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The Fires Within by Violet Gryfindor
Chapter 6 : Five: A Whiter Shade of Pale
 
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Thanks to BJAuth for her continued support of this story. Your e-mail made me glow for days! Thanks as well to all my readers, even the silent ones.



Five


The next morning, Emma crawled out of bed early in order to beat the other four girls she shared sleeping quarters with to the lavatory. While she was brushing her teeth, Marlene McKinnon entered the room and looked over at Emma with bleary eyes.

“You’re already up?” she asked, pushing back her tussled hair from her face. “Don’t know how I’ll get used to these early mornings. D’you think we’ll get much homework today?”

“It depends on what classes we have,” Emma replied, putting away her toothbrush.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Marlene mused, pulling a brush through her blonde curls.

Emma took one last look in the mirror, frowning at the freckles scattered across her nose.

“Well, I’ll head down for breakfast,” she said. “See you later, Marlene.”

The other girl made a polite noise in answer, still being half-asleep, and continued to get ready for the day, while Emma made the long journey to the Great Hall, seven floors below.

At this time of morning, just after seven o’clock, most of the students were only beginning to rise and few people were in the halls. Emma enjoyed the peace and quiet, which she had revelled in all summer, as she slowly walked down the marble staircase. Her thoughts were far away, so far that she didn’t notice the person standing on one of the landings until she walked into him.

“Watch where you’re going, Ravenclaw,” a harsh male voice hissed. “You wouldn’t want to be the first person this year to lose house points, would you?”

Emma looked up at him, her eyes wide with shock. The man standing there was tall and rail thin, with dull blond hair cut short against his angular skull. She recognized him as the new Divination teacher, Professor Sejanus. He stared at her from eyes that were barely wider than slits, making it nearly impossible for her to see the colour of his eyes. A scar on his upper lip gave him a permanent sneer and his overall appearance gave Emma the shivers. He reminded her very much of a vampire.

“Sorry, professor,” she stammered. “I didn’t see you standing there.”

“Perhaps you better pay more attention to your surroundings,” he snapped, brushing imaginary dirt from his pristine robes. “You never know what may be lurking in dark corners.” With that, he stalked off, his black silk robes tight around his spare form.

Emma took a deep breath and continued down the stairs, keeping a distance between her and Sejanus. She definitely did not want to meet him again anytime soon.

Upon entering the Great Hall, she found it nearly devoid of life. Professor Dumbledore was there, of course, Emma wondered if he ever slept at all. A handful of students sat at the tables, quietly chewing on breakfast and probably thinking back on their summers. There was food already at the tables for those who arrived early to eat, so Emma sat down and took small helpings of eggs and toast. She was too nervous to eat much else.

People began trickling in as time passed and the noise level rose. Emma struck up a conversation with Marlene, but kept her eyes on who came in and out of the room the entire time. Grimm arrived, holding a cup of coffee in one hand and covering a yawn with the other, soon followed by most of the other professors, including Professor Sejanus, who did not speak to anyone. A group of Gryffindors entered the room, led by James Potter and Sirius Black, who had their heads together, talking in hushed voices, as though they were planning devious activities. Lily came in with Dorcas Meadows and smiled shyly at Emma.

Perhaps she is still embarrassed about falling in the lake yesterday, Emma thought.

While the timetables were handed out by the heads of the houses, Emma looked around the room at everyone. She had a deep curiosity that made her enjoy watching people, seeing what they did and how they acted. It was a strange pastime, Emma constantly admitted to herself, but maybe something would come of it eventually.

Upon receiving her own timetable, she frowned. It would be a difficult day for the first year Ravenclaws, with Potions and Defence Against the Dark Arts in the morning followed by Charms and Transfiguation in the afternoon. She slouched in her seat with a heavy sigh, holding the schedule in her hands. Was she ready for such a day?

“It is rather harsh, don’t you think?” Marlene asked her, her brows furled.

“Most definitely,” Emma replied, shaking her head. “Ravenclaws may be smart, but even we have our limits. I'd be nice to note that at least we won’t have to sit through History of Magic today.”

Marlene snorted. “A small blessing,” she muttered, then added, “A nice touch that we have Potions with the Slytherins and Defence Against the Dark Arts with the Gryffindors. Maybe Professor Grimm'll be easy on us because we're in his house.”

“That's not something we can count on,” Emma said, feeling the blood rush up to her face momentarily. “He’s is not the type to play favourites, not like Slughorn does. I've heard he keeps enough favourites to populate a small village.”

Just as Marlene opened her mouth to make a comment, a dark robed figure appeared at Emma’s side, startling both of the girls. Emma quickly recognized him after realizing that what she had first thought to be a hood was really the boy’s longish black hair.

“Excuse me, Goldwyn,” Severus Snape said with a nod of his head. “But I was wondering if you'd give me the privilege of working with you in potions class this afternoon. I've heard that you are a bit of an...expert.”

Marlene’s jaw dropped as Emma stared back at him, barely able to hide her surprise.

“D'you think me mad, Snape?” she asked, her voice filled with a venom she didn’t even know existed. “I understand that you're kind enough to rescue me yesterday, but other than that, why should you even bother talking to me? I'm no one special, not to any Slytherin, at least.”

The tone of her voice caused Snape to step back, surprised, and caught the attention of Grimm, who watched the conversation with a strange look in his eyes.

“Who says that I'm like any of my housemates?” Snape contended, his dark eyes flashing. “You're being too judgemental of my character, Goldwyn. I only wanted the opportunity to work with one of the blossoming minds in the realm of potions making. I too have an interest in the subject and was hoping...” He stopped suddenly and his face hardened into a mask of indifference. He had been talking too quickly as though he were actually excited.

Emma tried to listen for sarcasm in his voice, but found none, which confused her immensely. Why was he trying to be so nice to her? What was it about him that made her hate him, yet want to know more about him at the same time?

“What makes you think that I'm any good at potions, Snape?” she asked, wondering how he had known of her peculiar talent.

She looked up and met his eyes. Opening her mouth to repeat her question, she found herself unable to. Something was in her mind, sifting through the layers of memory and thoughts that made up her mind. With a gasp, she resisted, gazing into Snape’s dark, unyielding eyes while she carefully closed the doors of her mind, shutting him out. With a final push, she found herself within his mind, seeing the fear and anger that filled his entire being.

He broke the eye contact with difficulty, his breath heavy, as though he had run across a Quidditch pitch. He would not let her see into his mind, whatever the cost. Emma’s hands were shaking and she accidentally knocked over her glass of water. The strange events had been noticed by some of the surrounding students, who shamelessly stared at Emma and Snape. Grimm continued to watch, his hand halfway in his robes, reaching for his wand.

“Snape,” Emma managed to say, her voice shaking as much as her hands. “Thanks for the compliment, but I'm going to have to say no. I don't want to get mixed up with a Slytherin.” There, she thought, I said it.

Snape’s expression changed from indifferent to hurt, then finally to angry.

“Forget that I even bothered asking you, Goldwyn. I can see that my company is repulsive to you.” He turned with a swish of his robes and stalked over to the Slytherin table without a glance back.

Marlene looked over at Emma, her eyes filled with worry.

“Emma, what’s wrong? You acted so strange, then you hit your glass...”

“He’s maddening!” Emma exclaimed, her cheeks red with a mix of fury and embarrassment. “Everything he says feels like an insult.” She bit her lip, unable to explain why she felt such feelings of hatred towards the boy who had saved not only her, but her prized book.

Taking out her wand, she waved it in small circles above the spilt water and idly watched as it floated into the air and back into her cup.

“It’s nothing,” she said sharply, more reassuring herself than anyone else. “Simply nothing. He just...bothers me, that’s all.” She kept her gaze directed downwards at her now-empty plate, feeling the grey eyes of her guardian boring a hole in the side of her head. Whatever she did, she would not look up at Grimm. He would see into her and know what it was she felt and why.

A commotion erupted across the hall at the Gryffindor table. Swooping down from an open window was a pure black owl carrying a blood-red envelope. The owl dropped the envelope in the hands of the tall, dark-haired boy Emma recognized as Sirius Black, the one who had been surprised at his chosen house. He stared at the letter, his face a ghostly white.

“You better run before it goes off, mate,” James Potter said, his voice carrying over the hall. The students were quieting down, watching, waiting for what they knew was to come.

Sirius Black jumped from his seat and bolted for the door, clutching the letter, a howler, in his hand. When the door to the Great Hall slammed behind him, a screeching voice was heard on the other side. Emma could just barely make out the words.

...do you think you are doing, letting yourself be sorted into Gryffindor? Blood Traitors and Mudbloods, the lot of them! You’ve brought shame upon all of us by doing this, Sirius Black. You’ll never hear the end of it...

The voice disappeared down the corridor. Most likely, the boy had run as far as he could from the hall filled with students. Obviously he was supposed to have been placed in Slytherin, like his elder cousins Narcissa and Bellatrix before him. Emma frowned, she didn’t understand why some pureblood families were so strict about honour and connections. It sounded like a waste of time to her; surely what a person was like should be more important than who they were?

She snuck a glance over to the Slytherin table, where she noticed Severus Snape hunched over, his dark eyes shooting black looks at everyone. It seemed at first that he had no friends or acquaintances among his housemates, then Emma saw Lucius Malfoy lean over and whisper something in Snape’s ear. The younger boy turned to look at Malfoy and nodded. A disgusting smirk appeared on Malfoy’s face and the two of them began to converse.

“Well, he couldn’t do far worse than that,” she grumbled to herself, standing up from the bench. “We better go grab our things for class, Marlene,” she said, her voice audible to those around her. “Professor Grimm won’t tolerate us being late, even by a minute.”

~ * * * ~


The two of them, along with the other first year Ravenclaws and Gryffindor, arrived at the first floor classroom a few minutes before class began, giving them enough time to settle and get their books and parchment set out. Emma sat behind Lily, who had been happy that they had at least one class together. Lily admitted quietly that she still felt uncomfortable, not understanding much of what was going on at the school. At the same time, Emma was glancing over her Defence Against the Dark Arts textbook because she was curious as to how the author viewed the subject differently from others. It was a new book for the first years, having been written by a distant colleague of Grimm’s who lived in Wales.

She was still reading when Professor Grimm swept in, fully awake now that he had consumed his usual three cups of coffee at breakfast. His steely gaze took in the entire room and all its contents. He strode up to the front of the room and pointed his wand at the blackboard. Immediately, a multitude of neat writing appeared upon it, giving a detailed description of proper wand use and a list of basic spells and jynxes.

“Before you can learn anything about the Dark Arts, or rather, the defence of it,” Grimm began, his voice sounding slightly bored. He had said this speech far too many times in the past. “You must learn the basics. Learning to defend yourself is more than simply another subject, it is an art. An artist has to learn how to care for his brushes and paints before he can paint. Similarly, you will learn how to maintain your wand and know the proper incantations for all the spells.”

He stood at the very front of the room, leaning back on his desk. “I will not have students blowing up their friends or hexing their enemies, causing harm to themselves and others in this class. The Dark Arts is a dangerous form of magic, used primarily for self gain, but having a knowledge of its limits can - and will - one day save your lives.” His robes swished on the floor as he paced in front of the students, his eyes sharp and bright. “In this classroom, you will take the utmost care to do things properly and efficiently. Lazy students and troublemakers will not be tolerated. During class, I expect you all to pay attention, even you, Miss Goldwyn.”

Emma jumped at the sound of her name. She looked up from her book and met Grimm’s eyes. They were deadly serious, but there was a flicker of amusement in their depths, or had she merely imagined it?

“Sorry, professor,” she said quietly. At the back of the room, a Gryffindor girl snickered.

For the rest of the class, the students wrote seemingly endless notes about various spells and their incantations, as well as on magical creatures, whether they be dangerous or life-saving. The entire time, Grimm looked over the entire class, memorizing their faces and little habits. In one glance, a person’s entire character could be revealed, Grimm believed.

Having finished the note faster than some of the others, Emma surreptitiously glanced around at the room and the people within it. Having been under the influence of Grimm for a third of her life, she had unwittingly taken on some of his traits. The room itself was extremely interesting, filled with dusty old books and mysterious boxes that left the observer wondering what they could contain. Pictures of various magical creatures hung on the wall, arrows pointing to parts which could be used for medicines or potential weapons. A large, and very old, cabinet stood in one corner, periodically shaking as though something were trapped inside. Emma guessed that it contained a boggart.

The Gryffindor students also interested her. Other than Lily and Remus Lupin, she hadn’t really met any of them. Dorcas was a very bubbly girl, laughing and smiling at nearly everything; Emma couldn’t help liking her immediately. There were two other Gryffindor girls, but they seemed to already be enamoured of James Potter and Sirius Black, even though it was the first day. All they could do was stare at the two boys and sigh every couple of minutes. The boys, on the other hand, would every so often mutter something to each other, then subdue their laughs so as not to alert Professor Grimm of their inattention.

As thick as thieves, Emma thought, pretending to hiccough to hide a giggle. The two boys could have been brothers with their black hair and body shape, although Sirius Black was perhaps an inch taller.

In front of them sat Remus Lupin, his shoulders hunched and his nose nearly touching the parchment he was furiously scribbling upon. Beside him, Peter Pettigrew chewed on the end of his quill, looking up at the blackboard with wide eyes. He didn’t seem like the scholarly type at all to Emma.

Once he was sure that all of the students had completed the note. Grimm began pacing the front of the room. Emma smiled to herself. While pacing, Grimm tended to come up with his most effective speeches and lectures.

“The Dark Arts is a very important subject in your education here,” he began, his voice low, but somehow very clear and audible. “Learning how to defend yourself against dark witches and wizards, as well as magical creatures, could mean the difference between life ... and death. It is acknowledged that some of the things I must teach you are dangerous, but danger is one thing you will get used to, especially in times such as these. Many a wizard has lost his life because of ignorance with magic too advanced for his skills. Many others have become mad with power and caused the deaths of hundreds. You will have to be able to help yourself against such situations and make the most of them.

“Do you think that Professor Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald using silly little charms and jinxes? Did the great Merlin crush his enemies with a wave of his hand? No, they spent years learning the correct spells and incantations for the world’s greatest and most powerful spells,” Grimm continued, his eyes looking at each student in turn, making them all nervously shift in their seats. “Which is exactly what you will do. Class is over. Read the first chapter of your text book and make detailed notes of everything you think is important.”

As the students were putting away their belongings, Grimm grabbed some books and left the room, discreetly nodding to Emma on his way out. Most likely he was on his way to the teacher’s lounge for another cup of coffee. Even though he never admitted it, first year classes always made him nervous.

“Now this will be a difficult class,” Dorcas said, packing away her things. “He’s even worse than McGonagall, if that’s possible.”

“Yeah, the two of them together will be the death of us all,” James Potter laughed.

“Then they’ll make us all part of their zombie army,” Sirius Black added, punching James on the shoulder. “And we’ll follow them around like house elves...”

The two of them burst out laughing, while Peter Pettigrew giggled and Remus Lupin shook his head, but was smiling all the same.

“Honestly, you two,” he said. “Do you have to make a joke out of everything?

“Of course!” Sirius exclaimed.

Lily rolled her eyes as the four of them left the room together. Most of the other students were gone as well, leaving Emma, Dorcas, Marlene, and Lily alone in the room.

“Are they like that all the time?” Marlene asked with a raised eyebrow.

Dorcas was grinning. “Always. It’s rather amusing.”

“No, it’s rather annoying,” Lily corrected, frowning.

“The Gryffindor common room must be a fun place to be with them around,” Emma said with a small smile. “Ravenclaw is almost too quiet for my taste.”

“I could barely get a word of reading done last night,” Lily complained as they left the classroom. “All Potter and Black did was make stupid comments about everything in the school. It will be nearly impossible to survive the next seven years with them around.”

“A little fun never hurt anyone,” Dorcas said. “Anyway, you spent most of last evening talking with Remus Lupin about books and all sorts of smart things. You two just kept going and going, I couldn’t get a word in edgewise.”

Lily blushed slightly, but said nothing in reply. Emma glanced over at Marlene, who was reading over her notes from Defence Against the Dark Arts, probably looking for errors. If she found any, Emma knew that the other girl would rewrite the entire note that night.

Potions class was not at all what Emma hoped it would be. First of all, Professor Slughorn barely paid any attention to any of his students, except those with well-known surnames. From her place in the front row, Emma could barely make out the form of Severus Snape in the far corner, his eyes intense upon his book. It seemed that she wouldn’t be the only one teaching herself Potions. Emma wondered how Slughorn could possibly have become the Potions Master with his nonchalant and even careless methods of teaching. He did not mention anything about cauldron care or the proper way to stir certain mixtures.

After introducing himself and telling them tales about the famous people he knew, Slugorn gave them a set of notes that sent Grimm’s to shame. Even for Emma, who was curious about everything, they were extremely boring and the rest of the class seemed half-asleep when Slughorn finally dismissed them.

“Next class you will be making your first potion, which is outlined in the first chapter of your textbook,” he said at the end of class. “Please read it and know exactly what you are to do. I will not tolerate incompetence, especially from your two houses. Good day.”

As they were leaving the dungeon classroom, Marlene leaned over and whispered in Emma’s ear, “He’s certainly a strange teacher, I don’t like him very much. If we work hard and do our homework, we should get through, but just listening to him is near torture!”

Emma was just about to agree when she tripped on an uneven stair, causing her to fall forward. Before she could hit the stone wall lining the corridor, a hand grabbed her arm and pulled her upright. Swearing loudly, not caring if anyone heard her, she turned to see Severus Snape holding out her book-bag, which she must have dropped.

Rubbing her arm, now sore from where he had held it, she looked up at her twice-rescuer. “Thanks,” she muttered. “It's like you're always out to save me, Snape.”

His dark eyes showed the smile that his countenance did not. “It would have been a crime to let you crack your head open. There is too much inside of it to risk losing.”

“Oooooh!” Emma exclaimed, snatching her bag from his grasp. “Dammit, why do you have to always have to be so bloody sarcastic? I say one thing and you have to make me feel like a brainless idiot! Thanks, but leave me alone.” Turning on her heel, she stalked off with Marlene, not even troubling to think of why she fell in the first place.

The rest of the day passed quickly, but Emma enjoyed every bit of it. Every one of her classes was interesting and helped to feed her hunger for knowledge. After dinner, she spent the time before lights out ensconced within the library, reading her book on advanced potions. The smell of the books comforted Emma more than anything else could ever have done. It was home to her, a place where she felt safe and happy.

Just as the stars were sprouting in the coming darkness, the librarian warned Emma that she ought to be getting back to her common room. Reluctantly, Emma left, hugging her book to her chest. In the candle-lit corridors, she kept to the shadows as she made her way up to Ravenclaw tower. Anyone who passed her did not see her, nor did she pay much heed to them. Her brown hair covering much of her face, the only part of her most people could see was her white hand, reflecting the light from the flickering candles.

She was not at all afraid of the dark, or of anything within it. The scratching of a mouse in a corner, the distant voices of older students, the far away cry of a dying creature in the Forbidden Forest, they were all the same to Emma. That is, of course, until she heard familiar footsteps heading towards her and two voices speaking in hushed tones.

“... not think that I am questioning your choice, Albus,” Grimm said, rounding a corner of the corridor. “But how can you be sure that Sejanus is trustworthy? The things I have heard of him in the past are not at all pleasant.”

Emma backed into the shadows behind a tarnished suit of armour. The two wizards’ conversation was too interesting; it piqued her curiosity.

“You know I always have my reasons, Tiberius,” Albus Dumbledore replied. “Antonio is trustworthy enough to teach the students and that is all that I require of him. His past is irrelevant; he is perhaps the most qualified Divination expert in this part of the world.”

“He is not very trustworthy, Headmaster,” Grimm argued. “His loyalties are too easily bought, if a dark wizard ever got hold of him -"

”Then we must hope that never happens,” Dumbledore said, passing the place where Emma was hidden. He stopped and turned to Grimm. Emma could clearly see the face of her guardian, but not that of the Headmaster. “Tiberius, do you know anything about a certain so-called dark wizard?”

Grimm looked puzzled for a moment. “Well, not much at all, if you mean the one they call Lord Voldemort. He leads a small group of fugitives who wreak havoc on the Continent. Every year, they seem to be moving closer to England, which is why the Ministry is taking precautions against any trouble.”

Dumbledore tilted his head to the side. “You are right, that is very little, though not much more than the majority of our kind know. Tiberius, it is the identity of this dark wizard that I worry about. You knew him once, but not very well. Tom Riddle.”

Grimm's face did not change, as though he had half expected the news. "I see."

“The year after you and Minerva left, Tom murdered his father's family," Dumbledore said, shame in his voice. "There have been more victims over the years as he gathers his strength...."

Emma was barely able to suppress the gasp that came from her mouth. Fortunately, neither of the wizards noticed her.

Shaking his head with disbelief, Grimm met Dumbledore’s eyes. “So it is Riddle who is leading this cult of renegade wizards. Are you worried that he will recruit students?”

Dumbledore nodded. “We will have to keep the students safe from all this. I am afraid that he will try to recruit more followers in the coming years, primarily from families who sympathize with his cause. Riddle will want to enact his revenge against muggleborns and half-bloods. If he is anything like his ancestor, then we will have to be very careful.”

Grimm paled slightly. Emma had never seen such fear in his eyes before as there was now. What did he have to worry? she wondered. Then she realized that she knew less about his ancestry than she did her own. Surely he was a pureblood?

“Antonio is necessary because he can teach the students to use what they can see about their own futures against Riddle,” Dumbledore continued. “That is why I asked him to come here.”

“Yes, of course,” Grimm said absently, his eyes on the ground. “Sorry for doubting you, Albus. I should know by now that you are rarely ever wrong in a decision.”

“You have your reasons, Tiberius, as I have mine.” Dumbledore patted Grimm’s shoulder lightly. “Do not worry so much. The future may not be as bright as we wished, but there is still hope.”

Grimm left, probably back to his office where he would spend most of the night working on his experiments. Dumbledore remained in the hall, seemingly staring at nothing. When he turned, Emma shrunk into the shadows even further, hoping that he would not see her.

“It is impossible to hide everything of yourself, Miss Goldwyn,” he whispered to the air around the suit of armour. “Especially your heart.”

While Emma breathed in sharply with surprise, Dumbledore disappeared down the hall towards his office, a knowing smile upon his face.


EDITED 28/10/07
Chapter title from Procol Harum's 1967 classic song.


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