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Halfway To Infinity by Eponine
Chapter 15 : Chapter Fourteen: A Shadowy Discovery
 
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Author's note: Thanks so much to TheBird for beta'ing this chapter! It's thanks to her that I have a chapter title AND this chapter doesn't suck.

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Chapter Fourteen: A Shadowy Discovery

“A secret chamber, Rowe?” Palmyitor stood, arms crossed, in her office.

Lottie and Andrea had waited all day to tell Palmyitor about what they had found. She had been so unimpressed by their story that Lottie was slightly disappointed.

“I promise I’m not lying!” Lottie shouted. She bit her lip, remembering Palmyitor’s advice about controlling her emotions and calmly explained, “How else would I have gotten these cuts? It’s on the third floor. You give the key to the suit of armor and it opens the chamber for you, but the passage is so small that you need to crawl through it to get to a door.”

“There is no suit of armor on the third floor.”

Lottie gaped at her. “What? But I saw it! It held out its hand and I gave it the key, and--”

“Maybe,” interjected Andrea, “you need the key to see the suit of armor?”

“Miss Woolbright, I’ve been teaching at this school for fifty years. I like to believe that I know everything about this castle by now.”

“But what if it was here before the school started?” Andrea asked rationally. Lottie was impressed with how composed Andrea remained. “Nobody can know everything about a place as magical as this, can they? Was the castle built strictly for the school?”

“As a matter of fact, it was a gift.”

“From who?”

Lottie enjoyed their verbal sparring. It was like watching two children throw a rock back and forth.

“An old wizarding family,” answered Palmyitor dully; arguing with a second year clearly did not amuse her. “You would not recognize the name.”

“Could you tell us anyways?”

Palmyitor sighed. “The Dumbledores. Aberforth Dumbledore presented us the castle as a gift when he found out about our cause.”

“Dumbledore!” Lottie shouted, thrilled to recognize something from the still rather new wizarding world. “Albus Dumbledore was killed by Severus Snape!”

Palmyitor stared at Lottie. “Yes, Rowe, he was. If you don’t mind us getting back on topic,” she growled, “Aberforth would have informed us of any secret passageways.”

“But what if he didn’t know?” Andrea asked.

“Yeah!” Lottie found this story quite exciting. “What if it’s been here for years and years, built a thousand years ago maybe! What if those seventh years just found the key and discovered the passageway like I did? Then they used it for their own purposes!”

“This is not a fairytale, Rowe.” Palmyitor stared down the bridge of her nose at the overexcited second years. “Nevertheless, if those traitors were involved with these artifacts, they deserve a thorough inspection.”

“We couldn’t open any of them,” Andrea said. “They must be enchanted to seal shut when they leave that chamber.”

“We will find a way to open them,” Palmyitor said curtly. “And trying to open them was a very foolish thing to do. You could have killed the entire school.”

Her calmness unnerved Lottie.

“Thank you for giving these to me. I will show them to the other heads and we will manage to open them somehow.”

“Wait! Why can’t we help?” Lottie exclaimed. “I’m the one who found it in the first place!”

“Rowe, you are a second year. The dangers of allowing you to be in charge of items as valuable as these--”

“We wouldn’t be in charge! You could tell us what to do.” Lottie pouted, her brows furrowed in defiance. “I just think we should be kept up to date, since you wouldn’t have this if it weren’t for us.”

Palmyitor stared at Lottie. For a brief moment, amusement flickered behind her dark eyes. “Fine, Rowe.” Palmyitor smiled coldly. “I’m sure Emma will be extremely pleased,” she added sarcastically, not taking note that neither Lottie nor Andrea had any idea what she was talking about. “I will speak with the other heads and you can come help inspect these tomorrow after dinner. Now go to the hospital wing and get those cuts looked at.”



The next night, Lottie and Andrea shoveled down their food and waited in front of Palmyitor’s office, discussing what spells they might learn to open the Dark objects. “You know,” said Palmyitor on her way down the corridor, “no matter how fast you two eat, you will still have to wait until the end of supper before anything happens.”

Lottie shrugged. “Just not that hungry, I suppose.”

“Mmm…” Palmyitor unlocked her office. “You’ll have to sit on the floor,” she stated without apology. Lottie dryly wondered if Palmyitor had a disorder that did not allow her to conjure chairs. “We aren’t doing much today, but noting everything found.” She pointed to two sets of parchment, quills and ink. “Each of you take one artifact at a time. Note color, measurements, inscriptions and anything else you can think of. Anything you could need is beside the trunk.” She paused. “And tell me if you find anything unusual or dangerous,” she added.

Feeling rather defeated, Lottie sat on the floor next to Andrea and pulled one of the bottles out. The glass, when held to the light was thick and amber and was corked by an emerald stopper. The liquid inside was extremely dark against the glass and Lottie couldn’t tell exactly what it was, though she had a sinking suspicion that it was human blood. Every time she thought she was close to finishing the bottle, Andrea pointed out something else to note.

Finally, once Andrea was satisfied with Lottie’s notes on the bottle, she was allowed to move onto one of the knives. It was covered by a brown leather scabbard. The metal inside was rusting and the blade was slightly dull, but Lottie could still make out some sort of crest on the front. It was hard to make out the details, but what looked like two dogs were on either side of the crest with two stars and sword inside.

By the end of the evening, Lottie had only finished the one bottle and the knife; Andrea had done the snuffbox, two knives and a bottle. The two second years left the office after curfew with an excuse note from Palmyitor.

The girls passed a deserted classroom. The door was only open a crack, but Lottie noticed some shadows, flickering and changing shape in the torchlight. Who would be out so late after hours? And more importantly was it for good intentions? “Oh!” she exclaimed, reaching into her pocket. “I left my wand in Palmyitor’s office,” she lied. “I’ve got to go back and get it.”

Andrea narrowed her eyes. “Oh. Okay. Er--do you need the note?”

“Well…” Lottie sighed overdramatically, “I guess I don’t need it. I’ll just dodge anybody I see.”

“Oh. No.” Andrea pushed the note into her hands. “Here, take this. I’ll meet you at the dormitory.”

“See you,” said Lottie on her way back through the hall. She kept walking until Andrea was well out of earshot and then crept back up to the open door.

“The Dark Lord doesn’t have to find out,” a low voice said. “He can just think the Palmyitors died, or something, if he even notices that they’re gone at the next meeting.”

“You can’t lie to him,” responded another voice. This one was a girl. “You may be trained in strategy, but you’d be absolutely pathetic at Occlumency. He always knows when somebody is lying. Not even the best of the Palmyitors could use Occlumency against him. And he’ll notice they’re gone. He always notices.”

“Well all I’m saying,” began the male’s voice, “is that the Dark Lord doesn’t need to find out. We’ll only get ourselves killed if we tell him. Who ratted the Palmyitors out anyways?’

“Must’ve been another Palmyitor. It’s just horrible, Michael. Ella was our best spy. I can’t believe the heads, especially Palmyitor, trusted her.” She laughed coldly. “Do you know how many plans the Dark Lord found out about because of her? Who knows where she is now…”

“Dead, that’s where,” Michael answered stiffly. “You know that the heads can’t do anything with traitors like us once they find us out so they just kill us.”

Lottie held her breath, her hands shaking so violently in her pockets that her wand fell to the ground. The traitors’ conversation stopped. Lottie snatched her wand and began running, until—

“Hey, you! What’re you doing out after hours?” The girl came out of the opened door with an illuminated wand in Lottie’s face. She wore a red prefect vest.

Lottie hid her shiver well and took a deep breath. “I was working with Palmyitor,” she said, handing her note to the traitor.

“Lottie Rowe and Andrea Woolbright?”

“Andrea went to the common room,” Lottie lied coolly. “I left my wand in Palmyitor’s office so I had to go back.” The words were escaping her lips like water flowing out of a faucet. It was almost like the truth.

“How long have you been here?” asked the prefect with raised eyebrows.

“Just walking by.” Lottie pulled out her wand. “Got my wand, so now I’m heading back to the common room.” The prefect couldn’t find any signs of deception in Lottie’s blank stare.

“Fine,” she said, handing the note back. “Hurry up and go back to your dorm.”

Lottie smiled. “Thanks!” she said and trotted down the corridor, trying to seem completely unaffected. Once at the stairs, Lottie began running. She reached the clock in no more than a minute and clambered into the common room. She ran down the stairs and into her dorm.

Everybody was already asleep. Lottie changed into her pajamas and fell into bed.

“Lottie?” Andrea’s voice came from the next bed.

“Yeah?”

“Did you find your wand?”

“What? Oh. Yeah. I did.” Lottie paused. She didn’t like lying to Andrea. “If I tell you a secret, you can’t freak out. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“I ran into some other students. I don’t know who they are. One of them was a prefect and one was named Michael. I think they were traitors too. And from how they talked, it sounded like there are a lot more traitors in the school.”

Next to her, Lottie heard the rustling of sheets. “Andrea?” she whispered. “Andrea, what are you doing?”

“Do you still have that note?” Andrea asked as she pulled her robes over her head.

“Andrea, no. You said you wouldn’t freak out!”

“I’m not freaking out,” Andrea responded. “I’m being responsible.”

“What’s going on?” asked Sophie from across the room.

“Why are we awake?” came Julianne’s voice.

“I’m going to see Palmyitor,” Andrea whispered back.

“It can’t wait until tomorrow?” asked Sophie.

“No, it can’t.” Andrea got up and stood in the doorway. “I’ll be back soon. Just go to bed.” She slammed the door behind her.

Lottie groaned and fell back into bed. “Just go back to bed, guys. She’s not coming back soon.”

“What’s up with her?” asked Julianne.

“She’s just nervous,” Lottie said. “And she’s not going to rest until she thinks she’s finished playing the hero.”


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