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Chapter 13 : Chapter Twelve: A Traitor at Alsemore
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Chapter Twelve: A Traitor at Alsemore
The Great Hall bustled with excitement on the first day of term. The students had stopped by Odin Alley days earlier to exchange their robes and books.
Scrawny first years in tattered clothes clustered at the end of the hall; Lottie felt especially tall seeing them. They seemed to be absolutely terrified by the idea of Sorting. The ceremony was a lot more interesting this time, Lottie realized, since she didn’t have to worry about herself and the future of her friendships.
“Alvin, Samuel,” was the first to be Sorted. The Maelioric table erupted in applause when the heads finally made their decision. The numbers of student in each House apparently varied through the years, as the number was extremely different than it was last year. There were only four new Palmyitors. The teachers didn’t seem bothered by the odd numbers of students in each House, so Lottie tried to relax and enjoy the first years’ nervousness.
“Look at them gobble down that food!” she said gleefully, watching a first year fit an ungodly amount of mashed potatoes into his mouth at once.
“Don’t laugh!” Andrea hit her lightly on the shoulder. “They’re just hungry. You were hungry on your first day too.”
“Well, yeah, but--WOW!” One girl had just stuffed an entire roll into her mouth. “Andrea, that was amazing. You should try it.” Lottie pushed a roll in front of her face. “Here!”
Glaring at her, Andrea hissed, “I really don’t think--”
“Okay! Okay!” Lottie took the roll herself. “I’ll try it.”
The rest of the feast was rather uneventful, save for Lottie nearly choking to death on the roll. Lottie watched Palmyitor lead the four first years to the common room. It was lucky, she noticed, that there were two girls and two boys. It would be awfully lonely to live in a dorm alone.
The second years kept the same dormitory as the year before. Lottie was relieved to stay in her own bed, since she had been dreading leaving the room she had grown so attached to.
The first years looked so uncomfortable in the common room. Lottie wanted to go and introduce herself, but Andrea stopped her. “You’ll just make them more nervous,” she told her.
So Lottie, Andrea, Sophie and Julianne sat away from the new students, in the farthest corner of the common room. Lottie didn’t really pay attention to the debate that Andrea was having with Sophie and Julianne, only butting in with “Yeah!” or “That’s right!” occasionally to make Andrea feel less outnumbered. Instead, she busied herself with eavesdropping on and older group of student’s conversation.
She had seen this particular group of girls with Stanley, so they must have been seventh years, like him. From what Lottie could see out of the corner of her eye, the seventh years all congregated tightly around a coffee table.
“Where did you get it?” Lottie overheard.
“A Death Eater sold it to me,” answered a rough voice--like sandpaper. “Cost a fortune, too.”
Lottie noticed a lull in her friends’ conversation and realized it was her turn to speak. She shot a desperate glance at Andrea and shouted, “Yeah, you’re right!” Her friends stopped the conversation and stared. Julianne blinked. Lottie quickly turned back to the other conversation.
“Well what do you do with it?” asked another voice.
“Plant it,” said the raspy voice again. “It just sits there, looking like a normal deck of cards, and--”
“Well except for the blood stains,” interrupted one of the seventh years.
Lottie sat on her hands to hide their quivering. Somebody at Alsemore was affiliated with Death Eaters? It was scary enough to find that Death Eaters had gotten close to the castle, but now they were inside of the castle? She had spent all of her life running from Death Eaters, and whenever she got close to getting away from them, they just inched closer.
“Well that disappears when you charm it,” replied the girl with the deck in her hand.
“I don’t know about this, Ella,” said another voice. “How does it work?”
“So you do this spell, right?” The girl with the raspy voice, Ella, paused. Lottie imagined her friends nodding enthusiastically. “And set them out. The next person who picks them up--” Out of the corner of her eye, Lottie could see Ella drawing a line across her throat.
“But isn’t that sort of obvious,” sneered another voice, “if somebody picks up a deck of cards and suddenly they die?”
“That’s the genius part.” Ella lowered her voice to a whisper so Lottie had to strain to hear it. “The curse starts to take effect, but the person just feels sick for a few days before they kick the bucket.”
“Then how do they die?”
“Dunno. Must be something really violent though. Look at all this blood!”
Lottie had heard enough. She rose to her feet, interrupting her friends’ debate. “Er--Andrea?’ she stuttered tactlessly. “I--I can’t find my wand. Can you help me look for it in the dorm?”
Puzzled, Andrea looked from Lottie to Sophie, who shrugged in reply. “Sure,” she said. “I’ll be right back.”
Lottie didn’t wait for Andrea to stand before she took off down the stairs. She reached the dorm and paced until Andrea came in. “Have you looked under your bed yet?” she asked, getting on her knees to search the ground.
“No.” Lottie sat down on her bed. “I’ve got my wand. I just needed to talk to you.”
Andrea furrowed her brow. “What’s up?”
“I heard seventh years talking.”
“Were you eavesdropping?”
“Yes, but that’s not the point.” Lottie took a breath. “They’ve got something Dark. It’s a deck of cards, or something, but they got it from Death Eaters!”
Andrea looked skeptical. “What does it do?”
“It kills whoever touches it.”
“Well are you going to tell somebody?”
“Who would I tell?”
“But then the girls will know who told! I can’t have my name floating around Death Eater camps.”
Andrea rolled her eyes. “Honestly, that’s not important right now. What if you were the one who touched these cards?”
“Well, I wouldn’t, now that I--”
“But what if you were? We can’t just let somebody die. I don’t care if you’re coming with me. I’m telling.” Andrea stood up. Lottie did as well.
“Okay. Fine, I’ll go, but if those girls find out it was us--”
“They won’t. Come on.”
Andrea and Lottie ran out of the dorm and up the stairs.
“Did you find it?” asked Julianne, coming down the stairs.
“Yeah!” Lottie shouted hurriedly. “Turned out to be in my pocket the whole time! What a laugh! Bye!”
Lottie and Andrea left the bewildered Sophie and Julianne and scrambled out of the grandfather clock. They ran up the stairs towards the Entrance Hall until--
“Woolbright! Rowe! What are you doing out after hours?”
Lottie spun around. Of course, it was Professor Gabaldon. She was one of the most rude and annoying professors in the entire school. “Professor, we really need to go see Professor Palmyitor,” she said.
“Well good thing,” Gabaldon replied stiffly. “Because that’s’ exactly where you’re going.”
Lottie could see Andrea blushing as they were marched up the stairs to Palmyitor’s office. Gabaldon didn’t even knock before entering.
“Excuse me?” sniffed Palmyitor, carefully slipping something under her desk.
“Caught these two out of their common rooms,” Gabaldon reported.
“Rowe, you seem to make trouble wherever you go,” Palmyitor said, not staring at Lottie, but instead at Andrea, who seemed to shrink under her gaze.
“It’s not that, Professor,” Lottie said hastily. “We were coming to your office anyways.”
Palmyitor cleared her throat and stared straight into Lottie’s eyes. “And it could not wait until tomorrow? I am very busy, Rowe. I think you should reevaluate when you think is important.”
“She’s not lying!” exclaimed Andrea. “She--we overheard some upperclassmen talking and--”
“And they’ve got a pack of--I don’t know--cards or something! But they’re dangerous. They said it curses anyone who touches it. They’re planting it in the school to start killing everybody one by one!” Lottie started back at Palmyitor determinately. She didn’t like Legilimency, but she would let go of that if it meant saving the school.
Sure enough, moments later, she began reliving the evening. She watched the Sorting, choked on a roll, was told off by Andrea for trying to scare the first years and finally eavesdropped on the seventh years. Her hands started shaking again as she rewitnessed the scene, moment by moment.
“Well,” said Palmyitor suddenly. The flashback stopped. “We must see about these seventh years.” She turned to Gabaldon, the corners of her lips twitching into a false smile. “Thank you, Emma.”
Gabaldon seemed a little disappointed that there was going to be no punishment. “You’re welcome,” she said before leaving.
Palmyitor waited patiently with a smile plastered on her face for the door to shut before very clearly rolling her eyes. “You two,” she began once Gabaldon’s footsteps faded away, “might want to wait in here. I can’t imagine those seventh years will be very happy to have been caught.” Without another word, Palmyitor strode out of the office, leaving Andrea and Lottie alone.
It was a rather small office for such an important person in the school. There were no windows. The floor was made out of large, cold stones. Bookshelves lined every inch of wall, but there were no books on them. Instead, rolls of parchment were carefully organized onto the shelves. Lottie inspected them further and found that they were records of every student who had once gone to the school.
“Stop it, Lottie,” Andrea said shakily. “That’s none of your business.”
Lottie rolled her eyes and walked over to Palmyitor’s desk. “What was she writing before?” she asked, opening a drawer.
“Lottie, no! You’re going to get us in trouble!” Andrea sat down on the floor with her back against the wall. “We’re lucky to not be in trouble as it is. Just sit down and don’t touch anything.”
“Bossy, bossy!” Lottie muttered, sitting down next to Andrea. “What do you think they’re going to do with them?”
“I don’t know,” Andrea said shakily. “They can’t keep them here, but they can’t let them go either. Maybe they’ll re-train them for our side.”
Lottie shook her head. “Once you become a traitor, you can’t go back.”
“Do you think there are more?” asked Andrea. “More traitors, I mean.”
“Yes. There must be.” Lottie shivered. She had felt so safe at Alsemore. Now what?
“Was it all of the seventh year girls in Palmyitor?”
“I think so,” she said. “There were about seven of them.”
“What are they going to do with so many students missing?”
“I have no idea.”
The door opened. Clynalmoy stepped into the small room solemnly. “All of the heads,” he said softly, “would like to thank you for your actions tonight.”
“You’re welcome,” Lottie said indignantly.
“I’d also like to add,” he continued, “that you shouldn’t go around talking about this.” He glanced at the door. “The school will be grateful that the traitors have been caught, but they might also be suspicious if they know you are the ones who told us.”
Lottie and Andrea nodded.
“We’ve got them all outside, so don’t leave the office yet. Wait until Professor Palmyitor returns.”
Clynalmoy turned and left. Andrea and Lottie sat in silence for a moment before Andrea said, “They must--”
A shriek from one of the students cut through her words.
Lottie stood up. “What are they doing to them?!” she shouted.
“I think she’s just angry,” Andrea said hopefully. “You would be too, wouldn’t you?” Lottie raised her eyebrows. “Well, I mean--you know what I mean.”
Palmyitor stuck her head into the office. “Yes,” she said once she entered as though answering some unasked question. “Well I’m glad that’s--mostly--taken care of.” She cleared her throat. “But I suppose I should escort you two back to your dormitory.”
“What did you do with the cards?” Andrea asked on their way down the corridor.
“They have been properly confiscated.”
“But what did you do to the seventh years?” Lottie piped up. “Where did they go?”
“We have taken them to a retraining center to--”
“But that just means you’re killing them, right?”
“Where did they go?”
Palmyitor spun around, pointing her finger in Lottie’s face. “They have been properly dealt with,” she said sternly. “I do not want to repeat myself.”
They reached the clock. Andrea looked at Palmyitor expectantly. Lottie stuffed her hands into her pocket and glared at her. “Goodnight,” was the only response. Lottie watched as Palmyitor hurried down the hall. She must have been going back to deal with the traitors.
Lottie and Andrea crawled through the clock to find an empty common room. “They must have sent everyone to bed,” Andrea whispered.
Lottie glanced over her shoulder. “Maybe that’s a good idea,” she said. “Come on.”
The girls’ floor was eerily silent. Lottie stopped in front of the empty seventh years’ dorm. “You go ahead,” she said to Andrea.
“I’m not going to do anything stupid. I just want to look around.” Lottie glanced in the empty room. “I’ll shout if anything happens.”
Andrea laughed nervously. “Okay. But I’m holding you to that promise.” She trotted to the second years’ dorm and entered as quietly as possible with quivering hands.
Lottie turned to the empty dormitory. She couldn’t believe that every Palmyitor seventh year girl had been a traitor. Sure, she was close with everybody in her year, but she wouldn’t become a Death Eater if one of them was… would she? But if the seventh year girls were Death Eaters, were the boys? Could Stanley actually be a traitor?
Lottie shivered and entered the lonely room. She didn’t want to snoop, but what if she found something? The wind outside howled. Lottie glanced over her shoulder. She checked the seven beds and bedside tables.
“Lumos,” she whispered. The wand light illuminated the entire room. She gave the room one last check over before giving up. She turned to leave when something glinting in the wand light caught her eye.
It was a key, large and polished to a heavy shine.
“Wingardium Leviosa,” Lottie said. She carefully guided the levitating key to one of the empty beds. It was just a key, but if a deck of cards could kill somebody, Lottie didn’t want to risk anything.
Quietly, she bundled the key in a sheet and stuffed it under her arm. Lottie reached her own dorm and hid her key as well as she could in her duffle. She quickly changed into her pajamas and clambered into bed.
Wide awake, Lottie spent hours listening to the wind howling. It was as though the castle was mourning the loss of so many students. Sure, Alsemore was better than anything she had ever had before, but it felt like no matter where she went, she would never escape the danger of the war.
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