As she sipped her chilled butterbeer gingerly, Preia’s eyes swept across the chessboard with intense concentration. Her tongue licked at a small trickle of sweet liquid on her lips while her hand leisurely reached through the marble statues littered across the table. She grasped the white bishop and moved it across the board to the opposite side.
“Check,” Preia said confidently with a small smirk. “And, er, checkmate as well.”
The handsome long haired wizard sitting in front of the girl scanned the chessboard with incredulity in his wide eyes. The large black king suddenly toppled across the checkered surface, emitting a dramatic groan of anguish as he fell. “Merlin’s arse!” the young wizard cursed as he grabbed his head and grimaced. “How…when did you…augh!”
Preia giggled and held out her hand. “You lose again, Giddy!” the young girl chuckled. “I want another butterbeer!”
Gideon grumbled a string of curse words as he rose from his seat and rummaged through his pockets. “Why is that I always end up poor after visiting with you, Kneazle?” he groaned as he approached the bar.
Laughing again, Preia drank the last of her butterbeer and looked out the window with a smile. The Saturday the girl had spent in Hogsmeade had been pleasantly warm and clear, weather that was characteristic of an ideal afternoon in June. Students of Hogwarts were gaily enjoying the various activities the small Wizarding town had to offer. The Three Broomsticks was crowded with young people enjoying drinks, games, and conversation with one another. Before her fourth year, Preia had barely frequented Hogsmeade; but now, she was glad that she decided to attend the last trip of the term. The air of joviality and pleasantness present in the pub made Preia feel very blissful and relaxed. The stress that had been troubling her had faded away, replaced by a rosy blush and a relaxed disposition.
“Looks like you’ve had enough butterbeer,” Gideon chuckled as he sat down with two full glasses of the amber drink. “You’re big brother isn’t much of a good influence on you, eh?”
“I don’t know what it is,” Preia said with a wide smile as she took her glass. “I just feel so…good today! I didn’t think I’d feel like this until school was finished and Dumbledore announced who would be going on the exchange program.”
Gideon lifted his glass in the air and gave her a wink. “Then here’s to good feelings and the fact that you, my dear sister, will be done with your fourth year of Hogwarts in two weeks!”
“Cheers!” Preia giggled jovially as she tapped her glass against Gideon’s. The two drank deeply from their cups before preparing the board for another round of Wizard’s Chess.
“So, what’s old Sluggy got in mind with this Woflsbane potion?” Gideon asked as he moved his first pawn forward. “And why in Merlin’s name did you accept it? I remember brewing Wolfsbane in my Auror’s classes. That concoction is not easy!”
“It seemed interesting,” Preia replied, at which Gideon let out a snicker. “I mean, it has put me in quite a bad situation; but just think, Giddy, if I can brew it successfully, that’ll be a great accomplishment! I’m sure Slughorn would say something to Dumbledore about it!”
“Well, how’s it going? Are you done yet?”
“Almost. I’ve had to start over quite a few times. The potion is so demanding. Even if I make a minor mistake, it completely botches the batch. But now that I’ve got Severus’ help, I’ve been doing really well. The potion has to mature until the next full moon, which is on Tuesday. After adding a few more ingredients, it will be done!”
“Hmph,” Gideon grunted as he watched Preia make her first move. “Where is he anyway? I was hoping that I’d get to meet the little bast—”
“Gideon, stop!” Preia exclaimed with a grin. “Severus would never come to Hogsmeade. I think he’s allergic to fun.”
The young wizard laughed. “More of a book bug than you, eh? Amazing! I see now why he’s smitten with you.”
“What!” Preia yelped as she dropped her pawn. She laughed nervously. “Severus? No way. He doesn’t fancy me.”
Gideon glanced up at Preia, his brows twisted in a look of cynicism. “Preia, come on,” he sighed as he took one of her pawns. “If a boy gives a girl a gift like that…” He nodded toward the amulet around her neck. “…he’s doesn’t want to be just friends.”
“Oh, Giddy shut it!” Preia huffed as she moved her knight and then grabbed the necklace around her neck. They were quiet for a moment and Preia watched as her brother concentrated on their game. “You…think he does?”
“Well, I’ve never met the little bugger, but if I had to make a guess, I’d say that he feels a bit strongly for you. Trust me, little sis! I wooed quite a few ladies in my days at Hogwarts!”
“So I’ve heard,” Preia grumbled teasingly and Gideon shot her a frown. She searched her memory for clues. It was difficult to tell if Severus did fancy her or not. He did always act nervous around her; but then again, he was nervous around everyone. It was unlike him to give her such an expensive gift; however, that was because of his financial situation, not because he never wanted to. The girl sighed. She and Severus had always been friends ever since they first arrived at Hogwarts. Until recently, they were each other’s only friend.
“I don’t think so, Giddy,” Preia said as she moved her rook forward. “He’s been so odd lately; it’s hard to tell anything!” She bit her lip, wondering whether or not to confide in her brother about her suspicions concerning Severus’ new friends and his interest in the Dark Arts. Gideon was an avid protestor against black magic, much like her father, and she knew that he hated anything associated with the Dark Arts. She still hadn’t even figured out if she believed her uncertainties. “I just think he’s being—”
Shouts and screams suddenly erupted outside the doors of the pub. The patrons of the bar, including Gideon and Preia, rose in alarm and looked outside. Several people, including Hogwarts students, were running down the streets of Hogsmeade in a frightened rush. “Attack!” a voice yelled from the crowd. “There’s been an attack!”
The patrons of the Three Broomsticks panicked and cried out, tipping over chairs and tables as they began to run toward the door. “QUIET! EVERYONE QUIET!” Gideon bellowed as he stood atop a table. He had removed his wand and his expression had become very serious. “I am an Auror with the Ministry of Magic! Everyone remain calm and lie flat on the floor. Do not attempt to remove your wand or leave the premises!” He turned toward the barkeeper. “Mr. Brunswick, please make sure that no one leaves or enters. As soon as I leave, please lock the doors and invoke any protection spells or charms you may have.”
Gideon leapt down from the table as the people in the pub murmured fearfully, but crouched onto the ground underneath the tables. A few girls had begun to cry. Preia herself felt that she was on the verge of tears, but she gulped down her dread as her brother turned to her. “Preia, you stay right under this table and don’t move!” he ordered her in a voice that Preia rarely heard from him. “Don’t you go anywhere. I’ll be right back.”
Before she could reply, Gideon forced the girl underneath the wooden table and bolted out the door. The barkeeper locked it behind him and began to murmur spells that would hopefully ward off any intruders. Preia cowered beneath the table, her entire body quivering. What was going on? Was it the Death Eaters? Preia asked herself as she heard the sounds of people running and shouting outside of the pub. Oh, Gideon, please be careful!
“Preia!” someone behind her rasped. Preia turned to find Lily, Leah, and Clarissa slowly crawling toward the girl. Leah and Clarissa had tears in their eyes; Lily’s skin was pale and her eyes were wide, but she otherwise seemed calm. “Preia, what’s going on?”
“I don’t know,” Preia replied as the girls crowded around her underneath the table. Leah yelped as the shouts continued from the streets.
“Oh my God, it’s the Death Eaters, I know it!” Clarissa bawled as she covered her eyes. “They’re going to kill me! They’re going to kill all Muggle-borns! We’re dead!”
“Shut up!” Preia snapped at the girl. Clarissa, Leah, and Lily looked at Preia in shock as she felt a flush of anger come to her face. “Do you want everyone to panic? Everyone is scared, but you can’t make it worse!”
Clarissa whimpered and Leah started to cry as she held onto her friend. Lily grabbed Preia’s hand. “That was your brother with you, wasn’t it? He’s an Auror right?” she asked. Preia nodded and Lily smiled broadly. “It’s ok, girls! We’ll be alright! Preia’s brother and the Aurors will protect us. We’ll be ok!”
Preia stared at Lily; seeing the girl’s confidant face made her own fear waver. She nodded. “We’ll be ok, I promise,” she replied with a grin. She turned to Clarissa. “I’m sorry I yelled, but the best thing to do in these situations is just be calm.” Preia reached into her pocket and removed a small photograph. “Look, my brother brought me this. It’s a picture of my sister’s new twins! I’m an aunt now!”
Clarissa and Leah were still sobbing, but they looked at the photo as Preia slid it across the floor to them. “Th-they’re cute,” Leah murmured. Clarissa nodded and the two girls smirked through their tears. Lily smiled at Preia and mouthed the word ‘thanks’.
After several minutes, an Auror appeared at the pub’s door. The barkeep released the charms and let him in. Where is Gideon? Preia thought as her heart slightly raced. Why didn’t he come back? A series of frighteningly gory possibilities came to Preia’s mind. He’s fine. He’s fine. Be calm…
“Attention, everyone!” The Auror announced loudly from the front of the pub. “Please listen. There has been no attack. There is no evidence of Death Eater involvement or that anyone was severely harmed. However, all shops will be hereby closed for the remainder of the day. Hogwarts students are to be immediately escorted back to the castle, so please line up here!”
The pub was still filled with fear and anxiousness, but the patrons began to talk more freely. Preia and the girls rose from the floor and followed their peers out of the Three Broomsticks. “Is that all?” Clarissa sniffled as she continued to cling to Leah. “Is it over now?”
Preia nodded, but she was unsure what was going on. They entered the street in a line, flanked by several cloaked wizards in Auror uniforms.
“Gideon!” Preia exclaimed as she realized her brother was walking besides her. “You scared me! What happened? What’s going on?”
“Everything is ok,” Gideon replied, but his face was very stern. “Some students walking from the apothecary were hexed it seems. Broke out in hives that spewed acidic pus all over the place.”
“It wasn’t Death Eaters?” Lily asked as she walked closely behind Preia.
Gideon shook his head. “No, this was a pretty novice curse. Death Eaters don’t hex people to torment them. Their methods are much more…” He smiled slightly and put a hand on his sister’s shoulder. “Not to worry. We are sending you back just out of caution.” He gave Preia a quick kiss on the forehead and turned back toward Hogsmeade.
“You’re brother is a cutie,” Leah murmured as she wiped her tears away and grinned. “I’m glad he was here.”
“I told you,” Lily assured her as she put an arm around her friend. She turned to Preia and gave her a wink. Preia blushed fiercely and couldn’t hide her smile.
They four girls made their way with the rest of the young students toward the carriages that were awaiting them. Even though Gideon assured them nothing was wrong, Preia was glad to be going back. She felt uneasy now and only the walls of Hogwarts would make her feel safe.
As they waited in line at a coach, Preia was drawn to the sound of loud laughter. She glanced around for its source, unable to see through the thick throng of people. The laughter continued, accompanied by words she could not hear clearly. When she peered over the heads of two tall Hufflepuff boys in front of her, Preia saw a group of black cloaked individuals entering one of the further carriages. They were chuckling and gesturing animatedly. Preia couldn’t understand how they were being so nonchalant after what had happened, or why they were dressed in their school robes on such a hot day. Preia clucked her tongue as they one by one disappeared into the carriage. One of the robed figures, a boy, was chortling quite heartily as he hoisted himself in.
For a moment, Preia looked at his face, which was blurred from the distance between them. He turned before she could focus definitely on his features, but there was no mistaking what she saw. The long glistening hair. The dark eyes. A lump formed in Preia’s throat. It couldn’t be…
“Preia!” Lily yelled, but Preia was sliding through the crowd of students before Lily could grab her. She tried to maneuver herself through the maze of bodies without bumping into anyone. The last cloaked figure was getting into the carriage. Preia scowled and began to push through the students. “Excuse me! Please move!” Preia yelled as she nudged people aside. She ignored the shouts of anger and continued to make her way past the coaches. She had to know for certain.
Yet as Preia reached the end of the massive group of Hogwarts students, the carriage began to move and rolled out of Hogsmeade station.
The uneasiness returned and Preia once again felt a gap open up between her and Severus. Yet this time she felt a fury mixed with her apprehension. She just knew that it had been Severus and his gang at Hogsmeade. As much as her mind still wanted to resort to reason and mull over the facts of that day, the nagging suspicion in her chest confirmed it. They had been involved in the hex.
The more she internally battled between giving her friend a chance and her confident accusation, the more Preia became infuriated and confused. She was tired of dealing with such issues. Her studies and the Wolfsbane potion required all of her attention; when her mind was muddled with thoughts of Severus and his actions, she was prone to distraction and error.
“Merlin, give me the strength to focus,” Preia murmured to herself in the potions dungeon. After letting the unfinished Wolfsbane concoction mature for a full lunar cycle, she was nearly finished. The last few steps were fairly simple, but Preia had to be certain she made no mistakes. The slightest blunder could cause her to have to start over from scratch; with the end of the term less than two weeks away, she could not afford to fail.
Preia took a break while the potion bubbled in her cauldron. She checked the potions manual she had bought from Rabnes and Belon’s. The potion was supposed to be a shade of orange-yellow and Preia was relieved to find that the liquid in the cauldron was the right color. “‘After adding three roasted and powdered herbs of aconite, the potion should simmer for another ten minutes before thickening into a soup like consistency’,” Preia read from the book. “‘The final color should be a very pale gold, reminiscent of the full moon that causes the unfortunately afflicted to turn.’” She released a breath and leaned back. “Only a few more minutes and it’s done.”
Preia heard the dungeon door creak open. Her entire body shivered beneath her skin, but the girl tried to remain motionless on her stool. As her heart quickened and her palms began to moisten, Preia closed her eyes and took in a deep breath. Calm, calm, she thought as footsteps began to approach her. Just take it slow and don’t be too forward. You can do this.
Severus hurried over to the table that was littered with vials and objects. “Sorry I am late,” he breathed as he put his satchel on his stool and began to remove his potions kit. “I’ve been trying to finish my Herbology assignment all evening. It took me longer than I thought.” He grinned and produced a black tinted jar from his bag. “I found the aconite.”
Preia smiled, but did not look at him. “Thank you, Severus. I’m glad you’ve been helping me,” she replied as cheerfully as she could.
The Slytherin boy peered into the cauldron eagerly. “That’s coming along great. I’ve really enjoyed making this with you, Preia. It was really difficult, but I’ve always loved Potions and this has been more challenging than anything Slughorn has given us.” He paused, staring at the girl who was skimming through the pages of the manual. “Are you ok?”
“Yes, I’m ok,” Preia slightly stammered as she flipped through the book slowly.
“It doesn’t seem like it,” Severus muttered as he sat on his stool. “Is there something wrong?”
Preia was quiet for a moment as she gnawed at her lips. The hammering in her chest quickened and her tongue seemed to swell in her mouth. Just come out with it! She shouted at herself. She cleared her throat and spoke cautiously, choosing her words with care. “There has been something that is bothering me, Severus,” she said slowly. “I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but I’m only speaking out of concern.”
Severus sat rigid on his stool. His face became paler and he began to wring his hands. “O-ok.”
Inhaling deeply, Preia turned toward him. “Were you in Hogsmeade this past Saturday?”
“Of course not,” Severus replied quickly. Preia noticed that he was clenching his robes tightly, turning his knuckles white. “I never go to Hogsmeade. You know I don’t like it there.”
“Y-yes, I know that,” Preia stuttered, but willed herself to keep speaking. “Something happened in Hogsmeade when I was there. A lot of people got hexed and everyone thought it was the Death Eaters. My brother said it was just a prank, but the curse seemed to be a bit more advanced than anything any common student would know. When I was leaving, I saw a bunch of people in black robes leaving and—”
“You think it was me?”
Preia was shocked at the tone of Severus’ words. It was chilling and taciturn, and she couldn’t help but remember the voice on the telephone. She lost some of her nerve. “I’m not accusing you of anything, Severus, but one of the people I saw looked a lot like you.”
“And because of that, you think I hexed those people?” Severus spat under his breath.
“Y-y-you’re the only person I know who is familiar with those kinds of hexes,” Preia replied. Tears were forming in her eyes and her planned actions became muddled in her mind. “That book I gave you has all sorts of curses in it. I’ve seen you carrying it around so much and showing those boys, I thought maybe some of them had tried one out.”
“You think I would do something like that?” Severus exclaimed, rising from his stool. He looked down at her, his black eyes burning into hers.
“I didn’t say I thought you did, but it just seemed plausible,” Preia said as she became increasingly uneasy. Severus was beginning to show a fury she had never seen before. “And those boys you’ve been with aren’t exactly the most model students. Many of their families are associated with Voldemort and his lot and you have to be careful being seen with them so often.”
“You think just because that insufferable know- it-all Mudblood is your friend you’ve got the right to criticize the people I chose to associate with?” Severus yelled, his eyes blazing.
“Don’t call her that!” Preia cried angrily as she stood. “You keep talking like that and hanging around the likes of Avery and Rosebluth and people are going to suspect—”
“What do I care? These blithering idiots at Hogwarts don’t mean anything at me and I don’t give a damn what they think about me! I’m not afraid of anyone!”
Preia stared at him, her eyes wide in appall. “You sound just like him…Regulus Black. He said the same thing to Sirius. He’s a part of your lot too, isn’t he? Sirius is beginning to suspect you too. He told Regulus—”
“SIRIUS BLACK?” Severus roared as he leaned toward her, his voice echoing off the stone walls of the dungeon. His face was twisted in a grotesque expression of pure wrath, devoid of all color. His black eyes seemed suspended in the drawn sockets of his face and his yellowing teeth were clenched tightly against his thin lips so hard they were red. “You think I give a damn what that arrogant, fat-headed blood traitor thinks about me?” He scowled at her hatefully. “I knew it. I knew once you started hanging around him and his lot that you’d change.”
“W-what are you talking about?” Preia stammered as she slowly began to back away.
“Don’t think that I haven’t seen the way you look at him and Remus Lupin…the way your voice and posture changes when you are around them. Like some kind of smitten tart. You’re beginning to act like those Mudbloods you hang around: empty-headed and shallow!”
“How dare you call me a tart!” she screamed back at him, anger rising in her face and spilling from her eyes in the form of tears. “Listen to you! You aren’t even yourself anymore! You can’t be the boy that was my friend; you’ve changed!”
“No, Preia, it’s you that’s changed,” Severus seethed through gritted teeth. He grabbed his bags angrily and stomped out of the classroom, slamming the heavy wooden door behind him.
Preia stood there, tears streaming down her cheeks and neck, saturating her collar. Her whole body felt numb and cold; her breath was caught in her throat and constricted her lungs. The sudden silence of the dungeon was too much. It felt heavy, overbearing. She felt faint, but her body would not move. “How…could he…” she sobbed, trembling. “How could he…”
The girl spun toward the door in alarm. Sirius Black stood in the doorway, his gray eyes wide and his chest heaving as he breathed heavily. “Preia, are you alright?”
“Please, leave me alone!” the girl bawled as she turned quickly away from him and covered her face. “Go away!”
Sirius was suddenly behind her, his hands grasping at her shoulders. “I heard him. I was walking down the stairs and I could hear him screaming. I was going to come in, but he came out into the hall. He tried to throw a hex at me, but I dodged it. I couldn’t get him before he ran...”
“Why did you do that?” Preia yelled as she turned toward him. Her brown skin was flushed and puffy beneath her tears. Her jade eyes were wild and startled. “Leave him alone!”
“Preia, what in Merlin’s name are you talking about?” Sirius exclaimed as he held her arms. “I didn’t do anything! Look what he’s done to you! You’re a mess!”
“It’s none of your concern!” Preia screamed as she pushed Sirius. “Leave me alone! This has nothing to do with you, Sirius! You don’t know anything about me or what’s going on! You stupid prat, let me—”
Sirius’ arms closed tightly around the girl, drawing her to him in an almost constricting hold. He held her tightly and Preia struggled wildly, protesting his touch. “Stop! Let go!”
Preia gasped, alarmed at the tone of Sirius voice. Though he had spoken harshly to her, she could hear the earnest concern in his words. Her body stopped squirming and she fell silent in his arms. She suddenly realized the warmth of his body, feeling it spread into her. Her sight and thoughts became fuzzy as the soft heat invaded her. His constricting hold became a gentle hug and he held her tenderly. “It’s alright, Preia,” he murmured, drawing her closer to him. “It’s ok.”
No longer in a state of mind that she could control, Preia surrendered to her grief, anger, and confusion. She put her head onto Sirius’ shoulder and let the boy she didn’t even like hold her.
The dungeon was silent except for the girl’s quiet sobs and the soft bubbling of the Wolfsbane.
The end of the year feast has arrived, bringing with it the announcement of the W.W.A.N.D. students, yet Preia is no longer excited about the event that she dedicated her entire fourth year to. Will her fight with Severus sour everything the young Slytherin girl strived to achieve? Will Preia be accepted into the exchange program? Read about the end of Preia Crescent's fourth year in Chapter 9!
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