“…specific obligation was to make sure nothing like this happened. Your carelessness has me very concerned…”
“Headmaster, I spoke to her only the day before and stressed the importance of keeping her sanity. Although no Death Eater is to be trusted to keep a promise, I believed Bellatrix realized the seriousness of her role. I was as shocked as you to realize what had transpired in that classroom.”
A sudden, sickening urge to vomit flew through her as she experienced the intensity of her headache. She clutched her stomach and groaned, though she didn’t have the strength to even try and retch. She instead lay frozen on the bed and stared at the inside of her eyelids as the intense voices floated to her from another room.
“What are you going to give the girl for it?” Snape’s weary voice struck a cord in her. She had never heard such defeat before.
“The most powerful antidote we have available.” Dumbledore seemed equally distressed. Kiana wondered what had caused both powerful wizards to experience such melancholy. “She will have to remain here until it either works or fails; it will not be safe for her to remain in the dormitories. But if we don’t try something, Voldemort will claim her and she will never be able to come back.”
Kiana longed to listen further; she couldn’t quite grasp whom they were talking about. But it was difficult to stay focused and awake. The darkness beckoned to her and cast a chill over her body, making it nearly impossible to remain in her current world.
“How can I assist you?”
“Keep Harry away from her and my office for at least another week. After she has improved, we will test her.”
With these words, the clouds covered her vision and she was lost.
The dead grass tickled her feet as she strode across the ground. She twirled her wand between her fingers and ducked under a broken tree branch. She could smell him now. The stench of fear was impossible to miss, especially on a still night such as this.
He noticed her when she stepped out of the forest. His green eyes were dark and wide, his chest heaving. She smiled at him as kindly as she could, but she knew the lust and anticipation were clear in her eyes.
“Why have you denied my gift for so long, Potter? You stare at me like I’m about to sacrifice you to the Dark Lord. I’m here to grant you the peace you’ve sought for so long.”
The boy furiously glanced at the trees encircling him, as if hoping they would come alive and jump to his rescue. “You don’t have to obey him, Kiana.” He tried to make his words sound comforting, but his terror destroyed his efforts. “Remember how kind you were to everyone. Voldemort has tainted your mind. This is not who you were.”
“You’re right, Potter; this is not who I was. But it’s who I want to be.” She continued to play with her wand. She enjoyed watching his fearful eyes follow her motions. “Voldemort has released me from my pathetic shell that kept my power hidden from the world. I now have more self-confidence and joy than I know what to do with. He taught me to destroy all those childish emotions I carried in my heart – love, compassion, sympathy – and now I am no longer weak and bound to others. I can finally be free.
“You can be free, too, Potter. Follow the Dark Lord and find a release from all your pitiful feelings. You will be a great aide in the fight against the Muggles.”
His eyes flashed with anger. “You want me to fight with the people who killed my parents and best friends? You really have lost yourself, Kiana.”
Kiana’s laugh was high and cold enough to rival Voldemort’s. “You understand nothing, Potter. I wish I could show you what you’re missing, but you have tested my patience for too long. Crucio!”
Potter’s screams widened her smile. She had been waiting for this moment for weeks.
Kiana longed to watch him suffer for hours on end, but she would rather kill him with his mind intact. Undoing the Unforgivable Curse, she crept up to the writhing boy with wand extended. She knelt down until their faces were inches from each other.
“And now, Harry Potter, you shall feel the consequence of your actions. You’ll regret your obedience to Dumbledore after hours of agony, but by then it’ll be too late. Say ‘hi’ to your Mudblood mother for me, will you?
She thought Harry’s screams were multiplying all around her, but soon she realized it was her own cries that were never-ending. She fought against the images being thrust through her mind, but something was holding her down.
It was unbearable not to be able to fight back – her arms and legs were paralyzed as someone poured a thick, cold substance down her throat. Coughing, she struggled to repel the disgusting liquid from her system, but somehow her body would not obey her. She swallowed willingly until her stomach was full and her haunting dreams vanished, leaving her in a paralyzing, empty darkness.
“How do you feel?”
She moaned and turned away from the form in front of her. She wanted that endless dark back, that place of thoughtless sleep. But the stupid man in her face was annoyingly persistent.
“Go away! I want to sleep.”
“You’ve been sleeping for two days.”
“Then two more won’t make any difference.”
A flash of light blasted across her world, making her release a cry from within and break free from her weariness.
Dumbledore was sitting silently in a chair beside her bed. His searching eyes made her uncomfortable, and she turned to face the wall her bed was propped up against.
In her short survey of her surroundings, Kiana had realized that she was in a small, empty room somewhere above the staircase of Dumbledore’s study. Had she really been there for days? It seemed like she had only arrived.
“Kiana, you must listen to me. Your life is at stake if you don’t.” Dumbledore’s tone was remarkably casual, but Kiana was careful enough to notice the concern hidden beneath.
She carefully turned back on her side to see his face. “Why should you care about my life? You’re the one who threw it away in the first place.”
He flinched ever so slightly. “I never wanted this to happen, Kiana; you must understand that. I did not thoughtlessly fling you to Voldemort. I thought that under Snape’s supervision you would be safe from harm, but events quickly became uncontrollable ever since Voldemort perceived your promising talent. I’m trying to reverse the effects of Bellatrix’s curse as we speak. Hopefully within a few days you will experience some of your old emotions.”
Kiana grunted. “Why would I want that? I don’t know why you’re trying to fix whatever happened to me…those disgusting Americans aren’t worth my time, and Potter’s definitely not worthy of my affections. I want nothing more than to leave them all behind.”
Pure despondency flashed across Dumbledore’s face, so strong that Kiana fixed her gaze on the bare wall behind him.
“You may regret your words soon enough.” He spoke so softly she had to concentrate to make his words out. “You will be released from this room in days’ time, and hopefully by then you can return to your normal life. For now, think carefully over what I have said.”
For the rest of her life, Kiana would never know a time that dragged on longer or more painfully than the moments she spent in Dumbledore’s solitary room. She tried to make the time move faster by sleeping whenever she could, but her sleep was always far from restful. She was only forced to drink the horrid potion when she was in the middle of R.E.M. sleep, which caused intense disruption and agony during sometimes relaxing dreams. She never knew why the potion had to be administered then, but she figured it was because her resistances were at their lowest at that time.
Time was constantly her enemy, moving as slowly and painfully as a dagger digging into the skin. There was no clock in her room, she possessed no watch, and without a window she had no knowledge of the time of day. Eventually, when she could stand the silence no longer, she grabbed her wand and headed for the door.
She had expected the door to be locked. She was furious when the door blasted open easily, her spell having found no resistance.
Dumbledore left it unlocked all this time! And I sat here like an obedient dork while freedom was merely a few paces away.
Sparks flew from her wand as she raced down the spiral gold staircase, across the landing holding Dumbledore’s desk, and through the cluster of glass cases of magical items toward the front door. She could have kicked herself when she found the entrance door unlocked as well.
The moon was high in the sky and shed an eerie glow onto the polished floors of the corridors as Kiana streaked past door after door. She hadn’t met anyone in Dumbledore’s office nor the dark hallways, but she sensed a presence behind her that she couldn’t shake.
The shadows were playing tricks on her. She slowed her pace at the increased pounding of her heart and studied the doors and walls with dread. She clutched her wand so tightly her knuckles turned white, and she feared she was to have a heart attack before she reached her dorm. Why couldn’t she shake the fear in her mind? There was no one following her…no one was even awake…
As she thought this, the pounding of footsteps resounded down the hall and stopped Kiana in her tracks. She fell against the wall, clutching her heart as it raced with ferocity. What doom was approaching her with such hurried paces?
A tall, slim figure shrouded in darkness appeared from behind the corner, but its presence did not increase her fear. She recognized the muscles of the person’s arms, the frazzled hair, and the small, dark glasses.
Harry Potter stepped into the moonlight, and Kiana was shocked to see the paleness of his face. He was shaking, as if he had thought to be pursued instead of her.
Kiana didn’t know what to feel as she stared at the boy she had once loved. Her mind whirled as she fought to sort through all that was in her heart, but it was difficult to retrieve the emotions she longed for. What had happened to her? What had she done to deserve such a cold heart?
Tears filled her eyes at the sound of his voice. He was so tender, so compassionate, so loving…and she didn’t deserve it. She deserved to be brushed off by him, perhaps even scolded and yelled at. Didn’t he know why she didn’t deserve to be treated with such sympathy?
Harry knew none of her thoughts as he approached her and tenderly reached up to stroke her face. She instantly turned away and pushed him aside, trying to shield her tears with her hands.
“Go away, Harry,” she hissed through her teeth. “You shouldn’t be here. You need to leave…” She tried to hide her grief through hatred and anger like she had been taught, but his compassionate eyes brought out the weakness in her.
“Kiana, what happened?” His soft voice tore at her heart like nothing else did. “Please tell me. I tried to ask Dumbledore about your absence from classes, but he remained aloof and refused to tell me anything. I need to hear it from you. How can I help you if you don’t lean on me?”
This is exactly what I warned you about! Bellatrix’s cruel voice spoke to her from the dark part of her mind. Your friends will bring out your weakness and destroy all the power and strength you’ve fought so hard to build. You need to push them away with your anger and then you can be free.
She gritted her teeth and met his gaze with fury. “I don’t need to tell you anything! I don’t need your sympathy or your help. Why do you always need to be the hero, Potter? You’re constantly trying to save other people from the horror of the world, but you never ask their permission. Well, I’m going to be the first to tell you the reality – people don’t want your help! I don’t want your help. I’m strong enough to overcome my sorrows on my own. Leave me be!”
She spun on her heel and had taken a step when Harry clamped his hand around her arm and held her there. She fought him, but her body was not as strong as her voice had been. She was helpless as he turned her to face him and he glimpsed the tears streaking down her cheeks. She wept bitterly as he searched her eyes for her true emotions, and she prayed he didn’t discover the secrets of her heart.
“I don’t deny that my past actions have been foolhardy, but I am not foolish enough to turn away from someone who is drowning. You are barely keeping your head above water, Kiana, and I fear that the next time I see you you’ll be in a casket. I don’t know what is happening to you, but I fear for you. I’ve feared for you ever since Hermione told me her own misgivings. If this is about Voldemort, I need to know. I’m not unaware of his madness, as the world knows. Please, Kiana…don’t turn away from me.”
His compassion was tearing her apart, and she feared the longer she stayed there listening to his kind words and glimpsing the tears in his eyes, the more torture she’d receive from Bellatrix for her failings. She had to get away from him now or she’d lose herself in his eyes…
“You can’t help me, Harry,” she whispered tearfully. “So you’d better give up now.”
She spun around and pulled herself from his grip. She had willed her feet to run when Harry grasped her arm and pulled her toward him with amazing strength. She had just opened her mouth to yell when he pressed his lips against hers and kissed her with intense passion.
All her barriers melted away as she dropped her wand to the floor and wrapped her arms around his neck, pushing her body tighter against his and soaking in all the sensations of the kiss. His hand wove delicately through her hair and a delightful spasm passed through her body. His touch sent her heart racing again until she thought she might explode with pleasure. She reached a hand up through his shirt and felt the tight muscles of his back and chest. He shivered and kissed her harder.
When he finally pulled away and stared into her eyes, she knew nothing was shielding the love in her heart. She could not stop her tears, although now she wept for all the moments she had lost with him.
The same love was held in his eyes as he leaned forward and whispered, “Don’t cry, Kiana. It’s going to be okay. It’s all okay now.”
She smiled as he bent and pulled her up into his arms. Leaning her head against his broad chest, she let her body relax as Harry carried her down the hallway which had previously brought so much fear. Now she couldn’t remember what had concerned her, and the meetings with Voldemort and Bellatrix were a long forgotten memory.
Her whole world was wrapped up in the boy who carried her now.
Harry awoke with the sun’s rising the following day. The rays of light filtered through his open curtains and landed lightly on his back, warming his bare skin. He smiled and allowed the warmth to fill him up and clear his mind of any thought. He became weightless and satisfied as the heat from his cotton blanket and the girl beside him relaxed every muscle in his body.
Harry raised his head as the sound of gentle breathing reached his ears. Kiana was lounging on her stomach by his side and, as he leaned over farther, he noticed a content smile on her face as she slept. She was adorable when she was relaxed and happy, he noticed. During the day she always seemed to have lines across her forehead and a tight jaw. She was on guard all day, as if she believed every student at Hogwarts had a grudge against her.
This was not how he remembered her being at the beginning of the year. When Hermione had first pointed her out to him, he had been impressed with her gentle demeanor and beaming grin. Her hair had been a light brown then, and if he caught the sun’s light dancing across her head, the strands glimmered with fragments of blond.
Harry ran his fingers softly through her hair now, and he frowned at the dark tresses that curled around his fingers. It was a shade shy of black, and the separate hairs were coarse and stiff like they’d been washed too many times. But the color was rich and deep, something that would be hard to create with ordinary dyes. Harry knew little about beauty spells, but he was certain that only a complex jinx or curse could create such a permanent appearance change. And why would she want to change her hair color anyway? Her natural color was stunning and brought out the rich hues of her eyes.
Harry no longer felt the warmth of the sun as he laid his head back onto his pillow and allowed the previous night’s occurrences to return to his thoughts.
He had been awoken around midnight with a jolt, as if someone had jinxed him in his sleep. His room was eerily silent, his roommates all deep asleep and unaware of his fear. He was about to return to his dreams when a thud on the stairs destroyed the silence of the night.
Being familiar to strange incidences in the dead of night, Harry grabbed his wand and robe and rushed down the spiraling staircase after the noise. A small flicker of light outside the portrait hole caught his eye, and Harry wasted no time as he crawled through the Fat Lady’s portrait and out into the pitch black corridor. A figure clothed in black was running down the hall to his right, and Harry raced after him. He didn’t bother to light his wand; the glow from the stranger’s wand was enough to keep him from running into a wall, and he didn’t want to give himself away.
Harry had recognized the path the stranger was taking almost instantly. He was headed toward the stone gargoyle below Dumbledore’s office, and Harry couldn’t restrain his curiosity as to why. The figure was about half a foot taller than him, leading him to the conclusion that it wasn’t a student. When Harry was a few turns away from the gargoyle, the wand light from the stranger was extinguished, thrusting Harry into blind darkness. He had no choice but to mutter “lumos” and hold his wand aloft.
That’s when he had heard Kiana approaching. The fear and distress portrayed on her hard features was ten times more disturbing to him than his rude awakening. Her hair was matted, her school robes wrinkled, and her eyes held distrust even when she noticed him. Hermione’s words had returned to him then:
“I’m worried about her, Harry. Previously she had been as diligent with homework and class attendance as me, but now it’s normal for her to miss one class a day and even flunk an exam. She hardly ever hangs out with me or her American friends anymore, and I’ve heard from Michelle that she is quite rude and distant when speaking to them. Something is seriously wrong with her, but I can’t figure out what. She wants no one’s help; she seems determined to suffer by herself.”
Harry now desired to talk with Kiana that morning before her behavior got any worse. Although she was resolute in keeping her secret hidden, he thought that she might be willing to tell him something…anything…now that she was alone with him. She had fallen asleep almost instantly after he had set her in his bed. He was tempted to wake her now to get the conversation over with, but the peacefulness on her face tugged at his heart. This was the way she used to look, for no one glimpsed her warm smile nowadays. She seemed to be beyond happiness, beyond fun. If he had been around her more and talked to her regularly, would he have been able to stop her depression? It was no lie that he had experienced feelings toward her from the beginning, so why had it taken so long for him to act on them?
With a sigh, Harry closed his eyes and tried to clear his head. Subconsciously, he slipped his hand under her sweater and rubbed his hand across her back. Instantly his eyes snapped open and his hand froze in mid-motion. Nausea swept over him like a tide as he pulled her sweater higher up and glimpsed the destruction she had hidden from him.
Harry could not find a patch of skin that had not been ripped apart. Dozens of slashes grazed her back, so many that Harry felt sick as he tried counting them. A few were completely healed, leaving a long, silver scar, while others were fresh and bleeding. The thickness of the cuts terrified him, and his heart seemed to be stuck in his throat. Who could have done this to her? No Muggle torture device could have produced such deep, painful marks…it had to be some sort of spell. A Dark spell, no doubt, that Harry had never heard of.
Harry pulled her sweater back down with a shaking hand and laid his head upon her back before wrapping an arm around her waist. Kiana shifted and moaned in her sleep, but soon her normal breathing returned. He was thankful she had not awoken as he was surveying her back; for surely she would never speak to him again if she knew he had discovered her best-kept secret.
But what was he to do with this secret now that it was revealed to him? Going to Dumbledore seemed like the only thing to do. It would be foolish to demand that Kiana seek help on her own; she would never do it, this he was certain of. If someone was hurting her and she was helpless to stop the torture, Harry had to be the one to save her.
He would not willingly let his girl suffer now that he had found her. She was worth more to him than that.