Chapter 22 : Chapter Twenty-One: Bereavement
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So, here we go. Thanks so much to TheBird who stayed up late on tech week with me to finish this! This chapter is dedicated to the amazing cast and crew of Our Town.
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Chapter Twenty-One: Bereavement
Professor Gabaldon’s death did not affect the students nearly as much as it affected the teachers. Maelioric took over teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts, “but only until we find a suitable replacement,” he explained on the first day of his class. His lessons were much more entertaining than Gabaldon’s had been; the students spent less time in lectures and more time in practice duels.
Andrea was having a hard time focusing on her lessons through her grief. None of the other students from the London Camp had lost a family member, so the teachers were somewhat understanding when she turned in her schoolwork two days late.
Colm, on the other hand, was benefiting greatly from his trip to the Camp. Palmyitor, much to Lottie’s rage, didn’t even punish Colm for sneaking out of the school; getting injured was apparently punishment enough. Spurred on by the teachers’ lack of interest, he twisted the story in favor of himself and pressed it upon anyone who was in the vicinity.
“We were running from the Death Eater,” he divulged to a group of third year Maeliorics. Unknown to him, Lottie stood at the back of the group with crossed arms. She cleared her throat pointedly and Colm widened his eyes before adding, “And Rowe pushed me to the ground. The Death Eater came running towards me, so I tripped him, even though my leg was broken. He fell and hit his head and we—”
“Liar.” Lottie could feel her fists shaking against her legs. “You didn’t trip him—he fell over you. I didn’t push you down; I pushed you forward and you fell. And Andrea—”
“She’s just angry because now she’s getting in trouble for being such a coward!”
Lottie’s face burned red with rage. She opened her mouth to respond to Colm, but no sound came out. Finally, she turned on the crowd of onlookers and shouted, “LEAVE!”
With open mouths and furrowed brows, the crowd dispersed. Lottie spun around and stared at Colm, still unable to form words out of pure rage. After a tense moment of silence, she finally said, “You need to shut the hell up, you liar. None of the stuff happened like that and you know it!”
“You’re just bitter,” Colm sneered, “that I stopped the Death Eater and—”
“NO YOU DIDN’T!” Lottie roared. “You’re in denial! You didn’t do anything but fall on your fat ass!”
After a moment of shock, Colm, resuming his sneer, shook his head condescendingly. “Poor thing,” he hummed.
“You think,” Lottie snarled, “that you’re such a hero!” She spun around on her heel and stood with her back turned to him for a moment. Biting her lip to prevent herself from crying, she pounded down the corridor. Holding her breath, she stopped at the foot of the staircase and turned her head just enough to be able to see Colm out of the corner of her eye. He stared determinately at the floor, the flickering torchlight leaving his face in shadow.
Slowly, Colm looked up; the afternoon sun shining through the window glimmered in his dark eyes. Lottie suddenly turned away and ran up the stairs, the hairs on the back of her neck standing up as Colm continued to watch her.
Professor Palmyitor was, apparently, much closer to Gabaldon than anybody had expected. Lottie didn’t see her at meals for nearly a week, but passed her office nearly every day on her way up from the common room.
Red light filtered through the dusty windowpane early one morning as the sun was rising; Lottie’s silhouette set black against the morning sun as she paced down the corridor. After days of being taunted by Colm at the breakfast table, Lottie woke up an hour early just to avoid him. She was climbing the stairs past Palmyitor’s office when a door suddenly slammed. Lottie stopped in her tracks. A small creature padded off past her. Lottie couldn’t see its face, but its ears were so large that they flapped behind it as it ran. It seemed to be wearing a burlap sack as a tunic, but before she could get a second glance, it had disappeared around a corner.
Baffled by the sight, Lottie stood rooted to the place, until she heard voices.
“Naesa, it’s time to get back in the field again.” It was Clynalmoy’s voice. “The rebellion needs you.”
“I’m not sure if I’m ready yet,” Palmyitor’s voice croaked. “Without Emma… She’s been with us since nearly the beginning, you know that.”
“I do, yes, but we can’t stop fighting just because somebody close to us is gone.” A sob shot through the stillness of the corridor. Clyalmoy spoke again, this time his voice quiet and comforting. “Look at Fornax – he’s doing better than ever.”
“Ryan,” Palmyitor said so softly that Lottie had to strain her ears to hear. “We were fighting. We were having an argument and—and—”
“What were you fighting about?” Clynalmoy asked.
A pause engulfed the two heads and the eavesdropper.
“A student,” Palmyitor said. “A certain third year who she thought was getting out of line.”
Another meaningful pause followed. Lottie imagined Palmyitor raising her eyebrows pointedly. Could they have been talking about Lottie? No, she was just being egotistical.
“You know it’s not right to have favorites, Naesa. But that’s beside the point now. Emma forgave you; you two were the closest of friends. She wouldn’t hold a petty argument with her all the way into the afterlife.”
Lottie could hear Palmyitor’s sigh through the thick dungeon walls. “Thank you, Ryan,” she said. “You always can lighten my spirits. I’ll be in the London Headquarters today,” she went on seriously. “As soon as I get ready.”
Clynalmoy’s footsteps got closer to the door while he asked, “Naesa, have you ever considered giving up this job? With the Death Eaters, I mean? It’s too much for you. You can’t teach, coordinate and fight at the same time.”
“No,” Palmyitor replied. “I can’t. Not yet. There’s nobody to replace me.”
“I suppose,” Clynalmoy said, cracking the door open. “But try to get some rest, will you?” He opened the door completely and began to leave.
He stopped in the doorframe and turned around. “Yes?”
Lottie could feel the pause radiating between them. “Thank you.”
Clynalmoy shut the door and started walking down the corridor in the other direction, arms folded behind him. He stopped and leaned against the wall for a moment with his eyes shut. His somber mood could not hide the smile that crept onto the corner of his lips. Lottie stood frozen to the spot and watched as he stood back up and continued on down the hall.
After hearing about Lottie and Colm’s episode, the entirety of the third year Maeliorics and Palmyitors were in a House feud. Charms class, which the two Houses shared, became nearly unbearable, as the Palmyitors and the Maeliorics refused to talk to each other.
In an unsuccessful attempt to get the classes to work in pairs, Lottie and Colm were forced to be partners to master a Cheering Charm. Lottie was feeling far from cheerful, so had a rather hard time trying to make Colm happy. After twenty minutes of failing, Lottie finally just gave up and decided to curse him and make it look like innocent incompetence.
After five minutes of hexing, Colm had turned blue and was beginning to suspect something. “Professor!” he whined. “Rowe is doing it all wrong. This can’t be an accident.”
Stainthorpe eyed Lottie who smiled innocently. “Well, clearly Scrivener’s Legilimency skills are lacking,” Lottie said with a shrug. “Because if he could look into my mind, he’d know that I was honestly trying.”
“She’s lying! Can’t you tell? If she’s not lying, then this is a complete accident too! Densaugeo!”
Lottie looked down to see her teeth growing out of mouth at an exponential rate. She put a hand over her mouth and, shouting with rage, ran toward him, her other hand clenched in a fist. “That’s enough!” Stainthorpe shouted, standing between the two feuding students. She waved her wand and Lottie’s teeth stopped growing, but didn’t shrink to their normal size. “You can get that fixed after class in the hospital wing,” she said with a grimace. “Everybody, sit.”
The third years shuffled to their desks and sat down, nervously glancing at each other. Lottie burned a furious red under everybody’s glares.
“Now let’s be serious,” Stainthorpe hissed through the staring contest of the Houses. “There are more important things than who said and did what. The affair at the London Camp was a very serious—”
Next to Lottie, Andrea dropped her wand with a clatter. She kneeled under her desk to retrieve it, but didn’t come back up. With a furrowed brow, Lottie peeked under the desk to find Andrea with her head buried in her hands, shaking.
Stainthorpe paused. “Class dismissed,” she said.
Everybody packed up their stuff silently and left, staring at Andrea under the desk. Lottie knelt down and put a hand on Andrea’s shoulder.
“Rowe, you too,” Stainthorpe said. “Go get those teeth shrunk.”
Lottie tore herself away from Andrea and stared at Stainthorpe, eyes wide and pleading. “But—”
Stainthorpe flicked her wand and the classroom door flew open. Lottie backed away from Stainthorpe, keeping her jaw set and ran out of the classroom. Once Lottie was safely out of earshot, Stainthorpe knelt down and stared intently at Andrea.
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Woolbright, there’s just no getting around this,” Stainthorpe said. “Now, let’s get off the floor--if not for your sake, then for mine. My old knees can’t handle much more of this.”
Andrea dropped her hands from her face and picked up her glasses. Wiping her eyes with her sleeve, she stood up and shuffled to Stainthorpe’s desk. Stainthorpe flicked her wand and a large, stuffed armchair appeared behind Andrea. “Sit.”
Andrea sat, keeping her eyes glued to the floor.
Stainthorpe took a breath. “How are you doing?” she asked.
“How am I doing? Are you serious?” Stainthorpe pushed her chair back a few inches and raised her eyebrows. “I’m doing horribly! I can’t concentrate on any of my classes and all of my marks are slipping and my family keeps writing me and telling me all of their troubles and—”
“I know this will never be fine again,” Stainthorpe said quietly, lacing her fingers on her desk. “But eventually gets easier.”
“I don’t want it to get easier,” Andrea said through gritted teeth. “I want him to come back. Professor Gabaldon healed Lottie’s dad, why couldn’t she heal mine?”
“There’s a difference between death and a flesh wound.”
“But magic is magic. It can do anything.”
Stainthorpe sighed and said, “If magic could reverse death, do you think we would be fighting this war?”
“I—I suppose not.” Andrea stood up furiously. “I just hate it! I hate this entire war—it only hurts everybody. The only way I can help my family is by not seeing them and becoming completely detached from them. I don’t want to fight anymore. I just—just want to run away!”
Stainthorpe stared at her and leaned forward in her chair, her gaze never shifting. Andrea couldn’t do Legilimency, but if she could, she was sure that she’d see some memory lingering in the professor’s brown eyes. “Someone once told me,” Stainthorpe said solemnly, “that sometimes we have to choose between what is right and what is easy.”
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