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Crimson Darkness by Fainpathe
Chapter 10 : Detention
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 9


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When I finally arrived back at the castle, I chanced a look over my shoulder. The tall, dark figure that was Tom was about a hundred metres from where I stood, striding closer all the time. I held back a shiver and strode through the front doors, suppressing the urge to lock them behind me. I glanced into the Great Hall as I passed, half-hoping that there might be some cake or something left, but the cavernous room was dark and quiet, the tables apparently long since deserted. Sighing, I descended the staircase to the dungeons and made my way towards the common room. 

Suddenly, a tall figure materialised out of the shadows and I could not suppress a small shriek. For one, wild second I thought I recognised the silver blond hair of Malfoy – but then I remembered that Malfoy didn’t have a matching beard. 

“Professor Dumbledore!” I gasped. 

“Miss. Cortes,” Dumbledore replied, inclining his head slightly. For some reason, he did not seem surprised to see me. 

“What – I – I was just – ,” 

“Are you aware of the time, Miss. Cortes?” the old professor asked pleasantly. 

“Um – I – no,” I stuttered. 

“It is twelve minutes past midnight.” 

“I – oh.” 

There was a silence. Dumbledore seemed to be waiting for something. Sure enough, footsteps on the stairs announced the arrival of Tom, no doubt making sure I had gone to bed like a good girl. I heard him pause on the stairs as he apparently caught sight of Dumbledore, but then his footsteps continued until I felt his arm brush mine. “Hello professor,” he said politely from beside me. 

“Good evening Tom.” 

Dumbledore studied Tom carefully through his half-moon spectacles. With half a glace in my direction, Tom said smoothly, “I have just been tutoring Miss. Cortes in the grounds. Her defensive magic is – was – somewhat deplorable, and I know that we are not allowed to use magic in the corridors, so I escorted Miss. Cortes into the grounds. Evidently, we er,” here he flashed a dazzling smile, “lost track of time.” 

“Indeed,” Dumbledore said lightly, and I couldn’t help but think that he looked slightly amused. “Well, Tom, noble though your intentions may have been, you are still out of bounds after hours. I think that a detention each will suffice.” 

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Tom’s hand curl into a fist. “Professor,” he said softly. “I thought that, as Head Boy, I had certain privileges – ,” 

“Of course you do Tom. Your curfew is extended, I believe, until eleven, unless you are patrolling corridors. And I know you were not patrolling corridors tonight,” he said, raising his eyebrows as Tom started to speak, “as it was I who set the schedule. Furthermore,” he continued, seemingly unaware of the tightening of Tom’s jaw and the flash of anger in his eyes, “You encouraged a younger student, for whom you are supposed to be setting an example, to break the rules. I believe, therefore, that you deserve a detention as much as, if not more than she does. I shall see you both at my office tomorrow evening at eight o’clock.” With that, he strode past us and up the stairs. I waited until the hem of his cloak disappeared around the corner before glancing up at Tom. He was staring at the place where Dumbledore had vanished with a very calculating look on his face. 

“Um – Tom?” 

“Go to bed Maura.” He said without looking at me. 

I felt a stab of annoyance, but decided that Tom’s temper was not to be tested at the moment. I started towards the concealed stone door, but Tom’s fingers closed around my arm. “You’ll be needing this, won’t you?” I looked up to find him dangling my wand in front of my eyes. I snatched at it, but he held it out of my reach. “First, promise me that you’ll be a little more careful with it in the future. That’s twice you’ve left it behind. What if Malfoy had ambushed you on the way back here?” 

I could tell he was taking out his annoyance at Dumbledore by goading me, and I wasn’t going to have it. I wrenched my arm out of his grip, feeling my anger beginning to overflow, and without thinking snarled, “Well I’d know you’d be following me to make sure I don’t run off and tell anyone about your bloody horcr-,” 

Tom slapped a hand over my mouth and I fell back against the wall. “Watch what you’re saying, Cortes! And what makes you think I actually made one?” 

I pulled my mouth away from his hand with difficulty. “I’m not stupid, Riddle!” I hissed. “I can put two and two together! And I’ve seen enough of your memories that I know you wouldn’t hesitate!” 

He grabbed my face roughly and pointed the wand between my eyes. There was a pause. We stared at each other, both of us panting as though we had run a race. I thought my heart might burst through my chest. Rage fought with fear as Tom’s livid eyes flickered between mine. “I should kill you,” he said softly, and a thrill of terror raced through me. I swallowed, but said nothing. We stood like that for what felt like hours but was probably only moments – and then a look of terrible pain crossed Tom’s face and he dropped the wand, which clattered away across the floor. The hand on my chin softened and his thumb grazed my lips. I gasped, staring at his tortured features as he took a step closer and raised his other hand to my cheek. He leaned in so close that I felt his breath on my lips – and then he was gone, striding off down the hallway with his cloak billowing out behind him. 

I sagged against the wall, my heart racing, a confusing rush of emotions causing my legs to shake so badly I could barely support myself. What the hell was Tom playing at? What had happened? One minute, he was angry enough to threaten my life, the next he was – well I didn’t know exactly what he’d been doing, but the look on his face had been downright frightening. The way he’d been leaning in so close, his hands gently holding my face, as if he was about to press his lips to mine… 

I shook my head vigorously and glanced around the shadowy hallway. I searched desperately for something to distract me from my crazy thoughts. My eyes fell on something shiny lying on the floor against the wall – my wand! I scrambled across the hallway and picked it up, then placed it safely in my pocket. Tom was right; I could not afford to be caught without it again. I turned briskly back to the common room entrance, muttered the password then slipped inside. I made my way through the empty common room and up to my dormitory, but found the way inside blocked by Felicity. 

“Where were you?” she demanded. 

I ducked under her arm and made my way to my bed, taking in the fact that we were alone in the dorm before answering. “I tracked down Tom to talk to him about Malfoy. I wanted to make sure he wasn’t going to do anything drastic,” I said smoothly, marvelling at the ease with which I concocted the lie. It was positively Tom-Riddle-ish. Trying to act as though I wasn’t about to pass out from shock, I dug my pyjamas out of my trunk and began to pull them on as Felicity crossed to her own bed and sat down on it. 

“And?” she said eagerly. 

I glanced at her warily. “Well, he doesn’t seem to have done anything yet…I tried to convince him to leave Malfoy alone but…well you know Tom, he doesn’t really listen to anyone.” I sighed dramatically and threw myself on the bed. I glanced sideways and saw that Felicity looked satisfied. It was obvious that she, at least, could not hear my heart still striving to break free of my ribcage. Trying to distract myself further, I asked “How about you? Any luck on the seduction front?” 

I rolled over on my side and propped my head on my hand, widening my eyes innocently. Felicity rolled her eyes. “Are you kidding? He’s so focused on getting you alone, I may as well not exist. I don’t know how you do it – you have Malfoy and Riddle following you around like puppies.” 

I snorted. “If you want that git Malfoy following you around trying to curse you into oblivion, you’re welcome to it!” 

She smirked. “I guess that is the only reason he’s following you now. Maybe he’s given up on getting in his one-night-stand with you.” 

“Well if he hasn’t, he’s bloody stupid. I think Tom might castrate him if he so much as looks at me the wrong way.” 

“That’s because Tom’s in love with you.” 

“Pardon?” I said sharply, and she looked sideways at me. 

“You heard me,” she murmured, smirking. “And unless I’m very much mistaken, he was about this close,” she held up her thumb and forefinger about a millimetre apart, “from kissing you a few minutes ago.” 

“You were watching?” I said without thinking, as a bucket of ice cascaded into my stomach. How much had she heard? 

“Aha!” she said triumphantly. “So something did happen! Did he kiss you?” 

“No! He – he threatened to kill me actually,” I muttered, chuckling weakly at the absurdity of it all. “So you weren’t watching?” 

“How could I have been?” she scoffed. “But he didn’t kiss you then? Well I suppose it’s only a matter of time. He always seemed a little shy.” 

I fought down a shout of laughter. Tom? Shy? “Yeah, maybe,” I managed. Why was she talking about Tom? I thought a little hysterically. Didn’t she understand that I was trying not to think of his pale, hollow face so close to mine… “Er, Felicity, not that I’m not enjoying our little chat, but I think I should probably look over my Transfiguration notes for the test tomorrow, Dumbledore told me that I’m in danger of failing out of the year if my marks don’t pick up…” I said, controlling my rising hysteria by diving for my bag and digging through it frantically. 

Her eyes widened. “We have a test tomorrow? When did that happen?” she dived for her notes and disappeared behind the curtains, muttering. I shook my head. I knew Felicity set much store by her marks – her desire to be the best and most powerful at everything included being top in the year in school. 

I finally located my own notes in the mess of papers in my bag and drew the hangings shut around my bed. I tried to pay attention and take in the notes, but all too soon I regretted cutting off our conversation; even though she’d been talking about Tom, trying to hide my distress from Felicity had in fact distracted me from thinking about the rest of the night’s events. Now, left with nothing but incredibly boring notes that I barely understood, my mind wandered freely and I felt a thrill of fear and excitement. If Tom was right…I had seen the future. I could see the future! I let my notes fall onto my chest as I considered the implications of that statement. It meant that, to an extent, I was a seer – although, what I was doing wasn’t exactly prophecy. I had heard that seers spoke in strange voices and often didn’t remember what they’d seen. I wondered if I spoke at all during the visions…I would have to ask Tom. Tom…I shivered as I thought about how much further he’d be inclined to push my ability, now that he knew its full potential. What were my limits, I wondered? I was sure Tom would find out…I shivered again and pulled the covers up over my chin, knocking my notes to the floor. 

As I stared up at the dusty green canopy of my bed, my mind moved unwillingly to the way Tom’s face had looked as he stared at me in the corridor. The look he’d given me had scared me more than anything he’d done to me previously – and that included attempted murder. I did not understand it. Had he been about to kiss me? Really kiss me, because he wanted to? Or was he trying to control me as he had weeks ago in his room? Was he even capable of normal human sentiment? No, I answered myself; there was nothing normal about Tom Riddle. The look had been stronger than that. It had almost looked like…obsession. Something cold seemed to trickle through my veins. I didn’t know exactly how I felt about him…if I refused him, what would he do? Would I be allowed to refuse him? And then the hardest question of all: given the chance, would I be able to? 

Despite the disturbing questions that swirled incessantly through my brain, my eyelids eventually began to droop, and my confused thoughts bled into strange dreams and I fell into a restless sleep… 




The next day’s test went as badly as I’d anticipated. I couldn’t help it; I was no good at theory. I was excellent at the spells themselves, what did it matter if I knew how and why they worked? I sloped out of the classroom beside Felicity and made my way glumly towards the Great Hall for dinner. Felicity was talking bracingly into my ear. “If you want to study together tonight, I’m sure he would let you re-write that test tomorrow,” 

“I – I can’t tonight.” I muttered, catching sight of Tom’s dark hair. 

“Why?” 

I sighed and sat down heavily on the bench a little way down from Tom. Felicity sat beside me as I murmured, “I have detention.” 

“With who?” Felicity said scornfully. “What did you do now?” 

“Dumbledore. He caught Tom and I – er – ‘out of bounds and after curfew’ as he put it,” I pulled some roast turkey onto my plate and poured some gravy over it. 

“Oh. So, does dear Tom have a detention as well?” Felicity said wickedly. I glared at her and said nothing, applying myself to my dinner instead. “Well lighten up, you get to spend the evening with the best-looking guy in the school – ,” 

“While under the eye of that interfering old fool and doing something disgusting like…pickling toad brains or…sorting flobberworms…” I muttered, and Felicity laughed. 

“Maybe you should get Tom to tutor you. I’m sure he wouldn’t object.” 

“I wouldn’t object to that either,” drawled a voice from behind me and someone dropped onto the bench on my other side. 

“Hello Abraxas,” Felicity said brightly. Malfoy barely even glanced at her, but gave her a jerky nod before his cold grey eyes fell on me. 

“Look, Cortes, I just wanted to – er – apologise,” 

There was a clang as I dropped my fork in shock. “What?” 

Malfoy glowered as people around started listening in. “You heard me, I said it, don’t make me say it again,” he muttered softly. 

I smirked, loving how uncomfortable this was making him. “Tom made you do this, didn’t he?” I asked rather more loudly than was necessary. My satisfaction grew as his hand curled into a fist. “Well Malfoy, I don’t accept your apology. I’d watch out if I were you…you know as well as I do that if Tom finds out that you’ve been bothering me again – ,” 

“But I haven’t!” Malfoy exclaimed, and then immediately looked furious with himself. 

I smirked. “Who do you think Tom is going to believe, me or you?” 

Malfoy’s jaw was clenched in anger, but I couldn’t stop myself; here was an outlet for all of my frustrations that couldn’t retaliate. “Better watch out Malfoy, you’re starting to annoy me. Tom?” I said, craning my neck in Tom’s direction. Malfoy snarled and threw himself off the bench. He strode angrily out of the great hall amid hearty giggling; clearly, many people longed to see Malfoy get his come-uppance. 

“Way to go!” Felicity exclaimed angrily. “Now I won’t be able to talk to him!” 

“What are you talking about, now’s your chance, go out there and comfort him. I give you full permission to verbally abuse me to gain his sympathy.” I smirked and she let out an unwilling chuckle. 

“You’re right. Wish me luck!” With a slightly manic grin, she grabbed her bag and strode out of the great hall in Malfoy’s wake. I shook my head, grinning slightly, and took a bite of turkey. As I was reaching for a basket of rolls a little ways down the table, somebody sat down smoothly in Felicity’s vacated seat. “It’s time to go.” he said quietly, but the slight edge in his voice told me that he was still furious that he, the great Tom Riddle, had been given a detention. Trying to act as though my heart hadn’t started pounding fit to burst, I chose a roll and buttered it before looking over at him. 

“We still have five minutes,” I pointed out, checking my watch and taking a bite of the roll, feeling pleased at how steady my voice had sounded. Tom avoided my eyes, and I watched him in silence as I tried to finish my dinner calmly. His blue eyes remained fixed on a point somewhere across the room. “Er – we should probably go now,” I said hesitantly, and finally, he turned and met my gaze. Immediately I regretted catching his eye – he regarded me coldly, and he seemed as distant as the days when he had still thought of me only as ‘Cortes’. I was taken aback; after the way he’d looked at me last night, I thought maybe I was finally getting to the core of Tom Riddle. Now it seemed like I was back at square one. 

Without a word, he swept out of the hall ahead of me and headed toward Dumbledore’s office. I stumped after him, gaining some lingering stares from the students I passed. I caught up to Tom at the top of the marble staircase. “Um…Tom?” 

“What is it Cortes?” he said irritably. 

I shut my mouth, fuming at his behaviour. What was his problem? “Fine,” I muttered, and walked a little faster. 

I reached the door of Dumbledore’s office and knocked, feeling Tom’s breath on the back of my neck as I waited. “Enter,” came the old professor’s voice and the door opened of its own accord. Evidently I paused a little too long on the threshold, as Tom felt it necessary to give me a shove between the shoulder blades that caused me to stumble forward into the office. “Good evening,” Dumbledore said from behind his desk, regarding us with interest over his half-moon spectacles. “Close the door behind you, please,” he added pleasantly. Tom did so, and then stood beside me, waiting expectantly, as I was. Dumbledore stood up and came around to the front of his desk. “Wands out, please.” 

I glared over at Tom, who spared me one sideways glance before pulling out his wand. I copied him, and then looked back at Dumbledore. He spoke again, “I would like you do demonstrate what you were practicing last night. As you were undoubtedly immersed enough in what you were working on to fail to notice the time, I daresay that your defensive spells should be perfect, Miss. Cortes?” 

I felt my eyes widen. “I –er – well they’re a lot better than they were…I mean they might not be perfect…nobody’s perfect…” he let me mutter myself into silence before he spoke again. 

“Mr. Riddle, I would like you to attempt to jinx Miss. Cortes. Miss. Cortes, I would like you to perform a shield charm.” Tom and I exchanged an incredulous glance. “You may begin.” 

Tom turned to face me and raised his wand. A thrill of fear raced through me as his cerulean eyes glinted strangely. Perhaps he was remembering our last duel in the owlery. I certainly was. I raised my own wand and braced myself. Tom’s eyes flickered to Dumbledore, as though gauging how bad a jinx he could use and still avoid the professor’s wrath. Suddenly, his eyes flew back to mine, and he muttered, “Stupefy.” 

Protego!” I yelled immediately, and the spell bounced harmlessly off of my shield. 

“Well done!” Dumbledore exclaimed, clapping his hands. “Now Tom, a stronger spell, and non-verbal this time, both of you,” 

Tom smirked slightly and raised his wand. There was a bang and a flash of orange light. I tried to conjure the shield, but I wasn’t quick enough, and his spell hit me hard in the gut. I was thrown backwards and my wand clattered away across the floor. I got to my feet, wincing, recognising his spell as the same one he’d used in the owlery. I glared at him and his smirk widened. “Miss. Cortes, what happened?” Dumbledore asked, and I fought the urge to glare at him too. 

“We weren’t practicing with non-verbal spells, professor,” I muttered. 

“Ah, really? I was under the impression that sixth-years were expected to use non-verbal spells.” I pressed my lips together, fuming in silence. “Perhaps a different kind of defensive magic, then,” Dumbledore continued softly. “I wonder, Tom, if you were practicing Occlumency?” My heart began to pound, and my frightened glance jumped from Dumbledore to Tom and back again. Dumbledore's guess was too close to the truth for comfort.

“What makes you think that, Professor?” Tom asked quietly, but his eyes locked with mine suspiciously. 

“Just a guess, Tom,” Dumbledore said pleasantly. “Let’s see it, then,” 

Tom raised his wand, and I struggled to clear my mind, to block him out… 

Legillimens!” Tom hissed, and he didn’t hold back. My sorry attempt at blocking him was swept away with hardly a hesitation. Memories flashed by me, too fast to see. He was going deep into my mind, back to memories I’d been trying to forget – I was sure he thought that I’d hinted something to Dumbledore, and was punishing me accordingly. Suddenly, the memories flashing by me slowed…I was lying in the small, dark space under a bed…running footsteps entered the room, pleading voices shouted over each other, but couldn’t quite drown out a calmer, deeper voice…blurred shapes moved in front of my eyes…there were flashes of light, screams…and then the rushing sound as death entered the room… 

And then I was screaming back in Dumbledore’s office. I was lying on the floor, my wand forgotten, clenching my gut against the terrible agony of the memory. “Miss. Cortes!” Dumbledore said sharply, and the hem of his robes was suddenly visible in front of my eyes. “Are you alright?” 

“Yes,” I gasped, and pulled myself into a sitting position. I took a few deep breaths, trying to control my panic. “I just…wasn’t ready for him,” I stuttered, glancing up at Tom. His mouth was open slightly in shock, but as he caught my eye, his shock faded to be replaced by a look of intense curiosity. I looked away from him and found myself locked instead in Dumbledore’s strangely triumphant light-blue gaze. His half-moon spectacles glinted in the candlelight, and then he straightened and held out a hand. With a fleeting look at Tom, I took Dumbledore’s hand and he pulled me smoothly to my feet with the strength of a much younger man. 

“Well,” he said, reaching down to retrieve my wand. “I think you need to practice your Occlumency more, but don’t let me catch you out of bounds again.” He handed me my wand and walked back to his desk. “For the rest of your detention, you will be polishing the suits of armour on the seventh floor. If you finish before midnight, you can move on to the sixth floor, and so on. You will not use magic. I will know if you cheat.” A fleeting smile crossed his face, and then he drew his wand and waved it once, causing one bucket and two sponges to appear out of thin air. “Have fun!” he said cheerfully, and then sat down at his desk and pulled a stack of papers towards him, humming softly to himself. 

Tom strode forward and picked up the bucket and sponges, then stalked through the door. I followed very reluctantly, fighting the urge to jinx Tom’s retreating back. How dare he penetrate so far into my mind, knowing how weak my defences are? How could he bring up a memory that he knew I was suppressing, trying desperately to forget? The image of the room came back to me, and the screams of my parents…for it was their voices I’d heard in the memory, and the third voice…I shook my head violently, fighting the tears that burned in the corners of my eyes. I would NOT allow myself to think about that day anymore. 

Ahead of me, Tom threw aside a tapestry and stomped into the dark space behind it. I followed without thinking, knowing that it led to a staircase that was a shortcut to the seventh floor. However, as I stepped into the gloom behind it, I walked right into Tom, who grasped me by the arms to prevent my escape. I struggled, but gave up quickly and stood quietly in front of him, staring down at the hem of his robes. “What was that memory?” he said softly. 

“Which one?” I said innocently, still examining the toes of his shoes. 

“You know which one,” he said impatiently. 

“I only saw flashes – it didn’t focus on one,” 

“Liar,” he hissed, and his hands tightened uncomfortably on my arms. “Where were you? To whom did those voices belong? Tell the truth!” 

“I won’t!” I yelled, suddenly exploding. I wrenched myself out of his grasp and brandished my wand at his face. “For ten years I’ve been trying to forget that day, and you just brought it all back again! How dare you!” Red sparks shot out of the end of my wand, and to my satisfaction, he looked a little worried. “You knew I was terrible at Occlumency, you knew I couldn’t block you out, and you still dug to the deepest, most suppressed memory you could find! And in front of Dumbledore! He’s not going to let this go!” 

“Speaking of Dumbledore,” Tom snarled, “Why did he think that we were practicing Legillimency? Did you have a little chat with him? Were you afraid of what I have done Maura? Or of what I might do?” He looked truly threatening for a moment, and I took a step back, but my anger was still too strong for me to fear him as I should. 

“How the hell am I supposed to know how that old fool found out? Maybe he saw it in your mind! Maybe you’re not as good a Legillimens as you think! After all, I was able to see things you wanted to keep hidden without even trying – ,” Suddenly, all the breath was knocked out of me as he slammed me against the wall. 

“That muggle-loving old fool saw nothing in my mind! Do you really think I’d still be at Hogwarts if he could see like you do?” he hissed. I noticed his eyes were glinting red. It seemed that I had touched a nerve by suggesting that the great Tom Riddle wasn’t perfect at something. “He had to have been tipped off!” 

“Well I don’t know how that happened, unless Malfoy or someone – ,” 

“Malfoy would not cross me.” Tom snapped. 

“Well I haven’t told him anything!” I shouted, “Even though I should have! I don’t know why I’m keeping your secrets for you, but I am, so don’t accuse me of leaking information! Maybe I should tell him! Maybe I should turn around right now and tell him about your horcr-,” Again, he slapped his hand over my mouth, looking livid. 

“Do not say that word!” he hissed, glancing at the tapestry to our left, behind which anyone could be listening. “And if you say anything, I’ll kill you,” he added threateningly. 

I pulled his hand away from my face. Then, “Empty threat, Tom,” I said softly. “If you were going to kill me, you would have done it already. You’ve had plenty of opportunities, yet here I stand.” 

He stared at me as if he’d never seen me before. He stayed silent again for so long I thought he was going to have a fit or something…but then he pocketed his wand, turned away, picked up the bucket and sponges, and started up the staircase. 

Taking deep breaths, I followed him up the staircase and along the corridor until we came to the first suit of armour. He placed the bucket carefully on the floor, fished out a sponge and began to scrub at the helmet. He did not look at me. Gritting my teeth, I wrung out the other sponge, knelt down, and set to work on the feet. 

We got through two and a half floors, never speaking a word, before Dumbledore came looking for us at midnight. “That will do,” he said upon finding us. He waved his wand and the bucket disappeared, and then waved it again causing the sponges in our hands to vanish. “Now, straight to your beds!” he said firmly, before sweeping away down the corridor. Tom and I stood motionless for a few seconds…and then without even glancing my way, Tom turned and strode down the hall toward the head’s dorms. Pursing my lips, I made my way down the stairs toward the dungeons, fighting the waves of emotion coursing through my veins. 

When I reached the entrance hall, I found myself unwilling to descend the gloomy stairs to my dungeon common room. Instead, I turned into the shadowy great hall, staring intensely at the beams of silver moonlight emitting through the stained glass. I walked right up to one of the massive windows and found that the wooden sill was wide enough for me to sit. I climbed awkwardly up and leaned my cheek against the cool glass; only then did I let my emotions have control of me. Tears were suddenly streaming hot and fast down my cheeks, and my breath came in short gasps. My parents’ faces stood out clearly in my mind for the first time in years. I had almost convinced myself that I had didn’t remember them, but now…I raised my hand to my mouth and pressed it against my lips, trying to stop the howl of misery that was fighting once again to escape me. And Tom…I remembered the swooping sensation in my stomach when Felicity had suggested that he was in love with me…how could I have been stupid enough to think that he could actually care about anyone other than himself? And yet I had deep down…I realised now that I had truly thought that he could change, that he could be human. But it was clear to me now that Tom only cared about what I could do for him, how I could help him in his quest for power; he cared nothing for me as a person. I pulled out my wand and sent a jet of red sparks across the room, trying to distract myself. They exploded against the wall harmlessly. I dropped my hand and shot a jet of purple light into the nearest house table, where it left a crater the size of a galleon. 

I stood up very quickly, my skin tingling. Rage had permeated my veins as suddenly as my original despair, and I wanted nothing more than to find Tom and curse him into a thousand tiny pieces. The bit of my brain that was still rational told me that this idea could not turn out well, so I directed my steps instead to the front doors. I thrust them open and strode outside without fear; in fact, I felt that I would have welcomed an adversary at that moment, no matter who they were. I found myself almost hoping that I would run into Malfoy. As I neared the lake, I sent a powerful spell rocketing towards a boulder as large as I was, and reduced it to rubble. I took a savage pleasure in demolishing every scattered fragment of rock into a fine powder. Finally, when all that remained was a fine coating of dust on the grass, I sank to the ground and dropped my wand in the dust beside me. I heaved a deep sigh, and a few stray tears slid slowly down my cheeks. What I wanted more than anything was to run away, to feel nothing, to get back the emptiness I’d enjoyed before Tom had shattered it…and then I suddenly remembered something. Firewhisky would give me emptiness. And I had some. The house elves had given me a bottle ages ago…I’d shrunk it and put it in my pocket, and then forgot about it. 

Feeling slightly feverish, I stood and strode back to the castle, down to the common room, then up to my dormitory. I dug into my trunk and pulled out the old pair of jeans that I thought I might have been wearing that day. They were the only pair that hadn’t gone through the wash anyway, so they were my only hope. I stuck my hand into the back pocket…and encountered the small bottle. “Ahh…” I said softly, pulling it out and restoring it to its full size. I glanced around the dormitory, making sure nobody had noticed my search. Judging by the muffled snores emitting from behind the curtains of my dorm mate’s beds, I had nothing to worry about. I carried the bottle back down into the common room and pointed my wand at the fire. It burst into life and I threw myself on the couch in front of it and opened the firewhiskey. Without pausing, I took a large gulp and then sighed in satisfaction as it burned my throat on the way down and immediately imbued me with a sense of calm. The calm lasted for all of about thirty seconds – and then I realised that something had gone horribly, disastrously wrong.


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