Chapter 3 : Past, Present, and Future (October)
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Irene Taylor, in all of her years of Hogwarts, had not appreciated Defense Against the Dark Arts for what it was. She had, begrudgingly, taken the course her whole other six years of Hogwarts, scraping 'E's and 'O's on every exam or assignment. It was not that Defense Against the Dark Arts, in theory, was difficult, because anyone with a steady mind could calculate the best forms of defensive and offensive magic.
It was just that, when it came down to it, she was not all that good at practical use, and while she passed Charms with flying colors for properly casting spells Defense Against the Dark Arts only seemed to taunt at that and make her workload five times as hard.
Of course, she was a Ravenclaw, so she never really found any need to fret for failing her NEWTS. In fact, when it came down to the grindstone, she could do practical spells rather well.
Her only difficulty was her partner - and it was so like her to draw the most annoying, selfish, lazy, mean person out of the whole lot. The system with choosing partners came easily- the ladies, in alphabetical order, went first, and if any gentlemen were left without a partner they would draw alphabetically. Unfortunately, Irene had drawn Abraxas, and it was with mutual loathing that the two were partners until the end of Christmas break.
The other reason that she did not enjoy Defense Against the Dark Arts was because of her waning attention span, and considering that they did something practical nearly every day that was not a good trait to have. With Abraxas merely memorizing the incantation and the majority of spells not being spoken it was difficult (to say the least) for her to actually know what the incantation was.
The worst part about today, however, was the simple fact that today was the unit on Legilimency, and while they had been going over successful ways to perform Occlumency for the last couple of days the lesson foreboded practical use. With that in mind, Irene tried her hardest to pay close attention, but, as a tried and true drifter, she was away within the first five minutes.
"And, so," the teacher finally finished, and Irene snapped her head to the side subtly to flit herself back into the realm of attention. "While it is hard for a mind to properly balance the amount of concentration between casting the Legilimens spell in silence and keeping the Legilimens spell intact, it is simple to do so if one can relax the mind and emotions as if they were performing Occlumency. Now, I don't want to keep you waiting any longer - men, please move the desks to the side of the room and stand parallel to your partner on each side of the room so we can successfully conjure Legilimency."
Irene silently groaned, turning her head to the right as her blonde-haired enemy smiled in a rather mocking gesture, fingering his wand between his fingers. Abraxas, in all of his glory, had already assumed his arrogant position on preparing to prove her wrong, and Irene scowled to her side, her head in a silent frantic over Abraxas performing Legilimency on her, and her own Occlumency as defense was out of the question. She wasn't very good at controlling her thoughts- or her emotions, considering that now she already felt angry enough at Abraxas -
"Merlin, Irene, stand up and move this table. You're making us look lazy."
Making us look lazy ?
She frowned deeply, sharply shoving the table to the end of the wall and putting her chair next to it. She stood nearby a deep brick wall, and Abraxas near a cushion in case she tried to defend herself.
She crossed her arms in a confident manner, but Abraxas, with his laziness and arrogance wore her down considerably. How dare he be such a jerk to her? She did all of his stupid orders- she dealt with every consequence he gave her- she dealt with his stupidity, his utter annoyingness, his bloody self-
"... Two, one, and cast!"
In the brief nanosecond that she had before Abraxas, again, successfully made her look like an idiot, she realized that this had been his motivation (that or he was just being a typical jerk). This realization in itself was enough to make her even more furious, and Irene, disoriented, was easily overthrown by Abraxas.
'"Irene, I think maybe you should take up piano," Mrs. Taylor suggested, and a much younger Irene Taylor rolled her eyes, putting her chin on her palm. "Robert's good at Quidditch, maybe you just need a... talent..."
"Why don't we visit Aunt Irene more?" asked Irene, small enough for her hair to just barely touch Mrs. Taylor's elbow. "Why just Christmas?" ... "Don't ask silly questions, sweetie," replied Mrs. Taylor offhandedly, maneuvering Irene towards the fireplace...
"... Professor, what's a Wicca?" first-year Irene asked, blushing fervently as the majority of the classroom laughed. Binns, however, frowned towards her, as if he did not understand her question, turning towards the chalkboard as if he had heard nothing. ... "The Wicca Divide occurred in the early 1700's..."
"Abraxas, these are my best bloody robes!" yelled a fifteen-year-old Irene, staring in disgust as the green slime stuck to her robes without any intention of leaving. "We're not going to Hogsmeade for another three weeks!"... '
The flurry of unexpected memories- some that she barely remembered, some that she remembered with unfortunate dislike- was only interrupted not by her strength or heroics but by Abraxas laughing so that their eye contact evaporated.
In fact, the whole experience had backed Irene up against the wall, even if she did it unconsciously. Perhaps it was her own knack of trying to run away from Abraxas or maybe it was merely done with his well-performed Legilimency. Either way, Irene was disappointed- in herself and in her own skills. They had been one of the first groups to break off from Legilimency, and the DADA teacher frowned, as if she expected more from Irene.
Looking around, Irene duly noted that the other three Ravenclaws were still holding strong, save for one, who had been paired with Tom Riddle (who looked like he did Occlumency professionally).
Irene Taylor fancied Tom Riddle. Of course, this was partially because he had already been given low standards before she had actually met him and he had exceeded them successfully (his earlier judgment of hers being that she believed him to be similar to Abraxas). Alongside, throughout the whole ordeal, he had not said one degrading thing to her.
This was, at present, surprising, for Irene couldn't even name five people that had done the same. Maybe one or two Hufflepuffs, for example, had grasped onto the list, but besides that the well ran very dry. Aunt Marie, herself, had found a place in the list, but her Aunt Marie's utter dislike for her mother had lowered her considerably.
In fact, a lot of people tended to be jerks to her... Catherine bossed her around frequently, and the Ravenclaws always shoved her into makeovers and other happy social greetings that she would much rather avoid... what was she, a doormat? What gave them the right-
"Move, Irene," Abraxas hissed, and Irene blushed, nearly running over to the other side. Brandishing her wand, she ran over the flourish of the wand... sharp flick, semi-circle... and she had to be concentrated, so he- or the teacher- wouldn't catch her off-guard again.
"Three, two, one... cast!" her teacher yelled, and Irene followed her flourishes, holding her wand steadily as she mentally enchanted her Legilimens spell, widening her eyes slightly so she wouldn't ruin her spell.
And, in the dam that blocked her off from Abraxas' memories, she found one little opening- one slit of vulnerability- to dive into, and it was with one tiny burst of light that she found herself suddenly encompassed in the strange mind of Abraxas Malfoy.
' Walking down the hall, a young teenaged Abraxas Malfoy headed towards the Transfiguration room, sauntering more than anything. A young girl, no more than a first year, silently creeped up past him, and he involuntarily grimaced, muttering dryly under his breath, "Mudblood"...
"... And, this is Irene," Mrs. Taylor said, an extremely large smile on her face as she tried to charm the Malfoys. "I know she's not a pureblood, but she really is a nice girl..." ... "Hello," Irene greeted, much too sweetly in his opinion, and Abraxas glared, crossing his arms childishly. He hated her already...
"What do you think about Grindlewald?" Marc-Andre Devous questioned, finishing a paragraph with a flourish on his 3rd year essay. "Are you going to join him if he's still around when you graduate?" ... "Probably," shrugged Abraxas... "I think it's too sticky of a situation... you can never be too sure..." ... "No one asked your opinion..."
"Hey, Gloria," Abraxas addressed, and Gloria smiled, putting her books in her knapsack as she continued walking. ... "Hey, Abraxas... talking to Hufflepuffs? That's a first..." ... "Yeah, well-" ... "Don't worry about it. Hey, I'll talk to you later." She smiled again, changing her pace so as to leave him be, and for just a millisecond, he wondered why he had even spoken to her...
Abraxas woke up, a deep frown on his face. Why in the world would he be dreaming about Gloria...-'
"Stupefy!" a voice suddenly said, and Irene was wrung out of Abraxas' mind and fell back into hers. In the immediate reaction of what she had seen also came the heavy blow of the spell, evidently cast out of a form of anger, embarrassment, or, the more likely response, fury.
"Would you look at that!" the teacher exclaimed, and everyone else in the room turned towards the two. "Using a defensive spell can also end Legilimency! Fantastic job, you two!" she smiled obliviously, and the class turned back to their respective partners.
Though the impact of the spell hurt Irene's back to the very near point of being unable to walk, scurried her hair so it looked like a large bush, and began the catalyst of a headache that killed every ounce of peace in her body, she still managed to have an unusually jubilant smirk on her face. Unlike the last instance, where she had been the target of embarrassment, she was now the one to tease.
It was a very rare position of power, to have leverage over Abraxas. It was blatant that no one else even suspected, including Gloria, who, at the moment, was laughing alongside her partner (another Hufflepuff). The strange part of all of this was that Irene had been so sure to write Abraxas off as just a jerk with his only motive to annoy and infuriate her...
But, as she walked towards the harder wall, easily slipping her wand back into her robe pocket, a jeering, almost astounding comment came into place, one that was unusually sarcastic. As Abraxas furiously passed her she lightly grabbed his arm, her smirk still joyously on her face, and vocalized her thought. "So, Abraxas Malfoy is human, then?"
He scowled, and in retaliation grabbed her forearm as well, though admittedly not as light as she had been. Consequently, she winced, her smirk fading from her face as a look of annoyance and slight fear came seeping on instead, and Abraxas almost smiled, tightening his grip so much as for her to let out a small cry, freezing on the spot.
"And Irene Taylor is cowardly," he started, "though that doesn't come as a surprise at all." He paused, gripping her arm tightly more so, and with that came the outlandish thought of the bruise that was indefinitely going to be there the next morning and another wince. "Don't say a word ."
"I won't," she muttered quietly, and Abraxas released his grip on her arm, flinging her back slightly as if he was revolted to be so close to her. She scowled, walking towards the harder wall, rubbing her arm in distaste and mentally cursing herself.
You don't have a spine, do you? she mentally berated herself, rubbing her arm once more and turning her gaze toward Abraxas, who seemed more than prepared to avenge her small bout of curiosity. You can't even stand up for yourself- you can't even tell Abraxas to shut up, or that you, for once, have leverage against him, and he should be listening to you, not the other way around...
It was fleeting, suddenly, as she wrenched herself away from her thoughts and realized that Abraxas had already cast Legilimency, smirking triumphantly as memory after memory raced through her head, embarrassing secrets and quiet curiosities and a good brunt of the daydreaming she had always done.
"Stupefy!" she cast, her inspiration for a Stinging Hex, or something much more painful, dry, and Abraxas smiled, dodging the spell in a much more graceful way than she had done, and Irene sighed depressingly, flinging spell after spell at him to get him to cease, though he seemed to dodge every one.
It was tiring, really it was, to try and get her memories private, but Abraxas, in all of his fury, continued tormenting her, going over many of her embarrassments and her self-thought beratings... her own fatigue adding steadily onto her anger and vague strands of humiliation...
And, knowing, even as she thought it, Abraxas found joy...
And finally, when the session ended and they were to switch again, Abraxas' Occlumency beat her Legilimency, and his Legilimency beat her Occlumency, and his Occlumency beat her Legilimency once more, until finally class was dismissed and any tracings of a smirk were clearly gone from Irene Taylor's face.
Pacing out of the murky DADA room, she nearly sprinted to her room, thanking every star in the sky that her last hour was free and she could relax and wallow in pity for as long as she wanted. She lied down, exhaustedly, on her bed, trying to weave her fingers through her hair once more but without avail.
To be frank, she was starting to get... oh, sick of this. She was sick at being angry at Abraxas. She was sick of lacking a spine. She was sick about letting her mother have delusions about her as Mrs. Malfoy. She was sick of letting her brother join Grindlewald, even if he was risking his life because of it and doing it for the sake of saving face for Purebloods. She was sick of Tom, for... whatever the hell he was doing. She was sick of people, really, and she was sick of herself in general for being sick of everyone else.
And she was oh-so-tired of excuses and anger and cowardice, and as she finally fell asleep under that exhaustion every excuse and act of fury or cowardice simply faded away and her dreams became beautifully blank, filled with dark space that rested her subconscious, her conscious, and her memory, which felt violated in every single way.
And while she wasn't preparing for another fight, maybe this would help. Maybe, for once, she could enjoy being young and happy, healthy and clever and a bloody witch. Maybe this would help every web she had seen the writer of her fate weave.
And as every 'maybe' flashed into her subconscious it was soon forgotten, and Irene slept peacefully, her mind still blissfully regaining its innocence.
She wasn't ready for another battle.
At least, not yet.
Irene woke up hours later, tangled up in her sheets and her drapes happily frozen, though she suspected her fellow roommates had come in to investigate for the sake of gossip. Groaning, she sat up, looking in anger as her hair remained even more tangled, as she fancied over the idea on straightening her hair just for the sheer hell of it.
However, as it was, at that moment she realized a sound three things: one, that she didn't even know what time it was; two, that she was still very angry at Abraxas; and three, that she was hungry to the point where she would consider raiding her fellow Ravenclaw's candy stashes (in which they had excellent taste, admittedly).
Turning her head, opening the drapes, Irene looked around, finally locating the clock on the side of the wall, which read 23:00. At this masterpiece of bad luck she muttered sourly under her breath, stepping out from her bed and stretching slightly before making an agenda on what to do.
Perhaps it was her supposed delusional state of mind, but at the moment she truly wished to straighten her hair, just so she could wring her fingers through it. As this thought raced through her head, she casually yelled out, "Mary, would you mind if I borrowed your iron?"
Unfortunately, with all her wit and cleverness, she had completely forgotten her one rule against the girls of Ravenclaw- anything related to beauty, completely avoid, even if she looked absolutely terrible, because it always ended disastrously.
"Hey, Irene, what's the occasion?" Mary crossly asked, folding her arms over her chest and opening her drapes, where Irene met the eyes of the other four Ravenclaw girls, most likely gossiping about one thing or another. "Whenever we want to give you a makeover, you never go anywhere, and then you wash out all the makeup in an hour. Are you going on a date or something?"
"No," Irene replied, flushing slightly. "No, I just want to have manageable hair for once."
"Well," said the lighter pitched voice of Florence, yet another narcissistic Ravenclaw, "well, are you trying to impress someone or something? Because if you really want to, maybe you should put your hair up... Your hair is unmanageable..."
"I'm not trying to impress anybody ," Irene angrily pointed out, though the flush in her cheeks increased at the thought of going to beauty to... impress. "I just want to bloody straighten my hair, is that all right?"
"You know," Helen pointed out, smirking, "I think you're interested in Florence's beau, aren't you? Charles? Because he's just down in the common room, so, I don't know, you could go down there all fancy-like, flip your hair out some, and you could maybe find a beau of your own-"
"Don't even look at Charles, Irene," advised Florence, scowling. "He's my beau, all right? I know you may not exactly be presentable enough to get your own, but don't go looking at Charles to make yourself feel better."
"I'm not interested in Charles," Irene heatedly said, wondering if she could possibly get away with feigning sleep now. The whole conversation had taken the classic route that every one of her conversations took with these girls, and she remembered once more why she never bothered to get acquainted with them.
"So, who are you interested in, huh?" Margaret questioned, smiling as the other girls all whispered guesses in her ear. "Well, there's always James, and Richard, and William, and John from this house, but you probably wouldn't go for them, and then there's Charles, and you could be interested in Tom, but he's not exactly beau-type, or Abraxas..."
"Okay," Irene said, taking a deep breath, rubbing her temples in utter dislike. "I'm going to go to the common room. Thank you for letting me use your straightener, Mary, it was a pleasure talking to you all, and again, I thank you and goodbye."
"But I didn't let-" Mary started, but Irene was already out the door, walking towards the portrait leading to the stairs to get to the central corridors. While a walk hadn't exactly been on her agenda- straightening her hair had been- she figured that more than anything she wanted to get away from the Ravenclaws, who only seemed to show their intelligence in class.
Hugging herself with her robe, she traipsed down the stairs, tightly leaning against the stone in hopes on not to fall clumsily down the stairs. Sighing as a wintry wind shook her already cold demeanor, she continued walking, holding her wand in one hand and her arm in another.
As she finally exited the long stairways to the main corridor, she breathed a sigh of relief for the warmth. It was finally, at this time, that her thoughts caught up with her, and she hugged herself even tighter, though it was not frigid anymore.
With the conflict of the Ravenclaws and the straightener fading away came the stronger, more prominent ones that would casually ruin her life, piece by piece. This, frankly, included Tom, and that was a conflict that she would be happy to avoid until she was directly confronted.
There was, as well, Grindlewald and what seemed to be the end of his reign of terror, and while Irene had ducked away from that conflict altogether there was always a chance that if he continued that she would be on his side as well. The war had divided people up in such a way, and while most disliked Grindlewald, the rest wanted to join him for an easy-sought reputation and a strong mentor to lean on.
Irene, however, would have joined for her mother, who still needed to be strong in the wizarding status quo, even if it meant risking her daughter and son's life to get it. The thought of dying was exceedingly frightening, especially for a cause she didn't have an opinion on, but with her lack of spine she would probably join his army anyway.
The worst conflict in her head, however, was the one related to Gloria and Abraxas, or just Abraxas in general. Of course, this brought along many questions, some on the strangeness of the situation, some on what she was actually going to do about it.
Irene, herself, didn't think Abraxas was vulnerable at all. She thought him mean, merciless, and rude, picking off innocents for his own prejudices and ego. She thought him terrible, someone who could very well join Grindlewald when he graduated, even if rumors had arisen about Albus Dumbledore's rise of power and his realm of magic. Compared to Dumbledore, Abraxas looked like he didn't stand a chance, but there was truly no premonition that stated so.
Learning that Abraxas had a soft spot for a Hufflepuff was not only disturbing, strange, and altogether an out-of-world experience. Abraxas had never shown any signs of mercy to anyone that wasn't Slytherin and a Pureblood, but Gloria was neither of those, which made it all the more confusing.
"Um, excuse me, it's after curfew!" a light voice inquired, changing her pace to more of a run to catch up with Irene, and Irene turned her head back and found herself looking at none other than Gloria herself, clad in her robes and a Hufflepuff badge.
"Oh!" she said, evidently as surprised to see Irene as Irene was to see her, and she tilted her head slightly to the side, walking alongside Irene and wringing her hands nervously. "Sorry, Irene, it's just been a slow night so I've been kind of on my guard..."
The funny thing about it all was that Gloria was the epitome of Hufflepuff house and the exact opposite of Abraxas Malfoy. She was kind, humorous, generous, and an optimist who disliked conflict with anyone, though she rarely got in it with such an amiable nature.
"Oh, no, it's fine," stuttered Irene, and the conflict once again rose in her head, though she tried to extinguish it with dialogue. "I was just walking and I totally forgot about curfew... I should probably-"
"What's the need for a walk?" Gloria asked, and the fancy of leaving disintegrated as quickly as it came. "In a bit of a snit, I guess?"
"Yeah, you could say that," she muttered in reply, "Kind of not in a school mood, you know?"
"Not much in a Halloween mood, either?" Gloria asked, smiling, and as she asked that Irene's head fully collided with surprise, and she nearly stopped walking as the ultimatum of Halloween rose upon her and the simple fact that she had forgotten all about it.
"It's slow on Halloween?" she questioned, raising her eyebrows as Gloria laughed and nodded.
"Well, the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs are quiet on Halloween," Gloria started to explain. "It's the Slytherins and Gryffindors that are the big troublemakers, and they're on the other side of the school. As I have the pleasure of being on the safe side of rounds, I haven't had to deal with that." She paused, and Irene nodded understandably, though in her experience last year this hall had been extremely rowdy.
It was probably just her.
Stopping suddenly so Irene stepped a few steps ahead of her, Gloria turned her head, a slight smirk on her face as she turned fully around and walked towards whatever footsteps she had heard, and Irene stayed firmly where she was, save for turning her head around to see who was walking the corridors, though with her luck there was only one possible candidate (two, actually, but Grindlewald seemed impossible).
"Abraxas," Gloria stated, and Irene finally faced the same direction as Gloria, a small groan emitting under her breath, "wrecking havoc?"
Of course, Irene felt utterly and completely like a deer in the headlights. What with her being in the halls past curfew a surprise that did not even compare to the fact that she had been in the corridors, conversing with Gloria.
She didn't even have to guess what Abraxas would assume.
Deciding not to respond to Gloria, he turned his eyes towards Irene, and scowled, brandishing his wand as she protectively grasped hers. Gloria frowned, pulling out her wand as well, and the three stood there, two angry, two confused, and three tired.
But even as Abraxas prepared himself to cast a spell, as Irene prepared herself to cast a defensive spell right back, and as Gloria prepared to cast Expelliarmus and give them detention, the strangest occurrence happened.
Irene Taylor felt like she could not breathe.
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