“Shut up!” Granger wailed, “Don’t you see? Speaking about the M word sets off alarms all round the school … and someone gets punished. I reckon it was you who set off that last one.”
I looked away from her and instead averted my gaze to the orange flames crackling in the fireplace of what used to be the Gryffindor common room. Now it was the common room for all “Average students,” whatever that meant. “I didn’t know, okay?” I snapped at her, and then added smugly, “I thought you weren’t talking to me.”
“Yeah well, now’s not a good time to be stubborn. We’ve really screwed up time here …” and then she threw her hands to her face in frustration and exclaimed, “This is exactly what Dumbledore and McGonagall warned me about! They told me when they gave me the time turner two years ago that I could really mess up time – the past, present, and future.”
“I’d say you’ve done a good job doing that.”
She let her hands fall and huffed, probably finding it useless to argue with me. “We have to get back,” she said, “Just the few hours we have spent here could greatly affect our entire lives.”
“Sure thing, Granger. I’ll just pull the bloody time turner out of my arse.”
Before Granger could spit an angry retort back at me, a soft and airy voice spoke from behind us, sounding as though it were riding the back of a great pair of feathered wings. “Fancy seeing you two back here so soon.”
“Luna!” Granger exclaimed, and then lowered her voice as her exclamation had drawn a considerable amount of attention from the other students walking aimlessly about the room. “Luna, what’s going on?”
She tucked her long blonde veil of hair behind her ears before leaning toward us and asking, “Did they find you? Is that why you came back? Did they strap you into the Dream Catcher?”
I shook my head as I attempted to digest everything she’d just said, and was suddenly reminded why I never talk to her. “Slow down, Loony. What are you going on about?”
Her misty grey eyes studied me, then Granger in turn. “Didn’t you two try to escape last night?”
Granger looked at me tentatively before she spoke very slowly, “Erm … yes … Snape found us and brought us back …”
Lovegood shook her head. “I told you it was a bad idea. No one escapes from here; you should know that. Remember what happened to Ernie Macmillan when he tried?”
“No,” I said suddenly, curiosity getting the better of me, “Refresh my memory?”
“Oh but you must!” Lovegood exclaimed, and before continuing, scanned the room to make sure no one was listening. “They made him spend an entire night strapped in the Dream Catcher.”
“The what?” Granger and I asked in unison.
“Shh,” Lovegood instructed, placing a finger to her lips, “Can’t talk about such things here; you never know who might be listening.” And she turned to walk away, but before she could, I just had to know …
“Lovegood!” She turned. “Why did Granger and I run away together?”
The girl laughed out loud, and before skipping away, said, “When they say love makes you stupid, they aren’t kidding! Well, better get to class!”
I caught Granger under her arms just before she hit the ground unconscious.
= = =
Granger and I did not speak as we sat in Filch’s class, which took place in McGonagall’s old Transfiguration classroom. Yes, I said Filch. How he became a professor is beyond me. Probably because the man couldn’t perform magic to save his life, and it seemed Hogwarts was no longer teaching magic. The M word does not exist, remember?
“This,” Filch held up his cat Mrs. Norris to the class, “Is Mrs. Norris.” As if we didn’t already know. “Mrs. Norris is a Maine Coon which is one of the largest known cat breeds. They were originally bred in America’s New England states in the early 1700’s.”
I slumped back in my chair and mumbled. “I can’t believe we’re learning about bloody cat breeds.”
Granger raised her hand high in the air in her know-it-all way.
“Yes, Fifty-three?” Filch asked.
I expected her to have the answer to a question that I had simply not heard, but instead she asked, “May I be excused? I’m not feeling well.”
Filch stared at her for a long moment, as if he were offended by the thought of anyone wanting to leave his class early. Then he said gruffly, “Very well.”
I did not pay attention for the remainder of the never-ending class.
= = =
I didn’t think I would ever grow accustomed to the red and gold common room. It felt so strange to stand in the same room that had previously belonged solely to my greatest enemies and arch rivals. Then again, it also felt strange to know that in the future I would be dating one of my greatest enemies and arch rivals. But at least it explained why we hadn’t had an unexpected run in with ourselves in the future: They – we – got away.
“Granger!” I called as I spotted her lounging on the sofa in front of the fire and began striding toward her.
She folded her arms across her chest. “Leave me alone, Malfoy. I’m hungry and pissed off that we’re missing dinner.”
I sat across from her. “Of everything that could possibly be bothering you, and you’re complaining about food? How about the fact that we’re trapped in the future?”
“Or the fact that we date in the future.”
There it was. The one thing we had avoided speaking of. “Is that really so bad?” I asked, offended. This should have been the best news she’d heard all day. Really … other girls would kill to be in her shoes. But then again, what the hell was I thinking? Me, pureblood Draco Malfoy, dating a Mudblood?
“Of course it’s bad!” she shrieked, “How did it happen? Do you change in the future or something? Suddenly turn nice?”
“I wouldn’t count on it.”
“Maybe I turn … bad,” she said, and shuddered at the thought.
“And would that really be so bad?” I asked with a smirk ghosting my lips.
Granger simply narrowed her eyes at me. “This is terrible. Harry and Ron probably hate me. But they must be in those Advanced classes or whatever they are; I haven’t seen them in any of ours.”
“Yeah, what’s up with the whole Average and Advanced student thing?” I asked.
“How would I know?”
“Because you’re the infamous Hermione Granger!” I exclaimed, throwing my hands up in the air. “You know everything!”
“Not anymore,” Granger said, and I could practically hear the frustration in her voice. “I don’t know anything anymore.”
And that’s when I knew we were doomed.
= = =
That night I dreamed the walls were screaming. With my ear firmly pressed against the cold stone wall, I followed the sound of the cries … so desperate … pleading.
I ended up at the bolted door leading to the Slytherin dungeon. The screams grew louder: more persistent with every passing second.
I dug into my pocket for my wand, only to find it had been snapped in half. And then, under the crack of the chained door, a scarlet colored slime like substance oozed through. The screams grew louder. There were so many of them … so many agonizing howls …
I yanked on the chains, tugging at them until my hands were red from the pressure. But the crimson ooze kept flowing under the door, burying my shoes until I was ankle deep in the red bubbling muck.
And so I ran. But I couldn’t get away from the goo, and the screams from the dungeon haunted my mind with every stride I took down the dark corridor. And suddenly, I felt a sharp stab in my arm …
“Go back to sleep, Twenty-seven.”
I shook my head awake and tried to erase the vision from my mind. But when I opened my eyes again, there was still a needle stuck in my arm. Everything was so blurred, I wasn’t sure if I was still dreaming. “What are you doing?” I demanded in as authoritative a tone I could muster under the circumstances. A strong urge to yank my arm away overcame me, but the man sitting before me held it still.
And then as my vision became clearer and my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I realized who the man sitting at my bedside sticking a needle in my arm was – Macnair. Another one of Father’s old Death Eater buddies.
“Oh hold still and quit blubbering,” he spat, “Do you really have to complain about it every bloody week?”
“You’re taking my blood!” I shouted, as I watched the crimson liquid run from the tube in my arm and into the bag on the side of my bed. I fought the nausea that threatened to overwhelm me as I ordered, “Take that out of me this very instant!”
“Shut your mouth before you wake the others,” Macnair hissed, and then looked at the now filled bag and held it up. Blood – my blood – swished from side to side. I gulped as he yanked the needle out of my arm. “Lucky you’re the Headmaster’s boy,” he growled low in his throat as he moved onto his next sleeping victim.
Neville Longbottom’s arm flinched slightly as the needle entered the tender flesh on the inside of his elbow, and his entire arm tensed momentarily. His eyelids fluttered a bit, but he otherwise stayed fast asleep. I wondered if I should wake him as I lie there watching – watching as Longbottom’s blood began to stream into the clear bag, but my mouth seemed to be sewn shut in fear.
Macnair had said this was something he did every week. Perhaps everyone was used to it. Perhaps they all knew. But it still seemed like an awful lot of blood to lose on a weekly basis …
Killing us slowly, I thought. That’s what they’re doing. Draining us of our blood so we’ll all die off, one by one by one …
= = =
“You look terrible,” was the first thing Granger whispered to me as we marched in a single file line to the Great Hall for breakfast.
I scowled at her and turned my head away, hoping my hair would veil my face to cover the dark bags under my eyes.
“Didn’t sleep well?” she asked in an unfamiliar tone. Was that … concern in her voice? No. Couldn’t be.
Before entering through the tall oak double doors, I asked her, “Notice anything strange about your arms?”
Puzzled, she pushed up her sleeves and examined every inch of her creamy white skin. I took her right arm in my hands and turned it over so her forearm was facing me. There wasn’t a mark there. There wasn’t a mark on her left arm either. “I reckon they’ll get to the girl’s dorms tonight,” I said as I took my seat on the ground next to all the other Average students.
“What are you talking --?”
“Silence!” My Father gave me the death glare of a Basilisk from his seat on the raised platform in the Hall, Alecto and Amycus on either side of him. Also sitting at the table were Snape, Macnair, and –
Oh God. Not her. It was my aunt. Bellatrix Lestrange.
And then the double doors burst open again, and a pack of straight faced and perfectly in sync students marched to the lone table in the Hall, sitting down one after the other in perfect rhythm. The Advanced students. There was Potter and the Weasel, Parkinson, and – was I imagining things? – even Crabbe and Goyle. How did those two thick headed oafs get into Advanced classes I wasn’t in?
My mouth watered as Weasley, with his bright red hair and freckles, daintily cut a piece of sausage and put it in his mouth. Hold on … daintily? The Weasel? Why wasn’t he eating like the disgusting pig he is and stuffing his face? Granger seemed to notice it too, as she was also staring at her two best friends open mouthed in curiosity.
“Servants!” Father exclaimed, and with a clap of his hands, another line formation marched into the Great Hall. A line of professors. There was McGonagall and Trelawney and Flitwick and Sprout, all carrying steaming metal plates of what could only be described as mush.
“Professor McGonagall?” Granger asked as a plate of brown mush was placed on the floor in front of her. McGonagall, however, did not answer, but moved on to the next student in line.
From Father’s seat, he announced authoritatively, “Heads down. No speaking. You have five minutes. Begin.”
And with those few instructions, every Average student in the Great Hall bowed their heads to their plates and began slurping the mush out of it like rabid animals, licking and chomping away ravenously as if it were the first proper meal they had eaten in days.
Granger’s head was bowed to her food, but she did not eat. She simply stared at it, as if unsure of what to do. I followed suit so as not to look suspicious. The food looked like dog food – but smelled worse. “I’m not eating this,” I whispered.
Keeping her head perfectly still, Granger’s eyes scanned the line of students on the floor who were literally licking their plates clean. “It can’t be that bad … look at them.”
“They look like bloody animals! I’ll be damned if I look like one of them.”
“No speaking.” The voice was unnaturally close and soft spoken in a threatening manner. Upon glancing up from my “food,” I witnessed Alecto Carrow only mere inches from my body. “Now eat.”
I sat back on my heels and glared at her. “No.”
And now I could feel every eye in the Great Hall on me.
“Mind your own business, all of you!” Alecto shouted, as over two hundred students resumed eating. “As for you, Twenty-seven, you will eat your breakfast, unless you would rather spend the rest of the day in the Western Tower.”
Gasps erupted from the line of students, but were hushed at once as Alecto glared at them.
“Do it,” Granger whispered through clenched teeth, “Just eat.” And I watched as she brought her face to her own pile of filth in front of her and took it into her mouth, chewing on the stuff with such a disgusted expression I felt sick watching her.
Alecto’s hand went to her pocket and a shiny silver material peeked out. It was that glove … that glove that she had tortured Blaise with. My breath hitched in my throat as I lowered my head to my food, deciding my protest wasn’t worth it.
I nipped at the steaming brown pile of mush and grimaced as I chewed on the chunky stuff. It didn’t just look and smell like dog food. It was dog food.
“Good boy, Twenty-seven,” said Alecto with a mad glint in her eye as she walked away, her shoes clicking across the marble floor of the Great Hall.