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Chapter 4 : Brightest in the Sky
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Scarlett's head was killing her when she finally awoke hours later.
She was in an absolute and utter haze, and she opened her eyes blearily, grimacing as her head throbbed at the sudden appearance of color. She sat up in her bed with effort, but as she did she saw a speck of white parchment fly from her bed to the floor.
Curious, Scarlett wrapped her fingers around the note, taking deep breaths and rubbing her temples in an attempt to coordinate herself. She took a look around the room; surprisingly, no one else was present, the lights off and the windows lacking the sunlight that normally shone through them.
Shit. What time was it?
Scarlett turned her attention to the clock, her eyes bulging as she registered the time. "Eleven forty," she said aloud, hardly believing it, and feeling slightly nauseous at the thought of missing her first Potions class, she instead focused on the note and opened it. It was flustered, with many sentences cramped into the small space, and it was obvious that it had been written in a hurry.
I don't know what to do. I'm sorry. But Georgiana and I have seriously tried everything we could have thought of to wake you up. We've poured water on your head and screamed in your ear and done as much as we can, but you are the heaviest sleeper I know.
Just listen to me: please don't do this anymore. This unhealthy pattern of constantly being awake will catch up to you one day and I don't want that day to be any time soon. I told Slughorn that you were feeling under the weather and he took it well enough this time, but please... don't make me have to lie again.
Worry about yourself first and everything else second, okay?
Then, right under that, there was another note:
You still aren't awake? We've been to dinner and done all of our homework... How awful was it last night that you have to sleep for this long?
Anyway, I'll fill you in at Astronomy. But only if you promise not to do this again.
Scarlett smiled at the notes for a second, temporarily distracted by Theodore's thoughtful words, but her smile soon faded into a deep frown when she realized that she had Astronomy.
Simple math showed that she had approximately seventeen minutes and forty-two seconds until she was due in Astronomy, and she looked like an absolute mess. It would require haste, for sure.
Scarlett calculated everything quickly as she got out of bed and pulled her hair into a tight bun. If she could get ready in two minutes, she would have fifteen minutes to get to Astronomy, which was perfectly fine. Yes, she would have to run-- the Astronomy tower was far away from Slytherin-- but, hell, she could make it.
She straightened her robes and looked at herself in the mirror. She still looked tired.
Whatever. She could live with that.
Her head throbbed again as she raced out of the common room, and she groaned as she exited the Slytherin common room.
No one was in the halls at that hour, and Scarlett watched anxiously as she passed the clocks placed at the end of each corridor. 11:49, one read, and then 11:51. Scarlett hurried through the halls, her bun falling in helpless disarray, but she could care less as the clock read 11:55.
She stormed up the stairs and made it to the class two minutes before it was scheduled to begin. Sighing in relief, Scarlett fixed her hair quickly, found her place between Theodore and Bellatrix, and smiled as she looked out one of the many windows of the tower.
Theodore, Georgiana, Bellatrix, and Narcissa did not understand the interest in the subject, as they preferred different things, but Scarlett adored it and never hesitated to tell her friends so. Like the sky itself, the topic of Astronomy was endless; an infinite amount of stars waited to be listened to. Every single star had a story for the clueless on Earth and Scarlett was obsessed with hearing them.
Scarlett had only seen six clear messages in the stars since she had begun the practice in the winter of her fifth year. Every other vision was just a blur-- for example, the anonymous visitor-- or a feeling that was indecipherable and came with no image. Even these Tenereus was interested in, and even these Scarlett was interested in as well.
Though Scarlett hated consequences and hated answers that did not go in her favor, she was still obsessed with the secrets of the stars. Maybe it was because she was looking for some light of hope because the future she saw in her mind was not one she preferred.
Because of Scarlett's obsession with the stars, and because of her anxiety for the future, every night in Tenereus's was frightening. The future was so unbearably frightening but yet so interesting.
She wanted to know what the stars had to say.
But in terms of the future, it was all rather terrifying.
The stars did not tell their stories in a way that could be precisely described, though Scarlett had attempted to explain it many times. In addition, the stars distributed their stories unevenly; some were trivial and some were important.
Out of the six messages Scarlett had seen clearly, three had come true and they had all been trivial. The three that remained were curious and terrifying: a slash of a violet beam in pure darkness; a tree that seemed to be blossoming jewels instead of leaves; and a fire so brilliant she still questioned if it was real.
She did not know what any of these things meant and she was afraid of the time when they would come true.
Sinistra addressed the class then, and Scarlett beamed, as Sinistra didn't bother to introduce the students to her typical rules of conduct. Instead, for review, she gave them an independent assignment and let them be.
It was no surprise that Sinistra was Scarlett's favorite teacher.
The assignment was easy and Scarlett finished it in minutes, satisfying Sinistra to such a level that behind her Georgiana rolled her eyes. Because of Scarlett's aptitude in the stars, an aptitude that Sinistra was well aware of, she was permitted to use the teacher's telescope, and, excited, Scarlett complied.
She stared out, the telescope going higher and higher as she observed the stars, studied the constellations and the patterns and the stories and eyed the images that were impossibly small to the untrained eye.
The stars were as frustrating as they were fascinating and were as frightening as they were addictive. She twisted and turned the telescope, desperate, reluctant, a million different things at once--
Like a camera, Scarlett lost her sight temporarily, her senses focusing on the premonition like it was a magnet. It came and left in less than a second, yet it burned a hole in her brain before it retired, the star flickering as she encountered it.
The image was cold. It was one second of pure cold, cold from snow and wind and blizzard, and it was a second of beauty, icicles seen on the sides of her family's manor in Dijon while snowflakes swirled in the wind so gracefully, but so eerily...
It was as if it was warning her, perhaps, but she couldn't be entirely sure. The stars were unpredictable and taunting; she had no way of telling if the vision was figurative or literal or if it was for her or for one of her friends. It could have even been a figment of her imagination, and sometimes it was.
It was impossible to tell. Though the stars provided a possibility for the future, it was impossible... absolutely impossible... to determine its exact meaning.
It made Scarlett think and kept her distracted from the other stars as the students still drew constellations, oblivious to the images above them.
She didn't think it was figurative. Her house was in the image, after all. And it had no people in it, which meant that it had to be unsure. It provided her with so little because maybe the star was reluctant to tell her anything else...
The bell rang to signify the end of class, and Scarlett sighed in relief as the group left the tower. "So, hey," she began, walking towards Theodore. "Want to bring my stuff back to Slytherin?"
Theodore sent Scarlett a dark look. "I thought we went over this," he pointed out, and Scarlett shrugged, unconcerned.
"I have to," she argued. "C'mon. I'll get used to it. I know it was bad that I missed Potions, but I can't just stop. You know that."
Theodore sighed. "Try to come back before three," he negotiated. "Promise?"
Scarlett grinned in response. "Absolutely. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to run."
Passing her books over to Theodore, Scarlett slyly broke away from the pack of students, walking purposelessly down a corridor until she was sure her peers couldn't see her.
And then she ran.
Her footsteps were light and vigilant, her hair swinging and falling out of her bun as she hastily jogged towards the exit, avoiding the obnoxious portraits and the trick steps as she did so. Finally, she stormed down the stairs to the courtyard, and, checking behind her to make sure she was in the clear, Scarlett eased into her surroundings and then began to sprint.
It was her routine, and it was something that she simply could not live without. Scarlett had not been kidding when she told Theodore that she couldn't stop. Not only was it her addiction, just as harmful as any other, she yearned to see her centaur friend again and yearned to learn.
The night was brisk, but luckily not freezing, and Scarlett sprinted through it, her pace consistent as she maneuvered throughout the forest. She ran like this for a fair amount of time, her breathing becoming harder until she saw the familiar trail towards the outlook; immediately she eased.
Tenereus was there as usual, and, with sharper reflexes, turned before she even saw him.
He grimaced at her presence, unusually enough. "I have figured out your mystery," he stated, shaking his head. "I don't believe you will enjoy it, though."
"So...?" Scarlett asked, the question falling from her lips reluctantly, and Tenereus shook his head, his eyes going to the stars once more.
"Scarlett, try to read it yourself. If you cannot, I will indulge the secret with you, but only because I need for you to know. Do not be lured into the false thought that I will always provide you with the answers. You know what I believe."
Scarlett raised her eyebrows. "I gave you the trail, Tenereus. Don't I deserve the answer, instead of three hours of suspense?"
Tenereus shrugged innocently. "What can I say?" he asked her. "You know what I believe. For the most part, the stars are read alone. I cannot give you the answers."
Scarlett sighed in defeat. "Always logical, aren't you... bloody centaur..."
Tenereus grinned. "Ah, well, truthfully, I simply don't want to tell you. You'll murder me."
"Well, if I do," Scarlett replied, "I can only hope that it's in the stars so you can read it on your own. That's your belief system, right?"
All Tenereus could do was shake his head at the girl.
It was a strange friendship, but it was a sturdy one; both were intellectual when it came to the stars, though they both possessed a sense of humor and the adoration of light-hearted conversation. Their friendship had been full of each of these three things in the past two years, and, because Tenereus was an outcast because of his connections with humans and Scarlett was an outcast because of her obsession, the two needed each other equally.
The hours passed quickly, yet Scarlett could not find any message through the canopy of branches. Her eyes burned slightly both from staring intently at the same patterns for hours on end and the lack of sleep, and, figuring it to be late enough, she turned back to Tenereus.
"So?" she asked expectantly, and Tenereus chuckled.
"You're giving up so easily?" he said skeptically. "You, of all people..."
Scarlett shrugged. "I'm exhausted," she confessed. "I hope you can control your ego enough."
Tenereus snorted. "I hope you can control your prejudice."
Scarlett did not say anything in return, but gave Tenereus a pointed look; he had kept her in suspense long enough. At her glance, Tenereus took a deep breath, readying himself for what was sure to be an explosion.
"After you told me what you knew, I studied the stars with the information you gave. I figured something out, then... not from the same type of visions that you can see, but from communicating with the stars on their own."
Tenereus continued, pacing as he went. "Logic provided us with what we needed; how, after you started this, you had a stream of visions relating to only yourself, but only occasionally coming close to the stars speaking, if you could call it that-- such as the metaphorical and symbolic visions that have already been fulfilled and those that we have looked over endlessly.
"However, as the years continued, the flood of visions diminished, and a drought began. That is not to say that you were becoming less in tune with the stars; you simply needed the proper inspiration in order to continue."
"Last night, you told me of a visitor. One that only your eyes could barely see, for you cannot truly decipher the stars from millions of miles away like I can. You said the guest was unpredictable, and I theorized on that, trying to see if I could find out something for myself. But after hours of thought, I contacted the stars, who cleared things up... significantly.
"The unpredictability... well, I cannot fully divulge the information on the guest's unpredictability. I would be telling you too much. But I have to tell you, must tell you, who the guest is. I would not have known, except a special star told me... one I am sure you know of."
Scarlett could feel the blank incomprehension on her features. "Well, was it part of the Zodiac?"
Tenereus shook his head. "No, it is not. The star is not a part of those constellations. It is a strange star, and tells lots of things, lots of stories. It is only ironic that it told me this; I doubt that you will appreciate it."
She glared at this. "Oh, won't I?"
"You will despise it," he assured her. "You will disagree at first, I am sure of that without the stars' aid. But I believe--I hope--that you will do what is necessary... Take another guess."
She frowned. "I don't know."
"I do not wish to tell you the answer explicitly. It's best if you figure it out on your own... Scarlett..." he said slowly. "You are aware that some of your friends share the names of the stars?"
She could feel the answer staring her in the face, but could not quite grasp it. "Yes?"
"Well, logically... let us say that if one was... the most blinding, the most scorching... it would give us the most information, wouldn't it?"
"I don't know--" she began, but then, all of a sudden, the information fell into her lap and she was stunned into silence. Her blank incomprehension, though, morphed surely into horror and distaste, as he had so cleverly predicted.
"No," she muttered fervently. "You're lying."
"I thought it was a joke, as well," he said. "But we cannot delude ourselves into believing that anything in the stars, no matter how unpleasant it is for you, is a lie.
"The Scorcher star. The brightest one in the sky, only second to the sun. The Dog Star, Sirius."
Scarlett could not stand the stars at that moment. "And the Dog Star told you... that Black was... going to come here?"
He shook his head, frowning in the process. "No. The Dog Star told me that Sirius would come here, but not on his own accord-- at least at first. He would come here, specifically, to encourage the stars, hence doubling and perhaps tripling our insight into the future. Drought no longer."
There was a beat of silence as Scarlett tried to grapple with the thought.
"So... you're saying... I have to ask him?" Scarlett said faintly.
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