“Sometimes I want to kill him,” Rora said grumpily, closing her textbook with a thump. Pink-gray dust puffed out, and her nose twitched dryly.
Licking her desert-like lips, Rora watched the boy sitting alone across the library, reading. His blue-black hair, messy, fell across his face and his green eyes, slightly unfocused, stared straight ahead at the page and dotted black text of his Potions book.
Those eyes, glittering green emerald like the glass inkwell next to Rora's hand, reflected sunlight, rainbows, memories. Rora sighed. It had been so long since they'd touched, let alone really payed attention to each other. That was the problem with loving a boy like Harry. You couldn't stay close to someone with the fate of the world—and the people he cared for—resting on his shoulders. Because eventually, it would catch up with him and he'd remember his destiny.
And then he would leave you.
Next to her, Hermione looked up, her eyes glazed over. Apparently, she was on the same stem of thought as Rora was.
“And sometimes you want to kiss him,” she said dreamily, obviously not thinking of the Memory Drought they'd been assigned a report on in Potions.
“Right,” Parvati scoffed, looking up from her already-10-inch parchment. “How can you love a boy but want to kill him at the same time?” Her dark bangs fell over her thick eyelashes, the rest of it back in a braid at the base of her neck.
wouldn't understand,” Hermione said coldly, glaring at Parvati over the edge of her propped-up book so that only her furrowed brow and comically glaring eyes shone over. “You've
never been in love
“And who do you think you're in love with?” Parvati shot back angrily. “Ron Weasley?” She slammed her book shut while Hermione smoldered and Rora watched. “Well, if you must know,” Parvati added, “I'd be happier if you were with Ron, too. Whenever we're together, that's all Lavender will talk about. Her Ronniekins.”
Parvati huffed, obviously displeased, and Hermione sighed, opening her mouth again.
Rora's head was moving back and forth, watching her two friends. It was like observing a rather rabid table tennis match between a cold, bloodless vampire and a sniveling troll. And it was making Rora's head hurt.
“Please stop bickering,” she finally said, annoyed. The other two, startled, looked up.
“I didn't do anything, she did,” Hermione said finally, setting down her book and sounding hurt.
“Oh, please,” Parvati said shortly. They were glaring daggers at each other now, and Rora stood up. She didn't look at either of them as she pushed her books into her bag. She picked up the shiny green inkwell last, and the sparkling rainbows it had been casting disappeared. Just like memory, they could vanish in an instant but still crop up at the strangest times. Like now.
“See you guys later,” she called over her shoulder. Hermione's kicked puppy dog eyes and Parvati's offended frown followed her all the way to the doorway, and when she turned the corner she heard Parvati whisper.
They might talk about her and wonder, but Rora was already sick of it all. It was only three days into the school year, and already she was fed up with two of her only friends.
It was going to be a long year.
Rora made it under the tree by the lake before she collapsed and sat, her head leaning against the rough bark.
“Sometimes I can't transform,” Aurora said quietly. She tucked her legs underneath her and watched the sun getting nearer to the horizon, the light fading from the fiery sky. “It happens whenever I'm really scared or upset.”
Harry shifted. “You transformed when we were with Lupin,” he pointed out. Rora knew he was trying to explain why he hadn't caught her earlier, but Rora just smiled.
“That's because I had to save you,” she said softly. “It's different trying to save myself. I don't mean as much.”
“Yes you do!” She looked up, and Harry was watching her. “You mean a lot to me,” he added.
The sky was growing steadily darker, and the few shouts of laughter that Rora could hear by the castle were fading. She could hear voices as the clouds above her thickened, and she could see, through the window, candles lighting up in the Great Hall. Rora thought she loved Harry, it was true. So long ago they'd sat together watching the sunset, but things had changed.
Mosquitoes buzzed around her ears and the ground was damp under her. The setting sun made the surface of the lake sparkle white-orange, dimly on the dark blue.
So many memories.
Rora pulled out a small yellowed parchment notebook and pen from her pocket, then flipped through it. Ever since summertime, when Harry had written all his friends to tell them that something had changed, that he was coming back to Hogwarts, she'd been writing.
She'd had Horcruxes on her mind since their sixth year and Dumbledore's death, and now, with Harry changing his resolve about school over the summer, they were there more then ever.
She wondered if Cho knew.
“Rora . . . can we talk?” Harry was waiting for her in the hall, the way he always did after Transfiguration. His dark hair flopped over his forehead, and he looked pale.
He'd broken up with her in their fifth year, the day after he heard the prophecy concerning Voldemort and he. He'd said it was because he cared about her, but what did that mean? Didn't he care about Cho?
Rora smoothed her hand over the crumpled yellow cream lined parchment page her notebook was opened to. When she pulled her hand away, the green-black ink was slightly smeared and, the corner of her hand sticking to the page, it ripped out. The jagged-edged paper fluttered in the wind, dancing away across the grass.
Rora sat up finally, testing her feet to see if they'd fallen asleep. Noise spilled out of the Great Hall as she made her way closer to the lake and the autumn wind whipped her long hair and the reddish-green leaves among the dandelions.
She walked around the edge, her heart pounding.
Rora couldn't help but wonder if Harry knew something she didn't, as she finished her circling of the lake and moved back toward the tree, where she'd left her notebook. The moon was all the way up now, and stars dotted the horizon.
Once Rora, on the verge of catastrophe, Rora had thought of the stars as the tiny eyes of people she lost. There were so many of them, and surely her parents and Elinor were watching her, right? They were still eyes to Rora, but maybe now they could be something more.
As Rora walked through the tall grass and nearer to the tree, she looked back once more to the stone gate and it's enchantments, keeping out unwanted visitors. It had been on the grounds since the school was founded, though the stones, some rotting and chipped, seemed as if they'd stood forever. Keeping out the cold and death of the real world, of reality.
Making it possible for students at Hogwarts to hang in the balance until they were set free. They would hang there, high up like in the tops of trees until their world came crashing down and they were on their own. Maybe then, they would die, or become famous, or servant to Voldemort. Maybe they would be aurors, or perhaps healers.
In the end, it wouldn't matter. Everyone would be the same again, reduced to changing themselves to stay alive, just as it had been in the beginning of time, and would be when it ended.
In the end, they were all doomed.
It was only a matter of time.
♦ * ♦ * ♦ * ♦
Harry Potter left the Great hall late, thoughts dancing like wind and leaves through his head. He was tired, and even as the candles puffed out slowly and his peers left, chatting animatedly with friends they'd missed over the summer, he still sat at the wooden bench.
It was dark, and he could see out the windows mostly just black outlines of trees, their branches swaying in the wind. The table his arms rested on had a stain in the corner, and it smelled slightly like cauliflower-cheese pie, or maybe olives.
Rubbing his nose, Harry took a deep breath. It was so hard, lately. His friends didn't seem to be his friends anymore, and he was starting to feel as if the fate of the world was in his hands. It was up to him; it was always up to him.
The Horcruxes were what scared him more than anything, though. Lately it seemed like they had a pull on him, like they were refrigerators and he was a tiny magnet, sucked in.
That was one of the many reasons he'd come back to Hogwarts, too. He'd felt it, and even though he didn't want to admit it, there was something not right about the school this year. He supposed, whatever it was, it had always been there, but he'd never felt it before this year.
And that was one of the many reasons he'd rashly associated it with the newly discovered Horcruxes.
Harry got up and walked to the window, his breathing coming quicker and quicker. He peered out, then twisted his head around at a movement under one of the trees by the lake.
There was a person down there, but it was too dark to make out who it was, or even their gender. After Harry had been watching for a few minutes, the person got up to walk around the lake, and in the moonlight Harry guessed that the person, with long, straight hair, was a student. And most definitely a girl.
His breath was fogging up the now cold window, and he kept watching, with ever a sense of foreboding. The girl had retreated back to the tree, but Harry watched as she turned her head towards the gate.
Slowly, as if in a trance, Harry watched as the figure moved toward the castle gate, head down so that the moonlight wasn't hitting her face. Harry frowned suddenly; he knew that walk.
Rora hadn't been at dinner tonight, Rora always went out to the tree when she was upset. Who else could it be?
As Harry watched, more tense now, it was like a cold fist had gripped his heart with a terrible mantra: she shouldn't be there, she shouldn't . . .
The girl moved her hand out, robotically, placing it on the stone and walking along, slowly. The walk wasn't Rora anymore, it was like she was floating, or moving on autopilot. She kept going steadily.
Like a dream Harry watched from the window as she pulled back suddenly, stunned. She stood there for a few brief seconds before collapsing on the ground.
Harry jolted. Something was not right at all.