know my hatred for her could increase, yet it did. The Slytherins savored her inspection, insulting Hagrid and his class as much as possible. Someone really ought to have punched Pansy Parkinson in the face by now.
Umbridge leaving would normally have been a blessing but my mind had other ideas. I couldn’t shake the memory of the last time I’d been in a forest this dark. It was ridiculous really, I wasn’t alone here. It wasn’t the middle of the night. There were no werewolves ready to attack. This was nothing like Durmstrang. Then why did it feel so similar? He’s in prison, you dolt. He was, he most definitely was. I was perfectly safe here.
I missed most of what Hagrid said and it wasn’t until I was nearly at the greenhouses for Herbology that I stopped, confusion dawning on me.
When had Draco ever seen somebody die?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
December was going well enough. I had adjusted to most of my days in solitude and appreciated the mornings Fred and I spent alone even more. I was just waiting for Christmas to pass so I’d be sure to have a few more months before worrying about being dragged back to Malfoy Manor.
I’d managed to avoid Nott for a while and it seemed as though Draco might have actually settled down some too. (That or nobody was mentioning what a bully he was because of how much Umbridge favored him.) D.A. meetings were a nice break from the dozens of essays. Harry was, Merlin I might regret this, he was actually a good teacher even if he didn’t have the vast well of knowledge Hermione had. Fred and George were, or at least pretended to accept their Quidditch ban with grace. Fred never mentioned it to me and I thought it would be more polite to not bring it up.
There were a few times though, I would wake up in the middle of the night feeling anxious and worried. The feelings were so strong it prevented me from going back to sleep. Snape thought it wasn’t anything serious, although he said he’d look into it. Likely it was just me being, he hadn’t said the word, but I knew he thought I was being paranoid. Yet overall, I was really doing ok.
And then December fourteenth rolled around.
I should have been expecting it. I should have walked in the opposite direction without saying a word. Unfortunately I never thought that clearly while ticked off. And nobody knew how to tick me off quite like Theodore Nott.
“Lestrange,” Nott called out as I was walking back to Gryffindor tower alone. I ignored him at first, determined to control myself this time. He didn’t get the hint and fell into step beside me. “Honestly, so rude,” he stated. “I know perfectly well that you can hear me.” I picked up my pace but he kept going. “Is that really how you’re going to act? Trouble in paradise got you down?” he asked mockingly.
“Shove off, Nott.”
“I’ve noticed you and Weasley aren’t so affectionate anymore. Finally gotten rid of him?”
“Like I said, shove off.”
“Always so moody. Here I’m trying to be a friend –”
“You,” I said, stopping suddenly and glaring at Nott, “have never and will never, be my friend.”
“I suppose if I was a blood-traitor or mudblood you’d be more willing to accept my friendship.”
“You could be the last person on this planet and I still wouldn’t like you. Now why don’t you run along before you get hurt? There are no teachers to stop me from attacking you this time.”
“I’m touched you care so much about my wellbeing.”
“Well I’d hate for your father to have to hear about how his loser of a son got beat up by a girl…again.” Nott narrowed his eyes, making me smirk.
“You did not –” Nott began through gritted teeth.
“Have a nice evening,” I cut in before walking away. I’d gotten a dozen steps before Nott collected himself.
“You never answered my question about Weasley,” he said in a rough voice.
“It’s not any of your business.”
“So he’s fulfilled his purpose then?” Something about Nott’s arrogant, knowing tone made me halt.
“His purpose?” I asked dangerously, turning back to Nott who’d caught up to me. Now he was the one wearing a smirk.
“I always wondered what you saw in him. Even for a blood-traitor like yourself, the Weasleys are far below you,” he sneered. “For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why you would ever go to the Yule Ball with filth like that. Then it came to me one day. Who does Draco Malfoy hate the most in this school? Potter obviously, but he’s far too much effort with that mudblood Granger always hanging around him. So who else? The Weasleys of course. Ron Weasley’s too much of an incompetent twit, you’ve got to have some standards, right? Those twins though…I bet they would work perfectly.”
“You’re absolutely nutters,” I told Nott.
“You think I don’t see how he looks at you?” Nott whispered furiously. “Malfoy’s been watching you for years. You should have seen him third year, half the house thought he was losing his touch. He made a better effort in the beginning of last year but I could tell his heart wasn’t really in it, no matter what kind of show he was putting on for the others. And then the Yule Ball rolls around and he loses it. I don’t think it actually set in until after the Ball to be honest. It was like he had to get over the shock of seeing you with a Weasley. Then when classes started up again and you and Weasley were practically glued at the hip, Malfoy went jinx crazy. Hell, he even hit a couple of second years for playing chess too loud in the common room. Trust me, you did not want to get on his bad side. Course he was always just discreet enough to slip past Moody.”
“Know what helped me put all this together?” Nott asked. “Over the summer I thought for sure he would tell his old man about you and Weasley, but no, he never said a word. Not a single word about it until I told my father. He reported it to the Dark Lord at once. I don’t think it went well for either Malfoy after that. And then we get to the beginning of this year. You and Weasley acting all cozy as Draco used his precious little prefect badge to push around even more people. I thought maybe you’d both reached the end of your ropes. Maybe you’d just ignore each other outright. You did something even better than that. I will admit watching you punch Draco Malfoy in the face was definitely one of the best days of my life. The way you two looked at each other. I knew there was still something there, even if the both of you pretended there wasn’t.”
“I don’t think you realize just how much you were hated in Slytherin that week, how much they all wanted to curse you. They were furious you’d hit him. But you know what Malfoy did? He told everyone to shut their mouths about it. Threatened to assign detention with Filch to whoever mentioned it again. Everyone thought it was an ego thing or he was embarrassed, well I guess maybe it was partially that. The other part was rage, pure fury.”
“And somehow, in a stroke of brilliance I never would have expected from Malfoy, he used that rage to write that little song of his, Weasley is our King. The rest of the school thinks it’s about that moronic Keeper of theirs but you, me and Malfoy know better, don’t we? We know which Weasley that song is really directed to. Then like usual Malfoy lost the game to Potter, and that fight afterwards? How shocked you must have been to see your boy toy teaming up on Malfoy. Well you couldn’t have that, could you? Did you ditch him that night or were you considerate enough to wait until the next morning?”
I waited a minute before responding. “You are,” I said slowly, “the most…idiotic person I have ever had the misfortune of meeting.” Had I really stood here this long listening to Nott? What a complete waste of time. I turned back around and began walking away. Nott wasn’t going to accept that and he started following again, unwilling to admit defeat.
“You know what I don’t get?”
“It would be easier to make a list of things you did get,” I replied sarcastically.
“Whatever happened to you two?” A spark of annoyance shot through me. “You two were virtually inseparable. So what happened? He break one of your toys? Transfigure one of your dolls into a cockroach? Not share his Christmas candy? Did he break your heart?” Nott asked insultingly. “Or…” he continued thoughtfully. “Was it your fault?”
I stopped and saw red. Fury pumped through me and the next moment I had slammed Nott against the wall and pinned him there. He looked shocked for a fraction of a second before a look of satisfaction spread over his face.
“I think I’ve struck a nerve,” he said proudly.
“I will break every bone in your body if you don’t shut your mouth,” I threatened. He’s not worth it.
“Do you really think I’m afraid of you?” Nott whispered. “Like you said before, there are no teachers around. So go ahead. What’s stopping you?”
He’s not worth it. I wanted so badly to hurt him. To watch him quiver on the floor like the pathetic coward he was. He’s not worth it. There was nothing stopping me. I could cause Nott a whole lot of pain before anyone found us. I could put an end to Nott’s harassment right now. I knew enough spells to cause some serious harm to this obnoxious git.
He’s not worth it!
I let go of the front of Nott’s robes. “You’re not worth it,” I muttered. I turned around yet again to leave.
“Nobody’s worth it, right?” Nott asked scathingly. “How do you think Weasley would react if he knew the real reason you dated him? That he was nothing more than a pawn to make Draco Malfoy jealous?” Against my better judgment I stopped again, thinking Nott’s words were quite odd. It almost sounded like… “That’s the only person who matters, right? Just Malfoy and you. Everyone else is a pawn or rubbish.” Did Nott–? “I saw it ten years ago. It was only ever about you two and how much you meant to each other.” Bloody hell, he actually did.
I couldn’t help it. I let out a laugh. Nott seriously thought Draco and I were in love with each other. It was so completely absurd that I couldn’t stop myself from laughing more.
“Is that really what this is all about?” I asked, turning back to Nott. For the first time he looked confused, not understanding what I found so amusing. “Have you really put this much effort and time into justifying why I never liked you? Why I rejected you immediately? Why I would rather date Fred Weasley than you? You want a straight answer? Instead of fabricating some elaborate theory, why don’t you just look in the mirror? Despite the fact that you think you’re above everybody else in this school, nothing could be further from the truth. You are, and have always been, nothing but a self centered, egotistical, obnoxious git who was arrogant, is arrogant enough to believe you’re better than everybody else. You mock the muggle-borns in this school but the truth is the only filth here is you.”
This time when I turned around, I didn’t stop and I didn’t head for Gryffindor tower. I had two things on my mind, Draco Malfoy and Fred Weasley. I was pretending like I wasn’t dating Fred because of what Draco would do, how he would react, but there was also a part of me that didn’t want to hurt Draco by being so open with Fred. That had to stop. Snape had been right, Draco was responsible for his own actions now and I wasn’t going to shun Fred because Draco would act immature. I loved Draco, I really did, he would always hold a special place in my heart but I would not push Fred aside. It wasn’t fair to him at all. Fred Weasley meant a lot to me and I wasn’t going to hide it anymore.
I spotted Fred talking to George on the third floor. ‘Sorry.’ I mentally apologized to the Snape in my head, knowing he would not appreciate what I was about to do. I marched up to the twins and dragged Fred away without saying a word.
“Er…see you later?” George called out as we left him there.
“What’s wrong?” Fred asked, sounding very worried.
I didn’t answer. I just pulled him into the room around the corner, which happened to be a boys’ bathroom. As soon as I closed the door, I kissed him before he could say another word. I pulled back after ten seconds and Fred stood there, looking dazed.
“Er…what?” I reached up to kiss him again but after two seconds he moved back. “I’m very confused,” he admitted, eyebrows furrowed. “I thought we weren’t –”
“I’ve changed my mind.”
“What about –?”
“I don’t care.” I reached up for another kiss that lasted longer than the first before Fred stepped back again.
“You’re sure about this?” he asked cautiously.
“Very sure,” I replied before jerking him down for a long kiss that he did not interrupt.
After we pulled away from each other, Fred had an adorable grin plastered on his face and I was feeling quite pleased with myself as well. Then a slight movement caught our attention and we turned to find a small Hufflepuff boy by the sinks. He was staring up at us with wide eyes. I felt my face flush while Fred swung the door open and jerked his head. The boy glanced at the open doorway, then back at us before he scurried out in between us. Fred closed the door and let out a snort of laughter.
“Poor kid’s probably going to be scarred for life,” he said laughing.
“Mhmm,” I absentmindedly agreed, moving back towards Fred. I squashed down that small bubble of anxiety that seemed to have settled in the pit of my stomach over the past week.
“We’re going to be in trouble if he tells anyone,” Fred reminded me.
“Bring on the detentions,” I responded, wrapping my arms around his back.
“I like the way you think,” Fred replied, bending down for another kiss…or two…or ten.
A/N: Nott got it wrong. Fred wasn’t the one who attacked Draco, George was. Also, don’t get the wrong impression, Nott isn’t attracted to Jade. He’s arrogant. The idea that she would simply not like him is crazy to him. And Jade and Draco are not in love. At all. It’s just so wrong.
Hagrid’s thestral class and the quotes are from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling, Chapter 21, The Eye of the Snake.
“You don’t have to stay,” I repeated once again.
“I know I don’t. I want to,” Fred replied.
“Why would you want to? Umbridge will be here. It’ll be a miserable Christmas.”
“I plan on spending most of my holiday in the tower or outside. Very limited contact with Umbridge. At the Burrow I won’t be able to escape mum at all and I know she’s ready to dig into us for getting banned. I’m perfectly willing to wait until summer for that. Plus nearly all of the other Gryffindors are going home. Me and George will have plenty of room to work, including our whole dormitory.” I bit my lip, worried that Fred and George were only staying at Hogwarts over Christmas for me. The rest of the Weasleys and even Harry were spending the holidays at the Burrow. “Don’t look at me like that,” Fred teased. “I promise you the benefits of staying here outweigh the disadvantages.” He leaned in to kiss me and I let my objections drop.
“I think I liked it better when you two waited till I was gone,” George said in a bored voice before instructing his castle forward.
“He’s right,” I said, pulling away. “I have to finish this for tomorrow anyways.” I dipped my quill into the ink bottle and went back to work on my Arithmancy essay.
“I thought you were done,” Fred stated, moving his knight.
“Hardly even half way,” I answered, raising an eyebrow.
“Bloody hell,” George muttered. “Here I thought Divination was bad.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
As great as alone time with Fred sounded, I have to admit I was waiting for classes to start up again. Then I would be sure I had fully dodged going back to Malfoy Manor. I just couldn’t shake the feeling I’d been having for a while now, like something was going happen. Maybe I did worry too much.
The first morning of break I waited for Fred or even George to wake up but they never came down to the common room. Plenty of others did, carrying or levitating their trunks. I waited until there was less than thirty minutes before the carriages left for Hogsmeade. Thinking the twins would have at least come down to bid farewell to the other Weasleys, I decided to check the Great Hall. Maybe I had missed them in the wave of other Gryffindors.
No, they were definitely not in the Hall. I guess they were sleeping in. I started walking back up the Grand Staircase, ignoring my building anxiety.
“Jade!” I looked around and found Lee Jordan coming my way. “You seen Fred and George yet?” he asked when he was beside me.
“They’re not in bed?” Ok, don’t freak out. They’re probably off doing something stupid.
“Nope. I wanted to talk to them before I left but they were gone before I woke up.”
“Sorry, I don’t know where they are either. I didn’t see them in the Great Hall.”
“Well just tell them I’ll get the stuff and bring it back, alright?”
“Yeah, sure,” I agreed, having no clue what ‘the stuff’ was.
As Lee left, panic slowly began to set in. I didn’t know where the twins were. I didn’t even know where to start looking. ‘Get a grip,’ I scolded myself, ‘this is Hogwarts, it’s not like they can be in any serious danger.’ I would simply poke around the castle until I found them.
I rounded the corner, intending to start at the Owlery and make my way down, when I nearly ran into Hermione.
“There you are,” she said breathlessly. She quickly pulled me towards an empty classroom. “I was trying to find you before the carriages left,” she explained, closing the door and casting the same privacy spells Snape used. The urgency in Hermione’s voice did nothing to calm my worries.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, fearful of the answer.
“I’ve just come from McGonagall’s office,” she explained, wringing her hands. “She told me that – that Mr. Weasley was attacked last night.”
“I don’t know. She didn’t give me any details. She said he was attacked then taken to St. Mungo’s.”
“How serious is it?” The Weasley parents might have been a bit overbearing compared to what I was used to, but they were good people and I didn’t want to think about anything horrible happening to either one of them.
“She said he was in stable condition and that the Weasleys and Harry went to London to wait for news.” I had a good feeling ‘London’ meant 12 Grimmauld Place.
“Fred and George left too?”
“McGonagall said Dumbledore sent them all there, including Harry. I need to talk to mum and dad once I get to King’s Cross. I can’t possibly go skiing at a time like this, what if…what if something horrible was to happen?”
I wasn’t exactly known for my ability to comfort people but Hermione looked very worried. “Just–well if he’s in stable condition, I’m sure he’ll be alright,” I said awkwardly. “Er…you have to get to the carriages,” I reminded her.
“What are you going to do?”
“Er…” I hadn’t got that far yet. There was only one obvious choice for information though. “I’ll figure something out.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Well that didn’t take long,” Snape greeted in a bored voice. He didn’t look the least bit surprised to see me. He lazily waved his wand, casting the usual spells.
“What happened?” I asked instantly.
“Always straight to the point when we’re face to face. I think I prefer your letters, at least there you attempt some sort of pleasantries,” he muttered as he continued grading the stack of essays on his desk.
“Mr. Weasley is in St. Mungo’s and you want to make small talk?” I questioned, bristling with anger.
“I would like you to pretend that the only reason you ever came down here was not solely for information or because I forced you to,” Snape responded, sounding annoyed.
“I’ll try and pencil you in,” I said bitterly, frustration building inside of me. Snape glanced up, looking like he had only just realized he was irritating me.
“Sit,” he instructed.
“Tell me what happened to Mr. Weasley,” I ordered, refusing to budge.
“Sit down and I will.” When I still didn’t move he let out a sigh. “I would prefer if you sat down so I wouldn’t be subjected to mindless pacing.”
“What’s wrong with my pacing?”
“It’s…” he seemed to be looking for the right word. “…vexing,” he said at last.
“If something as simple as pacing is so vexing to you, maybe it’s not me who has the issue.”
“You are probably correct,” he admitted, surprising me. “It’s been a very long day.”
“It’s barely past nine in the morning,” I pointed out, frowning.
“An extremely long day then,” he amended. Hearing how run down and tired he sounded made my annoyance with him subside and I sat down on the chair in front of his desk. He raised his head, scrutinizing me with narrowed eyes. “Are you pitying me?” he asked darkly.
“Don’t make it so easy.” I rolled my eyes at his look of disgust before he went back to grading. “Can’t you do that later? I mean you’ve got all break.”
“Getting the tedious work out of the way makes Christmas marginally more bearable.”
“How’s Mr. Wea–”
“Stable is one of those medical jargon words Healers use that doesn’t actually provide information.”
“Dumbledore believes Mr. Weasley was found before anything irreversible occurred.”
“Why do you assume there’s a but?”
“There’s always a but. His children weren’t rushed out of Hogwarts in the middle of the night for nothing.”
“As with most injuries, there is always the risk of unforeseeable complications.”
“So you don’t have any idea if he’s going to be ok?”
“He’s fine now.”
“That doesn’t mean –”
“If there are issues, I’m certain the staff at St. Mungo’s is more than competent enough to deal with them.”
Accepting that Snape knew nothing more useful about Mr. Weasley’s condition, I moved on. “What happened then? Hermione said he was attacked.”
“By…?” I prompted.
“A snake? How exactly did a snake bite land him in St. Mungo’s? Better yet, where did he get attacked by a snake?”
“It was not your average garden snake,” Snape answered.
“You didn’t answer the second part.”
“He was working.”
“For his job or for the Order?” Snape didn’t respond. “Guard duty,” I guessed, causing him to send a glare my way. “Well if you’re not going to be helpful I don’t have another choice but to voice my suspicions.”
“He was attacked by a snake, but quickly found and brought to St. Mungo’s where he was treated and survived. He’s in stable condition but the Healers haven’t fully cured him yet or if they have, I’ve yet to be informed. That is everything I know,” he said briskly.
“Not everything,” I disagreed. “Whose snake was it?”
“I thought you were smart enough to figure that out,” he said, letting out a scoff. Alright, well that was a snarky way of confirming it was the Dark Lord’s snake.
“One last thing –”
“I don’t have all the information,” Snape cut in.
“I think you know this one. That’s probably why you’ve been up for hours with Dumbledore, right?” For a brief moment he looked uneasy, likely because I had correctly guessed his morning, the next moment the look was gone. “If Mr. Weasley was attacked last night, which considering he has a steady day job, makes sense, how did Dumbledore find out so quickly that he was able to send the Weasley’s and Potter back to Gri-London?” Well now Snape just looked annoyed. “Frustrated by how fast your mind works?” I asked mockingly, making him glare at me again.
“I’m sure you are the one responsible for the vast majority of the obnoxiousness.”
“You’re avoiding my question.”
“Perhaps prolonged exposure to the Weasley clan has increased the symptoms.”
“I suppose that’s not necessarily true. You were quite obnoxious long before Hogwarts.”
“Not moving until you tell me.”
“I can move you, should it come to that.”
“I think our brother wands may have a differing opinion.”
“That only works if you’re able to defend yourself as fast as I can stun you.”
“Which I can.”
“You truly think so?”
“Ye –” No. No, I couldn’t beat Snape. Not in a duel, at least not a fair one. He knew me too well and would know exactly when to strike. “No,” I admitted. “Can’t you just tell me because I’m asking?”
“Such modesty, I’m impressed.” He paused for a moment, watching me. “Dumbledore was informed of the attack minutes after it happened because Potter witnessed it –”
“I do expect you to keep this next part to yourself, even from certain Weasleys. There is a strong chance Potter is linked to the Dark Lord –”
“Like me and –”
“That is why I was speaking with Dumbledore so early. He was curious about your link and attempted to discover if it is the same as Potter’s.”
“Similar, but not precisely the same. Potter does not appear to have the readily available access you do. Nor is he consumed by the Dark Lord’s mind should he venture too deep.”
“Well he should be thankful for that.”
“I quite agree.”
I sat there thinking about Mr. Weasley and how his family would react if something worse were to happen to him. They’d be devastated of course, their lives would never be the same. If Harry hadn’t seen, how long would it have been before Mr. Weasley was discovered? He probably would have been dead. And you did nothing. For weeks I’d known something bad was going to happen. Maybe not that Mr. Weasley was going to be attacked, but I’d known something was being planned. I’d brushed it aside, tried to ignore it, and gone on with my day. It had nearly cost Mr. Weasley his life.
“I want to go to London,” I blurted out.
“Absolutely not,” Snape responded instantly.
“This is not a discussion. You know very well it’s out of the question. There is a reason you are remaining at Hogwarts.” I had expected this from him but I couldn’t shake the need to disobey, to walk right out of this office and make my way to London whether Snape approved or not.
“Will survive without you.”
“That isn’t the point.”
“His father is going to be fine –”
“You don’t know that.”
“You do not need to be with him.”
“You’re supposed to be there for the people you care about,” I exclaimed.
“And I’m sure he would appreciate the gesture, however it is not an option.”
“I could –”
“You’re not even listening!”
“You’re not thinking rationally.” I sat there giving Snape a dark look but his resolve never wavered. “I realize you are worried. I will keep you informed of the situation. You need to trust me on this.”
With a final glare, I rose from my seat and left his office. Frustration mixed with the anxiety and fear that had slowly been building for nearly a month.
A/N: Did Jade know that Mr. Weasley was going to be attacked? What do you think? Remember she only knew about the Triwizard Cup being a Portkey because it was a solid, well thought out in advance plan.
And also I hadn’t noticed this before, but in the book Hermione lies to her parents and says she’s staying at Hogwarts to study. Then Dumbledore sends her to Grimmauld Place. Really Dumbledore, you don’t think that’s stepping over the line?
Mr. Weasley’s attack is from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling, Chapter 21, The Eye of the Snake.
It wasn’t that I didn’t trust Snape, it was just so bloody gut wrenching for me to be alone at Hogwarts. I finished all of my homework before dinner in an effort to keep myself busy, unfortunately after that I had nothing to do. I isolated myself in my dorm room, thankful I wouldn’t have to worry about any girls barging in because all of my roommates had left for Christmas. Maybe if a million different things hadn’t been running through my head, I would have cared more about the fact that I hadn’t eaten in nearly twenty-four hours.
I laid in bed for hours, unable to fall asleep. This just felt so…wrong. No, no that wasn’t right. It was like…like I’d been waiting for this. A few weeks of anxiety slowly building inside of me only to have this happen. It had been planned. Some Death Eater knew about it and I had picked it up from them. The real question was why. Why attack Mr. Weasley – not kill, just attack? Surely if they had truly wanted him dead there were ways but they only injured him. Not to mention the fact that Harry had witnessed it and alerted the Order immediately. The odds of Harry witnessing a surprise attack, especially on someone he cared so much about, were very low to say the least. But what if it had been meant to unfold that way? Why? There was only one explanation I could think of – Harry.
Dumbledore hadn’t just sent the Weasleys to Grimmauld Place, he’d sent Harry. Of course they would all go visit St. Mungo’s. How easy would it be to set up an ambush there? Everyone would be too concerned with Mr. Weasley’s health to even notice an attack coming. But it wasn’t only at the hospital, every time they stepped out of Grimmauld Place they were unprotected. It was a trap, a set up, a ruse to make Harry vulnerable.
You’re being paranoid.
A little piece of me felt that yes, I was overreacting but I kept remembering how I’d been feeling for weeks. It wasn’t paranoia, I reasoned, it was instinct and I should trust it. Snape wouldn’t though, there was no way he was letting me leave Hogwarts.
Because he knows you’re safe here.
I was safe at Hogwarts. And following Snape’s orders was usually the best idea. But –
They aren’t safe.
Fred wasn’t safe, none of the Weasleys were. And I was useless to protect them when I was hundreds of miles away. It was a horrible feeling, like there was a heavy weight on my chest. I was useless. After so much time and effort I was still that useless eight year old kid who couldn’t do anything to help.
The hours ticked by and the feeling of being utterly powerless grew stronger. The sun had risen by now yet I still wasn’t tired. I needed to do something. I couldn’t stay here doing nothing, not while Merlin knows what was going down in London.
A sudden pop beside me startled me so badly that I nearly fell out of bed. You’d think after spending my life living with house elves I’d have gotten used to them coming and going by now.
“Dobby?” I called out, sitting up in bed.
“Dobby is bringing miss breakfast,” he squeaked. He was holding a large platter of food in one hand, a jug of pumpkin juice in the other.
“I’m not hungry.” Even as I said it, my stomach groaned.
“Miss must eat,” Dobby insisted, stabbing a fork through a sausage and holding it up towards my face.
“I don’t want all th-mmgrf.” While I was talking Dobby had taken the opportunity to stuff the sausage into my mouth. I started choking and Dobby poured a glass of pumpkin juice and forced it into my hands. I managed to chew and sallow as I glared at Dobby. He kept pushing the juice towards me until I drank it. “I don’t need you to feed me,” I told him darkly.
“Dobby is making sure miss is staying well.”
“I think suffocating on breakfast would defeat that goal.” Dobby ignored my comment and pushed some toast into my hands as he took back the empty glass and filled it again. Preferring control over how much I was chewing, I bit into the toast before Dobby could force that into my mouth too. After I finished the slice he handed me back the glass and watched me until I drank it.
“Miss is feeling better?” he asked hesitantly.
“Yes,” I grudgingly admitted after a pause. Some of the fear, anxiety and worry had actually ebbed away. “Thanks,” I muttered, knowing Dobby only wanted to help.
“Dobby is always taking care of miss,” he responded. He patted my leg a few times before stepping back and popping away.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The day was much more manageable than the last. Dobby returned at noon with a bowl of soup then again at dinner with another large platter and a teapot full of hot chocolate. While there was still little else to do besides reading, my worries were not consuming me like they’d done the day before. I stayed in the dormitory though, preferring the solitude.
Being awake for over forty hours finally caught up with me and around one a.m. I passed out from exhaustion. It was a restless sleep, barely lasting four hours. When I woke up I felt completely changed.
Why the hell was I still at Hogwarts?! How could I have wasted two days sitting in this room? They were in danger, everyone at Grimmauld Place was. Fred wasn’t safe, I knew he wasn’t safe. I couldn’t stay here, it wasn’t right. I needed to be in London. That was where I belonged. Something horrible was happening and I was useless here. I was going to convince Snape. Somehow I was going to make him see.
I rose out of bed and changed. Just as I was tying my shoes, Dobby popped in, carrying breakfast.
“Not now, Dobby,” I said dismissively.
“Miss must –”
“Not now.” As I stood up Dobby tried pushing a glass of pumpkin juice into my hands.
“Dobby is trying to help,” he said fearfully.
“I know, Dobby, but not now. I need to see Snape, I can eat later.”
“Miss should have juice at least,” he said firmly, forcing the glass into my hand.
“And I will – later,” I explained, setting the glass down on my nightstand and leaving.
It was early in the morning and the corridors were empty. I didn’t risk walking around freely though, hiding myself with a Disillusionment Charm was a better idea. Using the secret passages I learned over the past couple years, I arrived outside of Snape’s office quite quickly. Honestly it felt like it took Snape more time to answer his door than the journey down here. When he finally opened the door he stood there frowning before I pushed past him, heading into his office.
“Have you slept at all?” he asked as he spelled the door.
“I need to go to London,” I stated bluntly. He let out a sigh and sat behind his desk.
“You should eat some breakfast –”
“I need to go to London,” I repeated.
“You want to go to London. There is a very big difference between the two. We’ve already had this discussion.”
“You didn’t even listen to me –”
“My answer has not changed, if anything there is less of a reason for you to go because Mr. Weasley is going to be fine.”
A spark of rage shot through me. I squashed it down and tried to remain calm so I could persuade Snape. “I disagree with you,” I said slowly. Snape watched me for a minute before responding.
“That may be, however it does not change the fact that you are where you ought to be.”
Now he was purposely irritating me. Didn’t he understand the danger they were in? Didn’t he care that something horribly wrong was being planned? Well I suppose no he didn’t because he’d never given me a chance to tell him what I suspected.
“Something’s happening,” I started. “There’s a plan behind this –”
“Which is?” he asked sharply, almost like he believed me.
“I–I don’t know,” I admitted. “But there’s something.” He looked less convinced now. “I know something is happening!”
“You’re letting your fear and emotions cloud your judgment,” There was a sudden popping noise. The jar closest to me on Snape’s shelves had a deep crack around it and was now leaking. Snape let out another sigh and reached into one of his desk drawers. He placed a vial of his mood altering potion in front of me and waited for me to take it. I didn’t. And I had no intention to ever use it again.
“I need to go to London,” I said once again, using a forcefully calm voice.
“And I am telling you no. You’re being paranoid. You haven’t eaten, you look like you’ve barely slept and you are letting your imagination run wild –” There was another popping noise and the jar was now covered in so many cracks it looked like it would shatter any moment. “It is not necessary for you to withhold your emotions so much,” Snape criticized. The next second all of his jars shattered yet I still felt livid. “Better?” he asked brusquely. If only it had been you. “Now that you’ve gotten that off your chest…” He nudged the vial closer to me but I wasn’t going to take it. Not now, not ever.
“I’m going to London,” I informed him, standing.
“No, you are not,” he said firmly.
“I need to be there –”
“Lie to yourself all you want, but do not lie to me,” Snape said angrily. “You’ve convinced yourself its necessary because you need an excuse to deal with the rational part of your brain that knows this is foolish and rash.”
“You don’t have a clue –”
“You only want to be there for him,” Snape cut in. “Not because you need to be, not because of his father, but because of him. Whether you believe he needs you or you need him doesn’t matter because it is not happening. You’ve created this sinister plot in your head to justify everything and I am telling you, you are wrong. Surely you can manage a couple of weeks away from Weasley. If not then the problem is more deeply rooted than your desire to spend Christmas in London,” he said brutally.
He doesn’t care. As long as he’s in control he’ll do as he pleases. He’ll never let you leave this castle. He doesn’t care that Fred is in danger.
Instead of hitting Snape like I desperately wanted to, I turned and walked to the door. It was locked and wouldn’t budge.
“Open the door,” I demanded coldly.
“Take the potion,” he ordered. “Then try and get a few hours of sleep. After that we can –”
I mustered all of my strength and slammed my right shoulder against the door. It burst open and slammed loudly against the dungeon wall. I left Snape sitting there with a shocked look on his face as I marched back to Gryffindor tower feeling furious.
A/N: Let’s pick sides – Jade or Snape, who do you agree with?
I paced around the dormitory for hours mentally cursing Snape and trying to figure out where to go from here. Now, even more than ever, I knew I had to be at Grimmauld Place. Something was horribly wrong. Everyone was in danger. And Snape didn’t give a damn. He thought I was paranoid. He thought it was for something as trivial as spending Christmas with Fred. He didn’t understand, he didn’t care how much danger the Weasleys were in.
Why would he? He never cared about them.
No, he hadn’t. He treated them with the same indifference he treated everyone. Actually, he treated them worse for being Gryffindors. He only tolerated Fred because of me.
I couldn’t stay here, not while Fred and the rest of them were in danger. I wouldn’t just sit here and do nothing. I wasn’t going to be useless. It wasn’t going to be my fault if something happened to them. I was going to London.
I stuffed every stray belonging I owned into my trunk. I’d head to Hogsmeade, take one of the pub’s fireplaces to Diagon Alley, and then walk across London to Grimmauld Place. The hardest part would be getting through the Hogwarts gates but I was confident I could manage.
I shrunk my trunk and slipped it into my coat pocket before moving towards the door. I cast one last look around to be sure I had everything. Dobby’s breakfast tray was still here, cold and long forgotten. I’d never touched the glass of juice beside my bed. I did have everything I needed though, that was what mattered.
I twisted the doorknob to leave, imagine my surprise when it didn’t open. I rattled it, trying to get it unstuck because surely that’s what was wrong. Still it didn’t open. I tried the same technique I’d used on Snape’s door. That didn’t work the first time or the tenth. I ran through every unlocking charm I knew to no effect. I even kicked it, yet it wouldn’t budge. As a last resort I sent a Reducto at it. The spell only bounced back and struck Lavender’s bed, damaging one of the bed posts.
A pop sounded from behind me – Dobby. He was standing close to the wall, watching me fearfully. Suddenly it dawned on me why I couldn’t get out.
“Dobby, open the door,” I demanded.
“Dobby cannot,” he said, shaking his head.
“I’m ordering you to open the door,” I told him viciously.
“Dobby is sorry –”
“Did he tell you to do this?!” Of course he did, this screamed Snape intervention.
“Miss must stay at Hogwarts,” Dobby pleaded.
This was the last place I wanted to be at the minute. Well if I couldn’t get through the door, I would find a way out the window. I sent a vanishing spell at it and nothing happened. Furious, I started casting several other spells that merely bounced back and struck the walls and sometimes the beds in the dormitory. When physically hitting the glass didn’t work either, I turned back to Dobby.
“Open the door,” I ordered him, shaking with anger. He shook his head frantically. “Open it!” I shouted, fury taking over.
“Open it,” I whispered dangerously, looming over him.
“Dobby will not. Miss is safe at Hogwarts.”
“Leave,” I commanded.
“Dobby is protecting –”
“I said to leave.”
“Miss is –”
“LEAVE!” I roared, causing Dobby to jump and pop away.
In a fit of rage, I tore off my coat, throwing it on one of the beds. I slid down to the floor, my back against the wall. This was because of Snape. I was trapped here because of him, like some animal in a cage. He was manipulative and controlling. His stupidity was going to get the Weasleys killed. Instead of trying to warn them he had locked me in here, rendering me useless. Didn’t he understand that this was an emergency?!
This was an emergency!
Why hadn’t I thought of it before?!
I scrambled over to my coat and ripped my trunk out to expand it. I frantically searched through the right compartment before I found the small, flat box. Worried that Dobby might return, I moved to the bathroom, securely locking the door before I sat down on the tile floor.
I carefully opened the box and stared at the medallion Tsukino sent me nearly two years ago. The note said ‘for emergencies’ and this certainly felt like one now. I removed the medallion from its case and flipped it over in my palm while mentally repeating ‘I need help,’ as per the instructions. Finally I set it sideways on the floor and spun it.
There was a burst of flames in front of me and a phoenix appeared. A gold and white phoenix. My mind drifted to my wand core. This couldn’t possibly be…I mean even if it is a rare bird, the odds…it couldn’t be the same bird…could it? Then another thought hit me – this is how she did it. This is how Tsukino sent and picked up letters and packages without me knowing.
The phoenix let out a gentle trill, reminding me he was still there and waiting. I grabbed the medallion and stood up, trying to think of how to communicate with him. Would just talking work?
“Er…hi,” I said awkwardly. He let out a few notes that I hoped was a greeting. “Can you…well I was wondering…I need to go to London.” The bird tilted his head at me. “Can you do that?” I asked unsure. “Someone I care about is in danger and I can’t leave my dormitory. I need to be in London so I can be sure nothing happens to him or his family over the holiday. Do you know where London is? London, England?” Fantastic, now I was rambling away to a bird. He flapped his wings impatiently. “Oh!” I exclaimed, finally realizing the issue. “Number Twelve Grimmauld Place,” I clarified. The phoenix flapped his wings again, this time floating up. He circled above me twice before stopping with his tail in front of me. “Er…ok?” I reached out and carefully wrapped my hand around his tail feathers. The next moment there was a flash and we were gone.
It was very warm traveling this way and impossible to see anything. Thankfully the trip didn’t last long and my feet touched down on a firm surface. It was the room I’d spent the summer in. The only difference was a layer of dust.
“Thanks,” I told the phoenix who had landed on the back of the chair at the desk. He let out a few soothing notes and rose up again, disappearing in a burst of flames.
I stuffed the medallion into my pocket and headed out the bedroom door. I was listening closely for any sounds. The Weasleys were all supposed to be here, right? Then why was it so quiet? There was light coming from under the door of Fred and George’s room. I crept in that direction.
When I was a foot from the door it swung open and Ginny nearly ran into me. She let out a surprised gasp and jumped before she realized it was me. “Jade?” she asked, confused.
“What?” one of the twins said from inside the room. In seconds both of them were behind Ginny, looking shocked.
“Hi there,” I greeted uncomfortably. Fred pushed past Ginny and pulled me into a hug before planting a kiss on my lips.
“Ugh,” George said in disgust. “We might was well leave, Ginny, Merlin knows how long this will last.”
Fred pulled back though, and gave me an appraising look. “What’s wrong?” he asked, sounding worried.
“What? With me? Nothing.” He didn’t look convinced. “Really, nothing,” I assured him.
“Then why do you look so awful?” he questioned, frowning.
George shook his head in disbelief as Ginny rolled her eyes and muttered “Idiot.”
“I’m ok. How are you guys?” I asked cautiously.
“Dad’s ok,” Ginny answered. “Mum and Bill spend a lot of time at St. Mungo’s and we visited him the other day. He seemed ok.”
“We’re supposed to go back Christmas day,” George added.
“That’s good,” I replied truthfully. The more time they spent at Grimmauld Place the better.
“Are you sure you’re ok?” Fred was still looking me over, slightly frowning.
“I’m better now,” I told him.
“How’d you get here?” George asked. “We asked mum and Lupin if you could come but Lupin said Dumbledore didn’t approve.”
“Er…” In the rush to get here I hadn’t actually thought of a way to explain my sudden appearance. I doubted ‘I borrowed a Seer’s phoenix’ would work, even if it was the truth. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way?” All three Weasleys raised an eyebrow at me.
“Did you sneak out of Hogwarts?” Ginny asked incredulously.
“I…I fancied a quick pop in to check how things were,” I said defensively
“You did!” George said with a laugh.
“You’re going to be in a load of trouble,” Fred pointed out, although there was a mischievous smirk on his face.
They were so carefree, so at ease, I couldn’t tell them. I couldn’t admit the real reason I risked breaking out of Hogwarts was because they were in danger. They wouldn’t understand if I told them. They’d think I was mental.
“I’ll handle it when I get there,” I said offhand. Fred pulled me into other hug before wrapping his fingers around mine.
“Come on,” he said, pulling me towards the stairs. “You really look like you could use a few meals.” Yeah, I probably could. Maybe it would help ease some of my anxiety. At least there was some relief in being here and knowing that for now, the Weasleys were safe. And according to George they were spending their holiday at Grimmauld Place and wouldn’t be leaving again until Christmas. That was still four days away. I would figure something out before then.
“What’s going on?” a voice asked as we stepped down onto the next floor. Ugh – Black.
“Jade?” Hermione said, confused. She was with Harry, Ron, and Black. “What are you doing here?”
“I’d like to know the same thing,” Black said, glaring at me.
“She’s staying for Christmas,” Fred answered instantly. Black gave him a dark look, the look he usually used on me or Snape, making me think I had missed something between them.
“Stay here,” Black ordered before walking down the next flight of stairs and disappearing into the kitchen.
There was silence before Harry spoke up. “You ok?” he asked. I was surprised to see he was talking to me. When I realized why, I immediately lowered my hand off my left shoulder.
“Fine,” I muttered. For a second it felt like I was being tugged back and I cast a glance behind me, finding nothing.
“How did you get here?” Hermione questioned.
“I think that’s what we’d all like to know.” Black had returned with Lupin.
“Magic,” I answered sarcastically. Lupin looked at me disapprovingly as Black scowled.
“Sirius says he never opened the door and neither did I,” Lupin stated. “I was only asking how you entered the house. If there’s a weakness we’d like –”
“If there’s a weakness? That’s really the best excuse you could think of?” I cut in. “Try for a bit of honesty and ask the real question you want an answer to.” Lupin was looking less and less pleased by the minute. Black’s gaze drifted over to Fred. “He didn’t let me in,” I said angrily. Lupin turned to glance at Black who was now watching me with narrowed eyes.
“How did you open the door?” Lupin asked politely.
“Doors are overrated,” I scoffed.
“Miss Lestrange,” Lupin started before Ginny interrupted.
“Dumbledore probably sent her. He sent us, didn’t he? The front door’s not the only way in.”
“Dumbledore was very adamant about her staying at Hogwarts,” Black disagreed.
“Did Dumbledore send you?” Lupin asked curiously.
“Most definitely not,” a new, bored voice said. It was from a painting of a wizard who was wearing Slytherin robes. “You seemed to have caused quite the uproar, Lestrange was it?”
“Phineas, what’s going on?” Black demanded. The portrait raised an eyebrow.
“Most Headmasters do not approve of their pupils breaking out of the school. Though I suppose Dumbledore is the least of her worries. Professor Snape looked much more furious.”
Again I felt the tugging sensation but my anger over hearing Snape’s name made me brush it off. “He’s probably just peeved I outwitted him,” I said bitterly.
“Outwitted?” Phineas said sarcastically. “Oh yes, an illegal Portkey, how truly witty indeed.”
The others looked at me in alarm but I let out a mocking laugh. “Joke’s on him. Didn’t need one.” Phineas narrowed his eyes suspiciously.
“Then how –”
“Wouldn’t you love to know,” I cut in. Phineas observed me with a calculating look on his face. I was annoyed that I couldn’t use Legilimency on a portrait so I would know what he was thinking.
“Well,” he said at last, “if that’s really the case, you wouldn’t mind handing over your wand to be checked.”
“You know, I think I’m going to have to pass on that,” I replied, amused by his weak attempt to get me disarmed. “I think I’d prefer to keep it on me.”
“This is why I detested children,” Phineas stated. “You are all so arrogant –”
“Don’t you have to report back to Dumbledore?” I asked rudely. “That’s why you’re here, right? Aren’t you just a messenger boy?”
“Why you insolent –”
“And if you think you didn’t like children, imagine how much they absolutely loathed you. Hogwarts’ least favorite Headmaster, wasn’t it? Why if it wasn’t for that, I’m betting you wouldn’t even be worth remembering at all.”
Phineas let out an insulted huff and gave me a look of contempt before marching out of his current frame and appearing in the next.
“Oi! What are we supposed to do about her?” Black called out.
“Professor Snape will arrive later this evening!” Phineas shouted before disappearing.
“Let’s go,” Lupin said with a sigh. “You can eat before Severus gets here. You look like you could use it.” Everyone followed Lupin downstairs where Mrs. Weasley was in the kitchen cooking dinner. She looked at me before turning curiously to Lupin. “Miss Lestrange will be joining us for dinner,” he explained. We all sat around the table, Fred beside me. “Severus will be along later to take her back to Hogwarts.”
“I’m not going,” I said simply.
“Yes, you are,” Lupin replied forcefully.
“No, I’m really not,” I reiterated with the same force.
“You need to get back before Umbridge notices you’re gone.”
“I can handle Umbridge,” I said, feeling insulted.
“You risked expulsion. There’s still a chance you could be expelled unless –”
“She won’t,” Fred cut in. “Umbridge is an idiot, Jade can –”
“Fred!” Mrs. Weasley warned.
“What?” he asked annoyed. “How come she can’t stay? Harry and Hermione are both here –”
“Their uncle isn’t Lucius Malfoy.”
“What has that got to do with anything? She can lie about where she was. They wouldn’t know –”
“Fred, Umbridge controls every punishment and Jade is already on a short leash,” Lupin tried to explain. “She can be expelled for this. If Lucius takes her back to Malfoy Manor we will not be able to help her –”
“I don’t need the Order’s bloody help,” I said darkly, glaring at Lupin. “I know how to handle Lucius fine on my own.”
“And Voldemort?” Black asked cynically, causing most of the table to flinch. Your name should cause that same amount of fear. “What about half a dozen Death Eaters? You think you can handle them?”
“Yes,” I said stubbornly. Black let out a humorless laugh, infuriating me. Show him.
“Arrogance is a family trait, eh?” Show him the meaning of pain.
“Sirius!” Lupin snapped.
“She’s the one who wants to go recklessly duel them!” Black exclaimed. Don’t let him speak about you like that. “Go let her.” Teach him to fear you. “You heard her, she doesn’t want the Order’s help.” You know all the spells. “Why are we even bothering?” He’s nothing.
“We are not going to send a fifteen year old to Voldemort,” Lupin said angrily. Show them all.
I rubbed my head trying to block out the thoughts. Black’s not worth it, I told myself, he’s just an idiot with a big mouth.
“What?” Lupin asked sharply. I looked up and found him watching me. “What did you just say?”
“You said he wasn’t worth it,” Lupin said, his hand slowly moving off the table. Dammit, I had said it out loud and not even realized it. “Who were you talking to?” Lupin asked suspiciously.
“No one,” I replied, annoyed by Lupin’s accusing tone. It wasn’t completely unheard of to mutter something to yourself in a moment of stress.
“Molly, take everyone upstairs,” Lupin ordered, his eyes never leaving mine.
“Upstairs, now please.”
“No,” Fred cut in. “What’s going on?” Heck, I was wondering the same thing. Actually everyone, even Black looked confused. Too curious now, I used Legilimency.
I couldn’t help but feel annoyed when I learned why Lupin was acting this way. He thought I was…tethered to some Death Eater and communicating with him.
“I was talking to myself,” I said impatiently. “Not some Death Eater.” Now Lupin looked shocked.
“You’re a Legilimens!” Hermione blurted out before covering her mouth, looking embarrassed.
“A what?” Harry asked.
“Working on that one for a while now?” I questioned lazily. “Here I thought you’d figure out the photographic memory first.”
“I knew it,” she said triumphantly. “I knew it was something like that. There’s no way you could have done all those essays and never opened a book.”
“Wait,” Ron interrupted, “isn’t a photographic memory where you –”
“Remember everything you’ve ever done, read, or learned in your life?” George finished. “Pretty much. Are you all really just catching on to this now?”
“You knew?” Ron asked.
“Course we knew. I mean you can only watch her write so many three foot essays without opening a book before you get a bit suspicious.”
“Did you know she was a Legilimens?” Black asked distrustfully.
“I don’t even know what that is,” George answered. Everyone’s focus shifted towards Fred.
“It may have popped up once,” I said, knowing Fred was about to lie although it wasn’t necessary.
“You never thought to mention this?” Lupin asked sternly. I was still feeling quite vindictive towards Snape and also didn’t want Fred to get in trouble, so I had no qualms about my next response.
“Maybe you should have asked a certain Potions professor. It’s not my choice what he tells or in this case, doesn’t tell you.”
“Snape knew?” Lupin questioned, frowning.
“But was does Legilimens mean?” Ginny asked.
“It’s like a mind reader,” Hermione explained.
“The mind is not a book,” Fred corrected. “You can’t open it up and read it. You don’t have one solid memory of your life. There are bits and pieces that make up your collective memories.” I couldn’t help but feel impressed remembering that I had told Fred the same thing over a year ago. “It makes more sense if you use food to explain it.”
“Huh?” Ron said, looking even more confused.
“Shh,” Lupin cut in. “Sirius, that’s Phineas.” Both Lupin and Black exited the kitchen.
I had a feeling about what would happen next. I shoved a roll into my mouth and mentally prepared myself. I was not leaving Grimmauld Place. I would not abandon Fred, the other Weasleys, Hermione, and Harry because Snape and Dumbledore refused to see the truth. I wasn’t going to let Snape manipulate me into returning to Hogwarts, expulsion or not, some things were more important than school. And I absolutely was not going to make eye contact with Snape and let him force me into following his orders.
Lupin and Black came back a couple of minutes later. Everyone but me turned towards them to hear the news.
“Severus is on his way,” Lupin announced.
“I can hardly wait,” I replied sarcastically.
The ten minutes spent waiting for Snape seemed to drag on and on. I kept forcing down my anger, knowing it wouldn’t help me. I needed a clear head so I wouldn’t be taken off guard. Snape wasn’t going to manipulate me into following him.
The doorbell rang and Mrs. Weasley, Lupin, and Black all left the kitchen. Not because they needed three people to unlock the door, but because Mrs. Black’s portrait had started screaming.
“Want me to –?” Fred began.
“I can handle it,” I assured him. Staying here was what mattered, I needed to keep telling myself that. I could take whatever Snape threw at me, I just needed to stay at Grimmauld Place.
Snape swept into the kitchen as Mrs. Black’s screams went away. I kept my eyes averted but I’m willing to bet he looked furious.
“Stand up,” he ordered. Yeah, furious was an understatement.
“No,” I said calmly.
“Come on you lot, upstairs,” Mrs. Weasley announced.
“Don’t bother,” Snape said briskly. “We’re not staying long. Lestrange, up now.”
“No,” I repeated. I was not leaving Fred defenseless.
“It’s not a suggestion. We are leaving. Now,” he said dangerously.
“I’m going to have to decline your offer, Professor,” I told him evenly.
“That is not an option. I am telling you to stand. We are leaving.”
“And I’m telling you no.”
“Jade,” Lupin cut in. “I realize you would prefer to spend your holiday here. If that were an option we would gladly welcome you. However, right now it is safer for you at Hogwarts. Professors Dumbledore and Snape are only trying to do what’s best –”
“No,” I interrupted. “Professors Dumbledore and Snape are doing what they do best. Attempting to control everything because they are arrogant enough to believe they, and only they, are right.” I squashed down the anger that had started bubbling up.
“You might as well of described yourself,” Snape said impatiently.
“I’m ok with being a hypocrite. You ok being a control freak?” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Snape move behind me.
“Get up,” he said furiously. “We are leaving.”
“No, you’re leaving,” I corrected. “I don’t have any intention of leaving London until term starts up again.”
“This is not a game –”
“I assure you I am taking this very seriously. Not at all like a game.”
“I will not tell you again.”
“Alright then, door’s over there. See you in January.” I felt Snape’s hand wrap around my upper arm and I started to reach up to defend myself but his hand was gone seconds later. He let out a growl and I snuck a peek around the table, curious about what happened. They were looking at Snape in surprise and confusion. Something clicked in my head. “You can’t make me leave, can you?” I let out a small laugh as I remembered the tugging feeling I’d felt before. “You sent Dobby to bring me back but he couldn’t do it, could he? That’s why you’re here.”
“Get up!” Snape barked.
“No, I don’t think I will.” I could hear Snape behind me yet I didn’t risk looking back. He was probably planning his next strategy.
“You and I,” he began in a voice of forceful calm, “and Dumbledore should you wish, can speak at length about…your reasoning for this. As much as you would like. But first I need you to return to Hogwarts with me.”
“Is that really the best you can do?” I asked, scoffing. “It’s weak, especially by your standards.” There was a moment before I felt it. Snape was trying to disarm me. ‘Not this time,’ I thought bitterly. I concentrated on the feeling and the moment I felt my wand leave my possession, I shot my arm back behind me as fast as humanly possible. My fingers wrapped around the silver handle just before Snape’s. “That belongs to me,” I whispered in cold fury. I ripped it out of his grasp before he could react.
“Feeling smug?” Snape asked after he composed himself.
“Confident,” I amended.
“Funny how often that gets confused with arrogance.”
“Given up yet?” I mockingly asked.
“Not in the slightest.”
“You’re going to be here all break.”
“We are going back to Hogwarts.”
“You maybe. Last time I checked you couldn’t make me leave. Wanna try again?”
“What I want is for you to act rational,” he snapped. “You refuse to do so. If I have to force you to be, I will.” Nobody else would have picked up on Snape’s wording but I sure did. ‘Force’ was code for control. As soon as I looked at him he would take control and haul me back to Hogwarts. Unfortunately for him I had no intention of giving him an opportunity to make eye contact. There was also the fact that he couldn’t just make me look at him with a kitchen full of people.
“Give it your best shot,” I challenged. His arm came around my left side. I flinched away from the sudden movement but all he did was drop an Ollivander’s box in front of me “What’s –?”
“Open it.” It was against my better judgment but I couldn’t help feeling confused and curious by his tactic, so I reached out for the box. It was old and battered but otherwise unremarkable. I opened it and inside there was nothing. To say I was unimpressed would have been a vast understatement.
“Nice box,” I said sarcastically.
“Vine and unicorn hair. Eleven inches. Pliable. Very good for Charms,” Snape said coolly. All thoughts of being calm and collected were gone. I started shaking in rage as I stared at the empty box. In one swift motion I jumped out of my seat and pinned Snape against the wall. While he didn’t look completely surprised, the others in the kitchen were taken off guard. Their gasps of shock didn’t matter right now, only one thing did.
“Where is it?!”
“At Hogwarts. Where you should be,” he answered.
“Give it back!” I demanded. The fact that Snape seemed unperturbed by my rage only infuriated me more. “GIVE IT BACK!”
“When you return to Hogwarts and I am sure you will not leave again. Then, and only then, will I return it.”
“I want it back now,” I whispered threateningly.
“No,” Snape responded. My grip on his robes lessened against my will. “Calm down,” he instructed in a firm voice. I realized my mistake as my hands dropped. I’d done exactly what he wanted, exactly what he planned. I’d looked him in the eye and now he was in control. I couldn’t fight it, I didn’t know how because I’d never bothered to learn before. “You need to go back to Hogwarts,” he said slowly. Somehow deep inside of me a spark of dissent shot through. I was pleased to see Snape look surprised when he felt it too. “We are going back to Hogwarts,” he told me. I could feel myself fighting for control, something Snape noticed as well. “Upstairs,” he said, wrapping his hand around my forearm. “You and I are going upstairs to discuss this privately.” Whatever headway I’d made in freeing myself disappeared and I obediently followed Snape past the others and out of the kitchen.
Without direct eye contact I could feel Snape’s grip loosening but every time I nearly reached freedom, Snape would turn me back towards him and take over again. We made it to the bedroom I’d used over the summer and Snape closed the door with a flick of his wand. After casting the usual privacy spells, he let me go, physically and mentally. I took the only appropriate response I could think of – punching him in the face as hard as I could. He staggered back a few steps, clutching his jaw as he muttered a few curse words.
“How dare you?” I whispered, shaking with anger again. “You had no right –”
“I am not the one you should be questioning,” he said angrily. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done?”
“I did what was necessary!”
“Necessary?! You illegally left the school! You think Umbridge doesn’t know you’re gone? Maybe we’ll be lucky enough to claim you strolled recklessly into the forest and you won’t be expelled. It’s more than you deserve after this stunt.”
“I don’t care about Umbridge or being expelled.”
“Of course not,” Snape mocked. “It only matters what you want, doesn’t it?”
“This is not about me! This is about –”
“What? What is this about?”
“They are in danger and you refuse to see it.”
“There is no danger! Do you really think I didn’t go to him? That I didn’t question everything I could? Arthur Weasley’s attack was part of the same plan he’s had for months, the same plan the Order has known since July. There is no other plot.”
“You’re wrong. I don’t care what he tells you, he’s planning something. I know he’s going to attack.”
“Do you not hear yourself?” Snape asked in disbelief. “Do you not realize how paranoid you sound?”
“I’m not crazy,” I spat out angrily.
“I know you’re not. You’re sick, it’s happened before –”
“I know I made the right decision.”
“No, you made a rash decision based on fear.”
“You’re wrong,” I repeated.
“Then prove it to me.” Snape pulled out a vial of his mood altering potion and held it out for me. “Take it and you’ll see I’m only trying to help you.” I eyed the potion as I heard a whisper in the back of my head. Don’t trust him. “You’re not thinking clearly,” Snape continued, unaware. He’s trying to manipulate you. “Hardly surprising considering how little you’ve slept. Not to mention your lack of appetite. Barely three meals in three days and you hardly ate anything for those.” Something about Snape’s words struck me and suddenly it was like a light bulb had gone off.
I took a step away from Snape, disbelief and anger returning. “You drugged me,” I said accusingly. “You had Dobby drug my food. The pumpkin juice,” I guessed, remembering how hard Dobby had tried to make me drink it. “And the soup and the hot chocolate. You had me drugged so I wouldn’t be able to think clearly, so I wouldn’t –”
“You think clearly on the potion,” Snape cut in, sounding frustrated. “That is the only time you’re able to see how reckless you are becoming.”
“What were you going to do?” I asked derisively. “Drug me all break? Was that your plan?”
“I will do whatever it takes to keep you safe, most especially from yourself.”
“Drug me, control me, steal from me. Maybe you’re the one I need to be kept safe from!”
“I never stole from you.”
“You took Draco’s –”
“I showed you a box, nothing more than that. In your fit of rage it never even crossed your mind that you alone have the key to open your trunk”
“You didn’t –?”
“No. There’s no way I could have.”
“So you lied to me?”
“Whatever it takes,” he said menacingly.
“I’m not going back with you,” I said, taking another step back.
“You don’t have a choice,” Snape snarled.
“I do, and I’m not leaving this house until term begins.”
“What are you trying to gain from this? What do you think you’re going to accomplish?”
“I need to be here –”
“Really?” Snape asked sarcastically. “Did it look that way when you arrived? Was Weasley lost and inconsolable without you?”
“That doesn’t mean –”
“He was fine without you,” Snape said callously. “He was fine before you and he will be fine long after you. You are the dependent one in this relationship. You are the one incapable of going a few days without him –”
“That’s not true!”
“You invested too much of yourself into this. The same way you did with Draco –”
“Don’t you ever –”
“It’s the exact same thing. You completely fall apart without him. I’ve watched it happen before.”
“I’m here because they’re in danger!” I shouted.
“No, you’re here because of a boy!” Snape roared. “A boy who apparently makes you lose all sense of rationality! You’ve been reckless! You’ve been irresponsible! All for a stupid boy who was perfectly fine without you!”
“Don’t you dare insult him!”
“Why do you care so bloody much about him?!”
“Because I love him!”
“You don’t love him! You’re fifteen! He certainly doesn’t love you! In ten years he’s not even going to remember you!”
“Shut up,” I whispered furiously, hands clenched at my sides.
“Have you really deluded yourself into thinking you’re in love? Do you think you’re going to marry him?”
“Maybe I will!”
“No, you won’t! He’s not the love of your life! You’re not going to have his children! He’s just the stupid boy you dated in school!”
“He can be all of them!” I screamed, tears starting to flow down my cheeks.
“Life doesn’t work that way!” Snape hollered.
“For you! It didn’t work that way for you! Not me! I’m going to do everything I can to stay by his side! I’m not you! You were a coward! You chose that mark on your arm and watched her walk away! You didn’t fight for her! You did nothing! I’m not going to be you! I’m not going to let the person I love die without ever knowing how much they meant to me!”
I don’t know why I said it. I don’t know where it came from. I don’t even know what it meant but Snape sure did. The affect my words had on him was terrifying. It was worse than how he looked at Harry, Lupin, and Black combined. I’d never seen him this way before. For the first time in my life I was scared of Severus Snape.
I unconsciously took another step back as Snape gave me a look of pure hatred. He stepped towards me and I backed up in alarm until I was pinned against the wall. I cast my gaze downward, staring pointedly at the floor because I didn’t have the courage to look him in the eye. There were still tears dripping down my face as I waited for the blow that was surely coming. It never did though. I think I would have preferred him hitting me instead of what he said next.
“Maybe if you had cared for him less,” Snape began in a fierce whisper, sending chills down my spine. “Maybe if you had let him walk away, the Dark Lord would have passed over him. Maybe he would have been spared and survived this war. Your father though? Your mother? They will destroy him. You’ll be lucky – he’ll be lucky if he’s only killed and doesn’t have to spend the rest of his life in a bed next to the Longbottoms.”
I felt my breath catch at the thought of Fred being tortured for hours. My parents would torture him into insanity like they’d done to the Longbottoms. I could imagine my mother laughing as Fred screamed in pain. Would I have that memory? Would it haunt my nightmares for years to come, just as the Longbottoms already did?
“Do you know who will be responsible?” Snape continued darkly. “Do you know who you can blame? No one but yourself. The guilt will rest solely on your shoulders. It will be your fault.”
I started crying even worse as Snape swept out of the bedroom, slamming the door behind him. He’d known just where to strike to cause the most pain. And it was unbearably painful, like my heart breaking. I knew deep down that he was right. My parents would hurt Fred because of me. Coming here hadn’t helped him because it showed how much he truly meant to me. I may as well of just handed him over to the Death Eaters.
I wrapped my arms around myself and closed my eyes trying to block out the images of Fred being tortured. It didn’t help and the tears just kept coming. Instead of my parents looming over the Longbottoms, it was them over Fred. Instead of holding an unresponsive Draco in my arms, I was holding Fred as blood pooled around us.
Someone brushed the tears off my right cheek and my eyes flew open. It was Fred, looking very concerned. My sobbing increased and he attempted to pull me into a hug.
“D-don’t touch m-me,” I stuttered.
“I just wanna help,” he said softly.
“Go away,” I pleaded.
“Please don’t push me away.”
“GO AWAY!” I shouted, shoving him with so much force that he stumbled back.
He paused for a moment before nodding. “I’m down the hall if you need me,” he said quietly. He left the room, gently shutting the door behind him.
When he was gone I slid to the floor, sobbing uncontrollably into my knees until I passed out from exhaustion.
When I woke up the first thing that caught my attention was the cold. Grimmauld Place was always drafty but nothing like this. I was still huddled against the bedroom wall. The house was so silent, it must have been very early in the morning. I sat there in the pitch black trying to think of anything but Snape’s parting words. They wouldn’t go away though, ‘it will be your fault,’ kept ringing in my ears.
“No,” I finally said aloud, “not this time.”
I wasn’t going to get anybody else hurt. I especially wasn’t going to get Fred hurt. I would go back to Hogwarts, I’d make it look like I was in the Forbidden Forest or Hogsmeade or anywhere else believable.
I rose up and opened the door to the hallway. As quietly as possible, I walked down the stairs wondering how long it would take to open the outside door. Would Black know I was opening the door? How much time would I have?
I was too caught up in my thoughts to notice the significant change to the door until I was right in front of it. This was not the door that had been here before. This door was much more looming. There were braces every six inches along with thick chains, like something you would see in a castle. I guessed this new door was less about keeping things out and more about keeping things in – keeping me in.
“Leaving?” a voice behind me whispered. I whipped around and found Black half hidden in the shadows.
“Yes,” I answered when my surprise wore off.
“You have a habit of doing that.”
“Why does that matter to you? It’s not like you want me here.”
“No, I don’t,” he agreed. “I’ve been telling Dumbledore that since you showed up.”
“Then open the door and I’ll be gone. Consider it an early Christmas gift.”
“I can’t do that,” he said, taking a step towards me.
“Why not? It’s what you want, isn’t it?”
“You’d just crawl back.”
“No, I –”
“They’re good people, the Weasleys are, along with the other members of the Order. Their lives shouldn’t depend on your ability to keep it together. They shouldn’t have to worry that at any moment you could snap and sell each and every one of them to Voldemort.”
“I would never –”
“Maybe not on purpose,” Black conceded, “but you’re not exactly stable, are you?”
“I don’t have any intention of coming back,” I promised.
“Unfortunately your word doesn’t amount to very much.”
“Then what do you want?” I asked, beginning to feel desperate.
“What I want above anything else is to keep Harry safe. I will do whatever it takes to protect him.”
“I-I don’t understand what you mean,” I confessed.
“Who do you think matters more? Not just to me, but to the Order as a whole? To the Weasleys? To the wizarding community? To the world? Look at what Harry’s done. Do you think you can even compare? You’re a Lestrange, nothing but a Death Eater’s kid. That’s all you’ve ever been and that’s all you’ll ever amount to. Harry comes first.”
“You think I don’t know that?” I whispered furiously. “You think this is new information to me? Because it’s not.”
“Good. Then you’ll understand why.”
“Why what?” I asked sharply.
“Why I would go so far to protect Harry. To protect the Order.”
“What are you talking about?” I wasn’t so sure I wanted to know.
Black looked back at the kitchen door before facing me again. He took a couple of steps towards me before whispering, “It’ll be easier if you don’t fight.” Then he went up the stairs without another glance at me.
Feeling very confused, I watched him go. What did he mean? I stared at the kitchen door before my eyes drifted to the crack under the door. There was no light and now that Black had disappeared, the house was completely silent again. My curiosity got the better of me and I tiptoed to the kitchen, carefully opening the door. A single lantern sat on the table, it was lit but the flame was so low it barely lit up a small circle around it, let alone the entire kitchen.
I was freezing and rubbed my arms as I moved towards the lantern. It was at the end of the table nearest to me. I reached out to turn it up, making more of the kitchen visible. It also showed me I wasn’t alone.
I barely had time to gasp in shock before several arms wrapped around me and slammed my head and chest onto the table. As much as my shoulder hurt, I wasn’t going down without a fight. I started fighting against my captors, kicking when I could, but the more I fought back the tighter their grasp became until I could hardly move at all. Without any other option, I started to shout.
“Help! Somebody help! HELP!”
“There’s no one to hear you,” the Dark Lord said, sounding amused as he sat at the opposite end of the table. “Well,” he added, smirking, “except Black. But I don’t believe he’s inclined to assist you.” The truth began to sink in. “Oh yes, it was Black who gave you to me.” No, no that couldn’t be, even if Black hated me, he would never let the Dark Lord anywhere near Harry. “You’re wondering where the others are? Black was very particular with that. Of course he didn’t trust me anywhere near them. He sent them all away before I was permitted near his house. It was part of our deal.”
“Deal?” I questioned. This made the Dark Lord’s smirk wider.
“Black proposed it. Quite the surprise, I must admit. I can’t imagine what you must have done for him to think so little of you. He agreed to give me you along with all of the information he had about you and in exchange I would never lay a wand on Harry Potter again.”
“You’re going to stop hunting Harry?” I asked skeptically. Something about my question seemed to make the Dark Lord look…smug. “You’ve already thought of a way around it,” I guessed.
“A rather large oversight by Black. While I may not be able to attack Potter, I have many loyal servants who will,” he said with a small laugh. “Enough about Black and Potter, I’m far more interested in you.”
“Wasting your time,” I muttered.
“I very much doubt that. I’ve heard such things about you, especially your extraordinary gift.” No, surely Black hadn’t told him about – “You’re too valuable to be left with Dumbledore, not when you can peer into the minds of my Death Eaters.” In a surge of rage at Black, I once again struggled to break free only to have my shoulder shoved painfully against the table. “Angry at him? Furious?” the Dark Lord asked almost excitedly. “Do you wish to hurt him? Make him suffer? Torture him?”
“Only after I punch you,” I said through gritted teeth.
“So full of hatred,” the Dark Lord said, rising from his seat. “You have so much potential. Join me.”
“I’ll pass,” I replied sarcastically.
“You have so much power and the desire to use it,” he stated, slowly walking towards me and the Death Eaters who were keeping me down. “I can help you. I can teach you things you’ve never dreamed of. You could do remarkable things if only you let me show you. You would be my most trusted servant, more than even your parents.” I stopped struggling. The Death Eaters had my head against the table so the Dark Lord had to bend down towards me to look me in the eye. He looked pleased, but only for a moment because the next second I spit in his face.
“Go to hell,” I told him. One of the Death Eaters bashed my head against the table, making me see stars. It had been worth it though, to see that look of fury on the Dark Lord’s face.
“Too proud,” he said spitefully. “Too ashamed to give in to your deepest desires.”
“I would rather die – rather be tortured to death – than ever consider joining you,” I said fiercely. “You’re wasting your time. I will never bow down to you. I will never call you my master.”
“Gryffindor stubbornness,” he jeered.
“Something like that,” I replied defiantly.
“You will pledge yourself to me.”
“Don’t count on it.”
“Deny it all you want, but you and I both know you will join me, if only to save him.” A lump raised in my throat – Fred. “I know all about him. How much he means to you, how much you love him,” the Dark Lord mocked.
“I’ll kill you,” I promised. “You come anywhere near him and I swear I’ll kill you.”
“But can you get to me before I get to him?” the Dark Lord taunted. “Perhaps here or at Hogwarts he would have been safe, alas you and I both know where he will be most vulnerable. Where he will be unprotected. Where I can take him before they realize what’s happening.” The trip to St. Mungo’s on Christmas. “The others will be so concerned about Harry Potter, they might not even notice who’s missing. After that, that’s when the real fun begins.”
“I won’t let you.”
“How are you going to stop me?” he asked with a laugh. “Even if you manage to escape, they won’t believe you. They don’t trust you. You’re rash, you’re irresponsible, you’re paranoid, you’re unstable, you’re sick. No matter what you tell them, it won’t stop me.”
I knew he was right, no one would believe me. Snape, one of the very few supporters I had, hadn’t believed me when I told him something was being planned. Harry would be with them on Christmas, they would be more worried about guarding him of course. Fred would be left to defend himself, not realizing he was the main target.
“After I have him,” the Dark Lord continued, “I think the next logical step would be to free your parents. Your father will be assigned as a guard so that you can always have a front row seat to what comes next. Your mother, well you can imagine what she’ll do to him. How long do you think he’ll last before he ends up like the Longbottoms?” My rage boiled over and I fought to free myself. The Dark Lord laughed as his Death Eaters held me in place.
“Will he put up a fight or just accept his fate? Will he call out for you? Maybe for his family instead. How much are they going to hate you when they realize this was all because of you? You are the one to blame. You are the reason they lost him. That it was your fault.” I could see the giant crimson letters again. I was holding Fred and this time it was real, I didn’t get to wake up. “I will have every single Death Eater in my possession torture him. I will make sure it stretches out for weeks, for months.”
“No,” I whispered, tears beginning to fall.
“And every time they will push him to the edge and every time he will beg for death.”
“But he’ll never get it. Death is too easy. Death would be the merciful thing to do. He is going to suffer more than any other person alive. He is going to feel each and every curse. I want you to experience it too, seeing his pain and despair battling the excitement and joy from torturing him. I want you to see it in his eyes when he realizes there is no escape.” I was fully crying by now because I could vividly imagine what it would be like. I’d seen the Longbottoms suffer for hours and now their faces were replaced by Fred’s. “When the time finally comes, I want you to witness the exact moment where the boy you love becomes nothing more than an empty shell. You are going to watch him lose everything. His eyes are going to glaze over and you’ll know he’ll never recognize you again. You’ll never hear his laugh, never feel his arms wrap around you, never taste his lips again because he’ll be gone. He’ll be nothing.”
“Please stop,” I pleaded.
“You knew this was coming. Defiance always comes with a price.” It was supposed to be me. I was the one who should be tortured. Fred shouldn’t have to suffer because of me. “You were naïve to think you could save them all when you can’t even help one. How does it feel to know that after so many years, you’re still as useless as you’ve always been? Does it break your heart? Does it feel like your whole world is crashing down? Answer me.”
“Yes,” I admitted.
“Do you wish you could stop it? That you could take his place?”
“How far are you willing to go? What would you do to save him?”
“Anything,” I answered instantly.
There was a soft thud on the table and I saw a small knife the Dark Lord had dropped in front of me. Next the Death Eaters released me, stepping back into the shadows. The Dark Lord bent down and whispered four words into my ear.
“Prove it to me.”
A/N: *hides from all the Sirius fans out there*
Next up there’s going to be a lot from other people’s pov, I’ll be sure to mention it so you’re not confused. Be sure to tell me what you thought of the chapter, do we all hate Sirius now?
A/N: None of this chapter is from Jade’s pov.
The occupants of Grimmauld Place awoke to Mrs. Weasley’s screams that morning. Remus and Sirius apparated down to the kitchen, wands already drawn. It took Sirius a minute to process what he was seeing. Jade Lestrange was sitting at the end of the table, slumped over. Her skin was white and there was blood, lots of it. Blood on the table, blood on Jade, blood pooled on the floor. Sirius and Remus stood there in shock until a shout came through the door.
It was Bill. From the sounds of it, he and everyone else in the house was thundering down the stairs, heading straight for the kitchen.
“Stop them,” Remus said, but Sirius didn’t hear him. He was too transfixed on the scene in front of him. “Sirius!” Remus shouted. Sirius tore his eyes off the blood on Jade’s left side. “Stop them,” Remus ordered. “Don’t let them in here. Don’t let them see this.” Sirius nodded and turned towards the door. As he was swinging it open, Remus gave him one last job. “Get Phineas’ portrait too, we need help.”
Bill nearly trampled over Sirius in his rush to get to the kitchen but Sirius grabbed his arm to stop him from entering. “No. Help me stop them,” Sirius muttered as the rest of the Weasleys, Harry, and Hermione rushed towards them.
“Mum?” George called out anxiously, trying to push his way through.
“Your mother’s fine,” Sirius tried to assure him, blocking the way into the kitchen.
“She was screaming, I know I heard her. Move out of the bloody way!”
“She’s fine,” Sirius repeated, refusing to budge.
“Then why was she –” Ron began angrily.
“Dad?” Ginny asked fearfully. Everyone froze, worried expressions on their faces.
“Your father’s fine too,” Sirius said loudly, making sure his voice carried over the screaming portraits.
“Then why –”
“Harry, go upstairs and bring down Phineas’ portrait.”
“What’s going on?” Harry questioned.
“I’ll explain later, we need it now. It’s important.” Much to Sirius’ relief, Harry complied.
“Where’s mum?” George demanded. “And why won’t you let us through?!”
“I know you’re worried, but you need to go upstairs so we can sort things out.”
“Sort what things out?”
“Jade?” Fred said suddenly, making Sirius’ heart drop. Fred whipped around, like maybe he only couldn’t see her from his current angle. After he circled around twice, Fred stopped and Sirius could see the wheels turning in his head as he worked out what was happening. Just as Fred lunged for the door, Sirius grabbed him. “Let go!” Fred hollered as he continued fighting his way towards the door.
“Stop!” Sirius ordered, using all of his strength to keep Fred back. Thankfully Bill reached out to help hold Fred back as he continued struggling and shouting obscenities. “Calm down,” Sirius pleaded, though honestly he knew it wasn’t going to work. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Hermione’s arm stretched towards the door handle. “No!” he shouted, causing her to jump.
Harry was returning with Phineas, George was yelling, demanding to know what was happening, Ron and Ginny were badgering Sirius with questions, Hermione looked moments away from bursting through the kitchen door no matter what Sirius had said and while he was holding back Fred, he was incapable of stopping her. On top of all that there were screams about filth and blood traitors coming from Sirius’ mother. In a moment of desperation, Sirius snapped. “Enough!” he shouted before stunning Fred. “All of you upstairs! Now!”
“You don’t –” George shot back angrily.
“George, take everyone upstairs!” Bill interrupted in a commanding voice.
“Tell us –”
“Now!” Bill told him. Sirius had never seen Bill so forceful and he didn’t think the others had either.
“Come on,” George muttered, throwing a glare at Sirius before pulling Ginny and Ron towards the stairs. Harry handed over the portrait of Phineas before pulling a dazed looking Hermione up the stairs.
“What’s going on?” Bill whispered urgently.
“I was wondering the same thing,” Phineas said moodily. “I sincerely hope you didn’t wake me before five in the morning purely to listen to this racket.”
“Take your brother upstairs,” Sirius told Bill. “It’ll probably be better if you don’t revive him for a while. Then make sure the others stay up there. We’re still trying to figure out what happened.”
Bill reluctantly nodded and hovered Fred up the stairs as Sirius reentered the kitchen.
They hadn’t moved Jade. She was still sitting at the end of the table, slumped over. Remus was holding two fingers against her neck, his other hand was holding down bandages on her left arm. Mrs. Weasley was fiercely scrubbing the table and gathering up the heaps of bloody cloth scattered around.
“What the hell happened?” Phineas asked. Mrs. Weasley jumped and Remus turned towards them.
“Get Dumbledore,” Remus instructed. “Tell him it’s an emergency. He needs to send someone who can help. Make sure he knows it’s Jade Lestrange who’s hurt.”
“Lestrange? Isn’t –”
“Just go!” Remus barked. Although he looked deeply offended, Phineas marched out of his portrait, presumably to pass the message on to Dumbledore.
Sirius took a cautious step forward. “Remus –”
“I can’t perform a health scan to check on her or to see if there are more injuries. I can’t risk moving her incase there’s something more serious. I can’t even disinfect the wound or seal it so she stops bleeding. I can barely clean the blood away. I certainly as hell can’t summon a proper bandage for her because I don’t know what that will do to her!”
Sirius had only seen Remus this angry on one occasion, the morning he’d found out Sirius had tricked Snape into going to the Shrieking Shack on a full moon. An angry Remus wasn’t something he knew how to deal with so he stood there awkwardly until Phineas returned.
“He’s sending help,” the portrait informed them. “He’s let them know it’s an emergency so they should arrive soon.” Phineas looked over Jade’s body, his expression unreadable. “Surely one of you can do more than that to help her,” he said, watching Remus hold down the bandages. Remus sent the portrait a dark look and Phineas scoffed before walking out of the frame.
Mrs. Weasley dumped the bloody cloths into the rubbish bin then moved to the sink. After a minute she let out a sob, alarming Sirius.
“I thought she was sleeping,” Mrs. Weasley said in a heavy voice. “That she had – had fallen asleep down here. I didn’t see, I didn’t notice the blood until I turned up the lantern.” Her body started racking with sobs as she wet a rag to wash the blood she hadn’t cleaned yet.
Sirius, though comforting people had never been his forte, stepped in front of Mrs. Weasley and gently pried the rag out of her hands. “I’ll clean it,” he said. “Sit down, Molly.” He directed her into a chair on the far side of the table, away from Jade. Next he flicked his wand, summoning the tea kettle. He also saw Remus bend down and pick up something off the floor.
Minutes later Sirius set a cup of tea in front of Mrs. Weasley, along with some milk and sugar. Instead of standing there, hovering and looking like an idiot, he took up the rag, planning on cleaning up the rest of the blood.
“What if they come back?” Molly whispered fearfully. “Whoever attacked her, what if they come back? What if they never left?” she said, her hand covering her mouth in horror.
Fear and dread seeped into Sirius’ body. Not once had he ever considered Grimmauld Place unsafe. He’d left everyone else unprotected. He’d left Harry unprotected.
“She wasn’t attacked,” Remus said quietly. Sirius and Mrs. Weasley both turned to him in confusion. Remus dropped a small knife onto the table. “She did it herself.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It must have been hours of sitting in Harry and Ron’s room. George, Ginny and Hermione sat on Ron’s bed while Harry and Ron sat on Harry’s. Bill, who was normally laid back and carefree, had ordered them to stay in here and let the others sort things out. They hadn’t seen or heard Fred since Sirius stunned him. Actually they hadn’t seen anybody except for Mrs. Weasley and she hadn’t said anything. She only brought up a few stacks of toast and a jug of pumpkin juice before retreating.
Not much had been said, but they all knew whatever happened, Jade was the one involved. There’d been a few murmurs voicing their suspicions but they drifted off before anything too serious was mentioned. As the hours went by it slowly set in that this was serious. They wouldn’t have been left alone for this long unless something drastic happened.
Ron’s stomach let out a growl and Ginny shifted her legs, draping them over the side of the bed. The sound of footsteps on the staircase caused Harry’s eyes to drift towards the door yet again. No one came though and none of them said a word.
Twenty more minutes passed until the door opened and Sirius joined them. He looked tired and grim as he sat down next to Harry. Nothing was said for several long minutes.
“What happened to Jade?” Ginny finally asked.
Sirius let out a sigh and ran his hand over his face before answering.
“I know this is hard to understand,” he began, choosing his words carefully, “but sometimes when people are under a lot of stress or upset, they can’t see a way to keep going. When it builds up, they may try to…escape from it.”
“Escape from it?” Ron said, confused. “You make it sound like she…”
“No,” Ginny claimed. “You’re wrong. She wouldn’t do anything like that on purpose. It’s probably like over the summer. You all thought it was something worse but it was only an accident. She made a mistake. People make mistakes.”
“You’re right, we did assume wrong last time,” Sirius agreed. “This is different though.”
“I don’t believe you,” George said firmly. “She did not try to…to off herself. She wasn’t under a lot of stress or depressed.”
“People hide these things,” Sirius explained gently. “Even the people closest to them don’t always notice until it’s too late.”
“She was fine,” George exclaimed loudly. “Not even a week ago she was laughing and joking. We were making plans for the holiday and she was teasing us about our gifts. She was bloody well snogging Fred when I went to bed a few nights ago. Does that sound like someone who’s depressed? Someone who’s barely holding it together?”
Sirius let out another sigh, deciding to be blunt. “I know she’s your friend and you think you know her well –”
“I know her a hell of a lot better than you do,” George said, glaring at Sirius.
“–then tell me, was the girl you saw last night the same Jade Lestrange you know? Was she acting like herself?”
“She was upset,” Ginny protested. “We all were when we found out about dad. She was probably worried about him too, only she hadn’t heard he was ok.”
“No,” Harry said, “she was ok during dinner. She was a bit on edge and yeah that might have been because of Mr. Weasley, but she was still ok until Snape came.”
“Harry’s right,” Ron added. “Up until he showed up she was normal. He just kept egging her on until she snapped at him.”
“And then he stormed out after they talked alone,” Harry continued. “He must have said something to set her off.”
“Or done something,” Ron muttered.
“Trust me when I say we’ve already realized that. Snape played a role in this and he isn’t getting off scot-free.”
“Yeah, bring the greasy git here and show him what he’s done,” Ron said bitterly.
“No!” Hermione cut in sharply. It was the first time she’d spoken all day. “Don’t,” she said, swelling in anger. “Don’t let him near her.”
“I know how you feel, Hermione,” Sirius said.
“No, you don’t understand. She shouldn’t be anywhere near him.” There was a fierceness in her voice the others weren’t accustomed to. “Did he come today?” she asked suddenly. “Is that who Phineas contacted?”
“We didn’t have a choice. Snape’s the only one –”
“Is he with her now?” Hermione demanded, standing up quickly, fists clenched.
“He’s not at the moment,” Sirius informed them. “Right now he’s –”
“SHE WAS FINE UNTIL YOU SHOWED UP!” Remus’ voice bellowed throughout the house.
“–he’s with Remus,” Sirius finished.
“THEN YOU HAD TO COME AND KEEP PUSHING HER! YOU DIDN’T TRY AND TALK TO HER, YOU DIDN’T TRY AND REASON WITH HER! ALL YOU EVER DO IS MAKE DEMANDS! ANYONE COULD HAVE SEEN HOW RUN DOWN SHE LOOKED, THEY WOULD HAVE KNOWN SOMETHING WAS WRONG! INSTEAD OF TRYING TO HELP YOU JUST PUSHED HER OVER THE EDGE! SHE HAS DEFENDED YOU TIME AND TIME AGAIN BUT YOU ARE SO DETERMINED TO MAKE EVERYBODY HATE YOU THAT YOU SHOVED ASIDE THE ONLY PERSON WHO ACTUALLY DOES CARE ABOUT YOU! SHE DESERVED BETTER FROM YOU!” No one had ever heard Remus so angry before.
“SHE NEARLY DIED IN A POOL OF HER OWN BLOOD BECAUSE OF YOU! YOU GET TO CARRY THAT AROUND FOR THE REST OF YOUR MISERABLE LIFE! NOT THAT IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE BECAUSE SEVERUS SNAPE DOESN’T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT ANYBODY BUT HIMSELF!” They waited for Snape’s angry response but it never came.
“GET OUT! YOU’RE NOT COMING NEAR HER AGAIN! I DON’T CARE WHAT DUMBLEDORE SAYS, AS LONG AS SHE’S UNDER THIS ROOF YOU AREN’T STEPPING NEAR HER!”
A door downstairs slammed and then someone was marching up the staircase. It was Remus returning to Jade’s room, leaving Snape to show himself out.
After a few minutes Sirius stood up. “I’ll see about getting you guys some lunch. It’s going to be a rough few days and I know it’s a lot to ask, but please try and give everyone some space.” Lastly he addressed George, “Bill’s talking to Fred in a bit. You should at least wait until after that before you go see him.”
With that he exited the room and left them all sitting there as reality slowly set in.
Jade Lestrange had tried to kill herself.
A/N: Back for the New Year, woot! Thanks to everyone who’s been reading and I hope you enjoy the rest of the story.
Also, after reading the previous chapter, it should be obvious that Jade was in fact not trying to die. She has a saving people thing, a bit like Harry but it’s much more intense and self destructive. You’ll find out more coming up.
A/N: Back to Jade’s pov until after the * * *
It was too warm and I couldn’t move. Where was I? Hogwarts? And why was it so bloody hot? I shifted around some, trying to free myself. Then I froze, remembering the Dark Lord. Where the hell was I?!
I panicked and began struggling, trying to escape. Two strong hands wrapped around my upper arms and I fought harder. My body didn’t want to move though. I was too weak to fight.
“Stop,” a familiar voice I couldn’t place said. “Please stop.” Death Eaters don’t say please. “Calm down. I promise you’re safe.” It didn’t matter if I was safe, I was already lost. “Jade, it’s Remus Lupin.” Lupin? “I need you to calm down.”
I stopped fighting and tried to figure out what was going on. “Lupin?” I asked cautiously.
“Yes. It’s just me.”
That’s when things became clearer. I was covered in blankets, in a bed, in my room at Grimmauld Place. No, no, no. Not here.
“We can’t be here,” I said, beginning to struggle against Lupin’s hold again. “It’s not safe.”
“I promise that you’re safe,” Lupin tried to assure me.
“It’s not, he can come.”
“No one can get you here.”
“He was here. Black…Black let him in.”
“Sirius let who in?” Lupin asked, confused. They didn’t know what Black had done, the deal he’d made.
“He told the Dark Lord –”
“Why would –”
“He wanted to save Harry, he told the Dark Lord everything.”
“Jade, Sirius would never –”
“They were here! He came with Death Eaters.”
“Calm down,” Lupin instructed. “Tell me exactly what happened.”
“I wanted to leave but I couldn’t get through the new door. Black, he wouldn’t open it. He said – he said he was trying to protect Harry and that I shouldn’t fight them,” I began. “I went to the kitchen. Death Eaters grabbed me and then he was there.”
“Yes!” I exclaimed angrily. Why couldn’t Lupin understand that Grimmauld Place wasn’t safe?!
“What did he want?”
“Me,” I responded softly.
“He thought – he knew I’d make a good Death Eater.”
“You have to leave. He’ll come back.”
“It didn’t happen,” Lupin said, shaking his head.
“I saw him!” I shouted. “He was here! Black let him in.”
“Jade, please –”
“He was in the kitchen.”
“It was a nightmare, a horrible nightmare.”
“No.” It wasn’t a nightmare, it couldn’t have been, Lupin was wrong. “It was the night I came. He was here. And the door was different. I just wanted to leave. Then in the kitchen –”
“I know you’re –”
“My arm!” I said suddenly, grabbing my left forearm. It was bandaged now but I knew what was underneath.
“I know what happened!” Lupin was watching me with a look of pity, it was infuriating.
“You cut your own arm,” he said warily.
“It was the only way.” I felt sick remembering what I’d done.
“The only way for what?”
“I tried to say no. I told him I didn’t ever want to be a part of it. He said he’d…he’d kill Fred. Stop giving me that look!”
“It wasn’t real.”
“Yes, it –”
“No, it wasn’t, I’m sorry.”
“You’re wrong,” I said, backing away from him until I was against the wall. I pulled my knees up and wrapped my arms around them. “Snape was right,” I muttered. “I should have walked away. I should have let him go. They’re going to find him and torture him because of me. All because I was selfish, because I cared too much. It’s my fault. I just wanted to protect him.”
“You hurt yourself to protect Fred?”
“He said he wouldn’t hurt him if I joined. I wanted to keep Fred safe,” I explained. “He shouldn’t have to die because of who I am.”
“Fred is safe. I promise you, he is.”
“I need to go. I’ve been here too long. He’ll be waiting.”
“The Dark Lord!” Why couldn’t he understand, I needed to go. I had to do this.
“Jade,” Lupin said, letting out a sigh. “Please, just listen.”
“I need to go. If I don’t, he’ll hurt Fred. It’s the only way.”
“I can’t let you leave.”
“You have to,” I said desperately. “I have to protect him. I can’t – I can’t let it happen again. I can’t stand back and watch it happen again. Please,” I begged, “let me save him. I don’t care what happens to me, but I can’t go through the same thing again. I won’t let it be my fault.”
“Nothing is going to happen to Fred.”
“Why don’t you understand?!” I banged my head painfully against the wall. “I need to protect him. I can’t lose him too,” I mumbled. “It’s what’s necessary.”
“Some people are worth dying for.”
“Stop,” Lupin ordered. “It was a nightmare.”
“I’ve been in this house every minute since you arrived. No one outside of the Order has entered. Sirius hasn’t left once since September.”
“He told the Dark Lord –”
“Sirius had his life destroyed by Voldemort. His best friend was murdered by Voldemort. He spent twelve years in prison because of Voldemort. He would never make a deal with him, not even to save Harry, and most especially not by sacrificing you.”
“He hates me, he –”
“He doesn’t hate you. He hates what you remind him of.”
“I was there. He was beside me,” I said frantically, refusing to believe Lupin’s reasoning. “The Dark Lord was here, downstairs.”
“Jade, look at me. You know I’m not lying.”
“It was real,” I claimed, but now I wasn’t so sure.
“No. It was a horrible nightmare.”
“You must have been sleep walking. We found you in the kitchen this morning. There was a lot of blood.”
“I was just supposed to –”
“You nearly died.”
“It…it felt so real.”
“I know, but it wasn’t.”
“None of it ever happened?”
“No, I’m sorry.”
Suddenly it hit me why it felt so real, why even though I should have suspected something was off, I didn’t. He was back. It felt like my throat was closing in and I started gasping for air. Lupin was shocked by the change and reached out for me. “I need – I need –” I needed Snape but I had already pushed him away. I had no one to help me through this.
“Need what?” Lupin asked urgently.
“Leave. Me. Alone,” I wheezed out.
As reluctant as he looked, he left.
Snape had been right. He’d always been right. My worries and paranoia hadn’t been from some Death Eater plot and it wasn’t from instinct. It was much, much worse. He was back. It was always him, the voice. How many times had I ignored him? Been too stupid to realize he was there, in the back of my mind, whispering things? I’d spent years trying to keep him along with my father out, but it hadn’t helped. He crawled his way back in, inch by inch until finally he’d done the same thing he tried over eleven years ago. He tried to make me kill myself. And without Snape, I was utterly alone at trying to stop him from trying again.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Did you find out?” Remus asked in a whisper.
“At first he didn’t want to say, I could tell he knew though.”
“He seemed more interested in why I was interested actually.”
“What’s wrong? Did something else happen?”
“He – he wanted to see my wand. I thought it might make him more willing to talk.” Tonks bit her lip. “Remus, he knew who I was.”
“You’re sure he knew it was you?”
“He remembered my parents’ wands and asked how they were,” she said impatiently. “So yes, I’m sure he knew who I was.”
“Ollivander’s not one to gossip. I doubt he’ll tell anyone, Dumbledore possibly.”
“Yeah, well, you’ll want to tell this next bit to Dumbledore yourself.”
“Whose wand was it?”
“It was bought over four years ago.”
“It’s hers?” Remus asked in confusion.
“No, she bought it. It was matched to someone else.”
“Draco Malfoy?” Remus asked, eyebrows furrowed. “They don’t talk to each other. I don’t think they even glanced at each other the whole year I was at Hogwarts. McGonagall said nearly the entire school doesn’t know Jade’s related to the Malfoys, yet alone lives with them.”
“So why did she buy Draco Malfoy’s wand?”
“And why did she fly off the handle when Snape told her he had it?”
“There has to be more to the story.”
“Almost certainly,” Remus agreed. “And I’m willing to bet exactly who knows the truth.”
“Severus, I asked you last summer about Miss Lestrange. You assured me she was stable enough to spend the summer at Grimmauld Place without constant monitoring, that she was not a danger –”
“I’m sure your precious Potter will be perfectly fine,” Snape retorted bitterly. Of course, Potter’s safety was first, all anyone ever cared about was whether bloody Potter was safe.
“It is not Harry I am worried about!” Dumbledore said sharply. “She was left alone for five hours. Only five hours. In that time, she nearly died. If Molly Weasley hadn’t woken up early, Miss Lestrange would have been dead. And what happens when she returns to Hogwarts? At any time she could wander off alone and there is a chance she may not return. I will not take that risk.”
“She doesn’t need a babysitter,” Snape said roughly.
“She needs someone to make sure she does not harm herself!”
“She isn’t crazy. I will not let you treat her like some mental patient.”
“Severus,” Dumbledore said angrily, “she carved a Dark Mark into her forearm! She nearly bled to death from it. If you can sit there and tell me she is perfectly fine then you are blatantly ignorant to the reality of the situation!”
Hardly surprising Dumbledore would take on the ‘holier than thou’ attitude, acting like he alone cared about Jade’s wellbeing, like Snape was brushing aside the incident. Did Dumbledore really think Snape was that cruel? That he wouldn’t have traded anything to go back to three in the morning when he’d woken up and felt the desperation and pleas for help coming from Jade? He would have done anything to go back and travel to Grimmauld Place to help her. But no, he’d been angry, more than that, he’d been furious and he’d blocked it out. He’d shut Jade out, turned over and went back to sleep, leaving Jade to fight the demons on her own.
Snape had always told her whenever she needed him, all she had to do was ask and he’d do everything in his power to help. Then one of the times she’d needed him the most he’d done nothing. No, claiming he’d done nothing was too kind, too guilt free. She’d been drifting towards the edge for days. Snape had seen it even if she hadn’t. Maybe at first his intentions had been good, but in the end he’d been the last piece, sending her into the madness with his parting words.
It was a sickening feeling, knowing what he’d done, knowing he was responsible for what Jade had done to herself. Worse was being called out for it, someone else voicing his mistake, especially when that person happened to be Remus Lupin. And the absolute worst feeling was knowing whenever Jade saw him again, she’d be thinking the exact same thing.
“I kept my distance,” Dumbledore continued. “I allowed you to take the lead with Miss Lestrange. I believed the trust you’d built up with her all these years would be enough, that should something go wrong, she would come to you first, confide in you. It has become clear that it is not enough. This was not the result of one fight or a few days of fear. Something has been gnawing away at her for some time now. She needs someone trained in dealing with the problems she’s facing.”
“And you’ve already got somebody picked out.” Of course you do.
“Madam Pomfrey is the best choice. She knows enough of Miss Lestrange’s condition to help and will be discreet.”
“The fact that you think she’s going to open up to stranger and discuss what she’s feeling shows you have absolutely no idea what kind of person she is.”
“You would prefer we did nothing?”
“I’m not saying that at all.”
“Then what do you suggest Severus? I doubt she will come to you.”
Draco would know what to do. For years Draco had been her rock, keeping her happy and unburdened by pain. Snape had tried to pick up the slack after it ended, but when you only saw someone twice a year it was impossible to fully help them. He’d managed the bigger issues as best he could, probably not with ideal results but she’d survived. Then Durmstrang came. She’d changed, not quite back into her old ways but she’d gotten better. Viktor Krum helped chip away the rough exterior. Someone had gone even further though. Someone had made her as happy as Draco had. Someone had known what to do or say to bring back the child he’d known years ago, the smiling, witty, unburdened, albeit obnoxious girl he’d known.
“Use Weasley,” Snape muttered.
“You are going to have to be more specific.”
“Fred Weasley,” Snape said, his pride taking a hit.
“You want a boy who is barely out of childhood himself to deal with an issue this serious?”
“She needs someone to talk to. He’s one of the few she’ll actually open up to.”
Dumbledore sat back in his chair considering it for several minutes until the clock chimed. “Remus has requested a small meeting, only a few others will be there. It is beginning shortly. He’s already spoken to Miss Lestrange. We’ll also discuss Mr. Weasley there.”
“Lupin has made his views very clear. I doubt he would approve of me returning.”
“Yes, he had mentioned that. However, you will be with me and I expect you will not agitate the situation.”
Honestly Snape would have preferred to remain at Hogwarts. He could think of a million places he’d rather be than the kitchen of Grimmauld Place. He didn’t want to remember the blood or Jade’s pale skin let alone be in the same room where it happened. Bloody hell, he really was a coward, but he could tell by the look on Dumbledore’s face that this wasn’t a request. There was no way he was getting out of it. He let out a sigh wondering what fresh insults Lupin would have ready this time.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It was definitely the smallest Order meeting Snape had attended. Less than ten people sat around the kitchen table, those staying in the house, along with Mrs. Weasley and Bill. Dumbledore being there silenced Black though he did glare down the table in Snape’s direction. Lupin wasn’t there yet, it was unknown whether he was even aware of Snape’s presence. That left the last of their group, the three Aurors.
Moody, who Dumbledore had likely contacted to keep an eye on Jade. Shacklebolt, being a seasoned Auror, knew enough about healing that he’d been summoned when they found Jade. He’d arrived before Snape and thankfully had not started casting healing spells or health scans. Tonks though, Snape could see no purpose for her being here. Her eyes drifted over to Snape several times but he didn’t care enough to bother using Legilimency. No, Snape preferred to sit there and mindlessly pass the fifteen minutes it took for Lupin to join them.
When Lupin did finally come down to the kitchen, he cast a look at Snape but his expression was unreadable. He didn’t say anything, merely sat down between Black and Tonks.
“Remus,” Dumbledore greeted in a grave voice. “How is Miss Lestrange?”
“She refuses to eat. Or sleep. Or talk. Or even move. She can’t keep going on like this or she’s going to end up on nutrient potions.”
“I’ll speak with Dobby when I return to Hogwarts. Perhaps he will be of some assistance.” Snape internally cringed, after using Dobby to drug Jade’s food, he doubted she would accept anything from the house elf.
“Dobby?” asked Bill.
“A house elf who formerly worked for the Malfoys. He knows Miss Lestrange well enough, it’s possible she would eat something from him.”
“Are we really just going to ignore the hippogriff in the room?” Black asked in disbelief.
“Sirius,” Dumbledore warned.
“So we’re going to pretend that the reason we’re even having this meeting isn’t here? That he didn’t push her into this?”
“Severus is here because I requested that he accompany me.”
“If he hadn’t showed up at all maybe she wouldn’t have tried to off herself in the first place.”
“She didn’t,” Lupin said calmly.
“What?” Shacklebolt asked quickly.
“She wasn’t trying to die,” Lupin informed them.
“You’re saying she nearly died by accident…twice?” Moody said skeptically.
“It wasn’t an accident –”
“She cut herself, yes, but she wasn’t trying to die.”
“She…had a nightmare,” Lupin explained. A knot formed in the pit of Snape’s stomach. Nightmares this destructive weren’t a good sign.
“Nightmares don’t make you slice open your arm,” Moody growled.
“This one did.”
“What happened, Remus?” Dumbledore questioned. “What did she tell you?”
“Obviously she thought it was real, she dreamed Voldemort was here –”
“In this very room.”
“Why the hell would she ever believe Voldemort was here?” Black asked wildly.
Lupin let out a sigh before answering. “Because in her nightmare, you let him in.”
“You made a deal with him –”
“I would never make a deal with Voldemort,” Black cut in, darkly.
“I know that, we all do. In her dream though, you did. She was trapped with Voldemort and a few Death Eaters.”
“Why? What did they want?”
“Voldemort knew about her, he wanted her to join him.”
“So she cuts a Mark into her forearm?” Moody callously assumed.
“No,” Lupin said sharply, sending Moody a glare at the same time that Snape did. “She refused. Several times.”
“He…he told her if she didn’t join him, he would torture and kill Fred Weasley.”
Molly Weasley let out a gasp of shock, looking scared for her son’s safety.
“Molly,” Dumbledore said soothingly, “Voldemort is too focused on Arthur’s attack and Harry. I doubt he is concerned with anything besides them. Fred and the rest of your children will be kept safe. Remus, please continue.”
“She said she wanted to protect him. That it was the only way. That he shouldn’t have to die because of her.”
“All she wanted to do was save him,” Bill muttered.
“Maybe we should be questioning why she felt pledging herself to Voldemort was the only way,” Moody grumbled.
“Best guess?” Lupin said. “She felt alone, isolated from everyone, that she didn’t have anywhere or anyone else to turn to. Although I’m betting being told she was selfish and should have let Fred go and walked away didn’t help either,” Lupin added roughly, pointedly glaring at Snape.
“You told her she –” Shacklebolt began, scowling at Snape.
“It doesn’t matter anymore,” Lupin cut in. “Right now we need to figure out where to go from here. It’s been too long to pretend she didn’t leave school grounds. A cover story has to be planned.”
“Umbridge isn’t going to fall for any story,” Shacklebolt said. “She’ll want witnesses and proof of whatever you tell her. And you can bet she’ll report it all back to Fudge.”
“True,” Dumbledore agreed. “But even proof may not be enough.”
“It’s a start,” Lupin said. “Tonks and I came up with something. We’re going to need someone in Hogsmeade though. Would they accept Aberforth’s statements?”
“Highly unlikely,” Dumbledore admitted. “He could still be of some use if you have others collaborating with his statements.”
“That’s all we need. If he says she was there for a couple of days, the people of Diagon Alley will do the rest.”
“The Ministry might not believe Aberforth, but they aren’t going to be suspicious if a dozen different people tell them they saw Jade Lestrange.”
“I see where this is going,” Moody guessed, his normal eye fixed on Tonks.
“If I look like her and come to the Leaky Cauldron, rent myself a room and let a few blokes get a look at me, who’s going to know the difference? I check out the morning the train leaves and she’s back to Hogwarts.”
“How would she have left Hogwarts’ grounds in the first place?”
“Through the forest,” Lupin answered. “If you go far enough around, you can get out a couple of miles from Hogsmeade.”
“She could still be expelled,” Dumbledore pointed out.
“That’s a risk we have to take. At least this explains where she’s been.”
“If Lucius Malfoy takes her back to Malfoy Manor we will not be able to help her before she’s taken to Voldemort.”
“Then we get her before Malfoy gets the chance,” Shacklebolt said, leaning back in his chair. “This is the best plan we’ve got, we don’t have much of a choice.”
“Alright,” Dumbledore conceded.
“There’s something else,” Lupin said. “Even though Jade understands it was a nightmare, her fear of something happening to Fred is very real. She needs to do more than spend two weeks locked in a room worrying about him.”
“I agree,” Dumbledore stated. “It would be beneficial for her to talk to someone.”
“I’ve tried,” Lupin claimed. “I can’t even get her to acknowledge me anymore.”
“Perhaps Fred Weasley would be a better choice.”
“He’s still a kid himself,” Moody said. “You really think it’s a wise decision, Albus?”
“She might open up to him, certainly more than she would any of us. Keeping her isolated isn’t going to help her either. Let Mr. Weasley have some time alone with her, but he should know he needs to be patient and supportive.”
“I’ll make sure he understands,” Bill offered.
“She should be allowed out of the house,” Remus said. “Not continually,” he added before Dumbledore could protest. “Let her go to St. Mungo’s on Christmas. It will be good for her. It also adds to her cover story and she’ll be less likely to worry about Fred’s safety if she sees that he’s fine.”
“She can’t be seen coming or going with the others.”
“I’ll take her,” Tonks blurted out. “Before you leave I’ll take her and trail behind enough that I don’t look suspicious. I can wait outside while she goes in.”
“She can spend a bit of time there with everyone,” Remus said. “Molly or Arthur can wait until a Healer gets within ear shot then ask why she’s there and if her uncle knows. She makes a flimsy excuse and leaves before anyone can stop her. After that Molly can write a letter to you, Dumbledore, asking about it. Since Umbridge is checking the mail, she may even read it herself.”
“It adds to the cover story,” Moody said approvingly.
“The Healers are always checking in on Arthur, I can question her when one of them comes in,” Mrs. Weasley offered.
Snape said nothing. It wasn’t as if they would have listened to him anyways. While he agreed that Jade shouldn’t be left alone, the idea of her going to St. Mungo’s with only Tonks as protection was too risky for him. Dumbledore didn’t look completely convinced either.
“Alastor, I want you to go with Molly and the others. Watch Miss Lestrange as well, make sure she meets up with Auror Tonks.” Moody let out a grunt of confirmation. “Alright then, explain the plan to Miss Lestrange to see if she will agree. If there’s nothing else, I should –”
“Actually,” Lupin interrupted, “there is one last thing. Jade mentioned something else, something offhand. I don’t think she realized what she was saying.” Snape’s insides clenched for a minute before scolding himself. Jade wasn’t that reckless, she never would have mentioned that. Even at her worse she never would have confessed to anyone. “I think it’s partially why she felt it was her responsibility to protect Fred. She said she couldn’t let it happen again. That she didn’t want to lose him too.”
“Too?” Dumbledore asked confused.
“That’s what she said.”
“She didn’t give you any hint of what she meant?”
“No,” Lupin answered. “I think she was more muttering to herself than anything.”
“That is very peculiar,” Dumbledore said thoughtfully.
“I don’t suppose Severus knows what she meant?” Lupin questioned, watching Snape intently.
He could easily explain this. It was none of their concern what she’d meant. “No idea,” he lied. “She was likely confused and rambling. It’s not unheard of in moments of…distress.”
Lupin shared a quick look with Tonks and Snape felt a spark of annoyance at the werewolf for his meddling.
“You’ve known her for over ten years and you know absolutely nothing useful then?”
“I’m not a diary,” Snape snapped. “I don’t hold her hand so she can make it through the day. If you think it meant something, go and ask her about it. Oh wait, that’s right, she won’t speak to you. I suppose you’ll have to save the mollycoddling for another time.”
“Severus,” Dumbledore warned “Eno-”
“You know what?” Lupin cut in. “I expected you to respond that way. Right down to the snarky insult at the end. You know what else? I think you’re lying through your teeth.”
“Remus,” Dumbledore said, in an effort to stop what would surely escalate into a fight.
“I’m sorry Dumbledore, but not this time. I should have listened to Sirius months ago –”
“Yes, let’s hear the wisdom of a man who’s been locked in Azkaban for twelve years,” Snape responded sarcastically. “I’m sure it will be enlightening.”
“He saw something in the way you looked at her and for months I ignored it. I’m not going to pretend I didn’t see it the other night.”
“Your evidence is that I looked at her?” Snape asked scathingly, crushing down the worry that Lupin had caught on to the truth.
“You did more than look at her. You knew exactly which buttons to press in order to get the reaction you wanted. You weren’t surprised when she lashed out, it didn’t even faze you when she pinned you against that wall.”
“Unlike certain individuals, I’m able to keep my emotions under control.”
“You just have an excuse for everything, don’t you? Not this time though, this time I want to hear the truth. I want to know who and what she was talking about when she said she didn’t want to lose Fred too.”
“I don’t know,” Snape snarled.
“And if I asked Draco Malfoy, would he be able to tell me?” Snape glared at Lupin with a look of complete loathing. “It was him, wasn’t it? The one she couldn’t help, the one she blames herself for. Something happened to him and she was never able to get past it. That’s why she has his wand, why it meant so much to her, because Draco means that much to her.” Furious at Lupin and annoyed with the headache that was quickly forming, Snape sat there unable to respond.
“Remus, you even said yourself that they don’t talk to each other,” Shacklebolt said. “They definitely didn’t when I was at the Malfoys.”
“I don’t think it was always that way. I’m guessing once upon a time they were very close. And then something happened, something drew them apart. I also think Severus knows what that was.”
“I don’t have to answer to you,” Snape replied forcefully.
“This is the man you trust?” Lupin asked Dumbledore. “A man who lied to you, who continues to lie to you, to all of us?”
“You’re one to talk, how –”
“Don’t you try and weasel your way out of this Snape!” Lupin said furiously. “For years you knew her, you knew everything about her and you said nothing. Are we really supposed to sit here and trust you?”
“You have no right to know,” Snape shot back, rubbing his temples as his headache steadily grew.
“You don’t get to decide that!” Lupin shouted. “She is a child and you have been manipulating her for years, making sure she becomes dependent on you!”
‘Manipulating,’ a livid voice in the back of Snape’s head said, fury growing. Manipulating?!
“What did you do when Potter died?” Snape asked in a low, steady voice.
“What did you just say?” Lupin asked dangerously.
“What did you do when Potter died? When Black was taken to Azkaban and Pettigrew was dead? What. Did. You. Do?"
“Don’t you ever mention James, Snivellus,” Black said threateningly.
“You left,” Snape continued, ignoring the others. “You ran away like a coward. You ran so you wouldn’t have to think about them, isn’t that right? Not everybody gets that luxury. Some people don’t get to leave and pretend everything’s perfectly fine. They have to spend every day reliving that horrible moment, remembering the day that changed everything. Stop deluding yourself into thinking you’re helping or that you only care about her. The only thing you care about is satisfying your own curiosity. As for questioning Draco Malfoy, I will stop you before you’re anywhere near him.”
“Severus,” Dumbledore chastised as Snape stood up angrily. Snape whipped around to glare at him harshly.
“Don’t start,” Snape warned. “You’re just like them. All that matters to you is your own schemes. I am the one getting my hands dirty, but as long as Albus Dumbledore gets what he wants nothing and nobody else matters. I don’t know whether he can’t admit this to himself or whether he thinks too highly of you, but I don’t have a problem telling you this myself. You need me more than I need you. And while you may think I don’t see what you’re doing, I assure you, I do. I will grovel at the Dark Lord’s feet and tell him whatever you want while you play your little games with him, personally I don’t care. But if you ever come near Draco Malfoy, I will make sure the world knows what you’ve been doing for years. Don’t look so surprised, I’m not as naive as you think I am, I caught on a long time ago. And I know you don’t trust me, you haven’t since the first time I sat down across from you in your office, but did you really think I would trust you? Maybe you’re the naïve one?”
With that Snape swept out of the kitchen and out the front door, apparated to Hogsmeade and briskly walked towards Hogwarts, still angry with the lot of them. ‘Manipulating,’ how dare Lupin? At least Black was constantly a git, you always knew he was going to be an annoyance, but Lupin? He was far worse, acting like he was the noble one, like he only cared and wanted what was best. It was nauseating. Lupin would never understand, none of them would, and Dumbledore, condescending as always.
Snape let out a huff knowing too much had been said. They’d probably all be thinking Snape was a Death Eater now. Threatening Dumbledore hadn’t been the wisest choice but Draco wouldn’t be dragged into this. It was stupid to have used his wand against her, why did you ever do that? Especially in front of all those people. You’re supposed to be smarter than this, stop making these foolish mistakes. “Diabolical Slytherin,” Snape muttered sarcastically, approaching the castle doors.
There was no way Jade would open up about the nightmare now, surely she must have realized what it was. Snape couldn’t even go near her with Lupin’s meddling. And after tonight Dumbledore would probably be trying to separate them as well. Now Snape had to wait and hope Fred Weasley could step up and not make things worse.
It was taking its toll, keeping these stories straight between Dumbledore and the Dark Lord while trying to protect Jade. Draco and Narcissa knew too much as well, if the Dark Lord ever questioned them Snape would have a lot of explaining to do. Snape also had to watch Nott or who knew how far he’d push Jade. And the bloody elves, Merlin forbid that nutter at Grimmauld Place ever caught on to what was happening.
What Snape needed right now was a rest, a very long, undisturbed one so he could make it through the rest of the holiday without strangling somebody (Lupin). In the dungeons, Snape grabbed the bottle of sleeping potion, only taking a small amount before carefully putting the bottle back in exactly the same place.
“You won’t even notice in the morning, will you?”
Moving to the chair, Snape’s eyelids started to fall, sleep taking over. Hands rose up to rub away the headache. The anger with Dumbledore and Lupin nearly all faded.
In the last moment of clarity before he fell asleep, Snape looked around his room, confused.
When had he left Grimmauld Place and come back to Hogwarts?
A/N: back to Jade’s pov
The hours slipped by, my only way of keeping track of them was Lupin’s visit every three hours. I wouldn’t sleep, I couldn’t. I had to keep it together or he’d come back. Despite what anyone else thought, I didn’t want to die. I had something to live for, people I needed to protect, people who now thought I was mental, people who would never understand me or why I was the person I was.
It doesn’t matter. They don’t have to understand, all that matters is keeping them safe. It was that thought keeping me going.
I wouldn’t sleep no matter how exhausted I was, I wouldn’t risk him coming back. All I had to do was keep my mind busy, that would keep me awake. I would stay focused, making sure I had a clear head so he couldn’t come back.
The floor outside my bedroom creaked. The doorknob was turning. Lupin again. Why couldn’t he take the hint after so many of these ‘meetings?’ I didn’t want to confide in him, I wanted solitude. I would rather lay on this bed, staring at the same spot on the wall, than ever admit to Lupin that there was something worse than my father in the back of my mind, something that whispered dark, sinister things to me. That convinced me to do terrible things.
There was the sound of the door opening and closing. Then the plate of food Lupin always seemed to be carrying was sat down on the desk. Next he would pull the chair out and spend fifteen minutes trying to get me to talk before he finally gave up and left again, always leaving the plate of food behind in case I got hungry. I wouldn’t eat though, food was a distraction, one I couldn’t afford.
I waited for the scrapping of the chair legs but it never came. Suddenly my bed sunk down. Alarmed, I whipped around. It wasn’t Lupin, it was Fred. I stared at him for a few moments as he stared right back, a look of sadness in his eyes. Finally I turned away then curled myself into a ball.
“I’d like to be alone,” I muttered. Lupin sitting here was bad enough, but Fred? I couldn’t deal with that, not right now.
“I know,” he said softly, “but you’re not eating or sleeping. If you keep up like this, you’re going to make yourself sick.”
“What if I’m already sick?” I whispered.
Fred’s weight shifted as he laid down and wrapped his arm around me. “Then it’s my job to make you better.”
“I don’t know if you can,” I admitted. “I don’t know if anyone can.”
“Have a little faith. Remember, I am half of the infamous Weasley duo,” he said lightly.
“Fred, it’s not that easy –”
“I know,” he cut in, serious once again. “Let’s start off small? How about you try and get some sleep?”
“I’m not tired,” I replied automatically.
It was several minutes before Fred spoke again. “Are you afraid to go to sleep?” he asked, concerned.
I didn’t move, I didn’t even risk breathing until finally, “Yes,” I confessed.
“I’ll stay here,” he said, pulling me closer. “I’ll stay awake and make sure nothing happens.”
Ten minutes ago the idea of sleeping would have been dismissed immediately, but now? Being able to sleep and not worry about anything, if only for a couple of hours, sounded too good to be true. But what if he came back while I was asleep? What if he made me turn on Fred this time? It was too big of a risk.
“I’ll be here, I’ll keep you safe.”
I wanted to sleep so badly.
“If I start talking or moving in my sleep –”
“I’ll wake you up, I promise,” he said, wrapping his fingers around mine. “I won’t let anything happen to you.”
After hours of forcing myself to stay awake, I shut my eyes. As I drifted off to sleep I felt Fred kiss the top of my head.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
When I woke up there was a spasm of panic before a low voice above me said “It’s alright, I’m here.” I relaxed, then realized something was wrong. I was staring directing at Fred, not the wall. I leaned back and looked at him, confused. “You sort of did that gradually over five hours or I would have woken you up,” he explained. Five hours?
“What time is it?”
“Oh.” I didn’t think it had been that long. It certainly hadn’t felt that long.
Fred’s hand came up and brushed a few strands of hair off my face. “How do you feel?” he asked sincerely.
“Did you want to sleep some more?” I shook my head. “Hungry?” I shook my head again. “Did you wanna talk?”
“No,” I answered instantly.
“Alright, you can just listen then, I’ll do all the talking.” I let out a low groan and tired to roll over but Fred put a stop to my escape. “You know I’m going to talk whether you’re facing me or not, so let’s keep it this way since we’re both already comfortable?” I could already tell it was going to be one of those annoying serious talks so I cast my gaze down, preferring to stare at his shirt rather than his face. “Lupin told me what you told him.”
“Glad there’s plenty of gossip,” I muttered, bristling with anger.
“It was only me and him and we weren’t gossiping. He’s worried about you –”
“I don’t want him to be worried about me.”
“I know you don’t,” Fred said with a sigh. “That’s part of the problem. I know you’re used to being alone and that you tend to keep a lot of stuff in, but that eats at you. There are people here who care about you, you don’t have to confess everything to them, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t here for you when you need them the most.”
“They wouldn’t understand.”
“You never gave anyone a chance to understand. If you tried, they might just surprise you. I might surprise you.”
I glanced at Fred for a moment, frowning. I wasn’t sure how to put this, but I’d try the best I could.
“You have…you come from a good family. You’ve been taught to be honest and respectful. You know what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s very noble and you should feel proud…but life’s not always going to be black and white. Sometimes you have to be dishonest, whether you like it or not. Most of the people here are…well they don’t feel that way. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just…difficult to deal with. Very difficult to deal with. Sometimes it’s like, if you don’t live up to their standards, you’re a bad person.”
“You’re not a bad person,” Fred said, sounding confused.
“There are quite a few people who would disagree.”
“Don’t,” Fred whispered, pulling me into a hug. “You’re a great person. And you do the right thing when it counts.”
“Not always,” I muttered.
“Don’t listen to Snape,” Fred said, suddenly stern. “You’re not selfish or…or anything bad for caring about me, I don’t care what he says. Just because you left Hogwarts doesn’t give him the right to insult you. You were worried sick, anyone could have seen that. Don’t beat yourself up because Snape’s too much of a greasy, pathetic git to –”
“Stop,” I said angrily. I freed myself from Fred and glared up at him. “I would take Snape over any Order member. I would depend on him more than I ever would Moody. I would trust him more than I ever would Black. I would confide in him more than I ever would Lupin. And I would most certainly believe in him and follow him more than I ever would Dumbledore.”
“Tha–” Fred closed his mouth quickly and kept it shut for several minutes with a look of concentration on his face, as though he was trying to think of an appropriate response. “Why?” he asked at last. “He hurt you and you’re still… Why? What is it you see in him that no one else can? Lots of wizards can heal sick kids and lots of people are willing to listen when you need them. Why is it him you are so completely loyal to?”
How could I make Fred understand? Would he ever realize how much Snape had done for me, how much he had risked then and everyday since for over the past ten years?
“Most of the bad people in the world, the truly bad ones, they usually remain bad, but sometimes they do change. I guess you could say they grow a conscious. They end up wanting to put things right or start over all together. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, it’s really just personal choice over which path to take. But there’s a third choice, the hardest choice – you keep doing bad things and hope that some good comes from it or if something really bad happens, you can do something to stop it. Every time you have to do something bad it’s different from before though, because you know it’s wrong. But you still do it because maybe, just maybe, you can help someone someday.”
“I don’t see him helping that many people,” Fred said bitterly.
He helped me.
“Imagine…just say Ginny really needed something, a potion. Your parents couldn’t afford the potion, but you knew a dodgy place in Knockturn Alley that sold it. So you and George go, and while one of you distracts the crooked shop keeper, the other takes the potion. You give it to Ginny, but you promise yourselves you’ll never tell anyone, even your parents because you know you would get in trouble. Your parents would say it was dishonest and they never would have accepted it if they had known you stole it.”
“What if,” I continued, cautiously. What if I was saying too much? “What if instead of getting into trouble with your parents, it was with the Ministry? What if, if they found out about your secret, you would spend the rest of your life in Azkaban? You did a good thing for your sister and maybe a few people out there would understand, but most of them would say it was wrong, they wouldn’t understand, they would want you in Azkaban. Yet you don’t regret doing it, and you’d do it again in a heartbeat. Why? Because Ginny’s your sister, and you love her. But would you do the same for a stranger? Could you make that commitment of spending the rest of your life as a lie to someone you’ve never met before? You’d spend everyday not knowing if today was going to be the day someone found out. To me, taking a risk like that means something. To me, a risk like that deserves loyalty.”
Fred laid there quietly for a minute. “You’re not talking about Snape being a spy for the Order, are you?” he asked carefully
“No,” I whispered.
“She knows, in your story…Ginny knows where the potion came from and how we got it, right?”
“Yes, and it means more to her than you can imagine.”
Fred shifted onto his back so that he was staring up at the ceiling. “Okay,” he said after a long pause. He wrapped his arm around me and pulled me back over to him, directing my head onto his chest. “Okay,” he repeated again as he let out a deep breath.
We laid there for several minutes and I felt myself getting sleepier as I listened to Fred’s heart beat. I was half asleep when he asked one last question.
“What happens to…to Ginny if the Ministry ever finds out?”
“I don’t know,” I admitted softly. “They’d probably take her away.”
Fred’s arm tightened protectively around me as I fell asleep once again.
A/N: It is very important that Fred understands Snape’s risk and knows that Jade is aware that the risk was…well, less than moral. What did Snape do? You’ll know in 2 chapters…I know, you’re excited, 2.5 stories leading up to this.