Chapter 6 : Distant Enemies
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Can you hear me?
I know you can, girl. I am in your mind. I am you. I am everything good about you. The rest of you is worthless to me, petty, weak, foolish as you are. No, the only useful trait about you is the ability to keep your mouth shut when the others cannot. For not even your friends know, is that right?
It is. You're weak, weaker than the Aurors, the ones that defy us--weaker than the filthy blood traitors. But you can keep your mouth shut and you keep it shut good.
And you'd best keep it shut, or you will suffer the consequences. The consequences always frighten you, don't they? The questions arise but you will never seek the answers. You must have thought a million times since the day you got your Dark Mark why I am with you but with no one else. But you fear the answer because you know the answer will terrify you.
Shame that you learn things after they have been taught to you. Your friends, the Notts; they are stubborn, are they not? And they have suffered much, much more than you have... regrettably so. Your scream is very lovely.
There are only two reasons you are alive: your knack of being in the right place at the right time and your dedication to me. If you were not dedicated or lucky, you would be dead by now. Perhaps I could let the boy you fancy, Nott, kill you. Shame that has not worked out.
Shame that you are the one under my curse.
Can you hear me?
How is your night? Has anything interesting happened so far today?
It is fine. And nothing that would interest you, I'm afraid.
Oh, nonsense. I am always here to lend a hand for...any problems you may have...
Honestly. I would... love... to hear it.
Tenereus figured that the stars needed some sort of power charge, or something, I don't know. He wants to send... someone out. We are... not sure who it is yet, but I'm sure I shall get to it in due time, don't you think so?
I surely hope so. Why would the stars need assurance when they have such excellent readers as you and Tenereus?
Apparently not excellent, anymore.
Otherwise, nothing too interesting has happened. There is the same power struggle of the Blacks. The same stubbornness of the Notts. And I am somewhere in the middle. Do I have a place?
Yes, you do. You are the most useful, you are.
I got into a fight with troublemakers today. What would that make me?
Brave. Noble. Someone to stand for what they believe in.
Are you in a good mood?
Marginally, I suppose. It is a new year.
I want to hear more about your day, Scarlett. Bear no hesitation.
It started out completely normal--well, some of the other Slytherin boys were overjoyed that school would only have to go a day before the weekend, which I thought was a waste of time, honestly, because school is going to drag on later and later... Boys here are so daft... and, afterwards, I slept. I've been much more tired this year than last. I assume it's from getting off on a bad foot, with going to Tenereus's outlook and the course on the same day. It was so strange, yesterday when I slept I slept for almost twelve hours and was still tired. I think, from now on, I'm going to not go to Tenereus when you schedule courses. He might get angry at first, but it should clear up my schedule... After that, I went to the lake to finish my homework. Tenereus's requests were on my head and I wanted to clear my mind. I was very close whenever the Gryffindor boys showed up. It was annoying for me to see them there, again. They can never seem to leave me alone.
Yes, annoyance. They irritate me. They won't leave me alone and they won't stop being as innocent, as naïve, as they are. It sickens me, that they don't know that a war is about to start and they're obsessed with their own arrogance. How sickening. It nearly made me gag when Peter tripped me.
Peter is the rat, is he not? The one who tattles, the one who is a mere follower of this so-called group of which you speak of? With the Potter boy, the blood traitor, and the wolf?
Peter is the fat, watery-eyed one. He's rather short and has no aptitude whatsoever for any topic in school. I am surprised he has stayed for so long in school, but it makes me wonder... what if he knows more and is just not letting anyone know? What if he and the others will come with their Dark Magic under their belts and blast us all to smithereens? It's a fear of mine, not just for Peter. I am not scared of Peter--he is unessential. I am scared that people that seem so innocent aren't what they make themselves out to be.
I do not believe you have anything to worry about, Scarlett. I am on your side.
What did you mean by wolf?
Nothing worth mentioning. Now continue--I was rather getting into the tale.
Peter tripped me and then they all started laughing, and then I fought back. I don't know, I was angry and I guess I had been on my last nerve when they attacked. It was rather nasty and I think I got a few cuts and bruises from them and a broken ankle. I'm not sure, I wasn't really paying attention. All I know is that James knocked out Narcissa, and Bellatrix and Sirius were spitting words at each other, and it was chaos.
Me and some of the others had to go to the Hospital Wing to get medicine--they gave me the foulest medicine I've ever had but I'm pretty much healed so I guess it worked. We weren't supposed to stay there but after Madame Lenore gave me the potion I couldn't help myself from falling asleep. I woke up very late and I went to the Owlery to deliver a letter to-- my sister. I wanted to congratulate her on her promotion.
And now, I don't know. I'm dizzy and I feel sick and I think all I really want to do is go to bed. I may collapse right here if I don't get there soon. I don't want to worry Georgiana or Theodore or Narcissa or Bellatrix... if they would worry. I'm not sure.
Oh, people with their deceptions...
I think they like me, but I am never sure. Sometimes I think their patience wears so thin with me.
I couldn't...imagine...anybody having thin patience with you...
I'm tired. So tired. And the couch is right there.
Theodore would get angry. He dislikes whenever you sleep on the couch. You should go up to your bedroom. Then you can sleep there and wake up to a fresh Sunday. A new week. Oh, the possibilities.
Of course you are. You did, after all, just slouch onto a freezing bed. Close your eyes and it will get warmer.
A shadow stepped out from the thick, bristly bushes of the forest. The outlook was small and seemed innocuous, a mere clearing of the rest of the twenty miles that stretched ahead. But this place was of utmost importance, and the shadow proclaimed that message, walking with a motive--for not many would venture into the forest alone.
Tenereus lived there, and the air that night was brittle and cold, though centaurs were, at heart, warm-blooded. He was pacing, the leaves beneath crunching as his hooves stomped on them. Every once and a while, he would look up at the stars and sigh; this process continued itself for a fair amount of time.
When the stranger made its presence known, Tenereus opened his mouth as to speak, but faltered, sighing instead as the stranger revealed itself. The two stared at each other, one with confidence and slight impatience, the other with wariness.
"It has been a while, hasn't it?" he voiced, his tone even and calm even as he looked slightly skeptical at the visitor. The stranger laughed harshly and took a step closer, swallowing the surroundings.
"Oh, indeed," the stranger said, a fair amount of sarcasm in the tone. "I would like to get acquainted with this forest again... it has been far, far too long... but I have been busy. You must have a handful yourself, with the girl."
Tenereus' look of skepticism did not betray him; no, it seemed to increase as he took in the visitor, and he said, guarded, "Oh, no, the girl is absolutely fine. A little stressed but otherwise fine."
The stranger laughed again. "She is no use...I had hoped that she would possess some common sense..."
"You feel that they all lack it?" Tenereus said so defensively.
"I believe so. Some people may disagree. What do I know here? Very little. I have more pressing matters than a group of teenaged misfits. Ones that will not even speak to me. None have messaged so far with anything of use..."
"Give them time to settle," Tenereus said, and it was almost a snap, for his tone was sharper. "And was this your main motive to be here? To complain? You never used to--you said you were too strong, did you not?"
A smirk settled on the face of the stranger. "Oh, no. I just wanted to see if there was any news I was not being informed of. You understand, I believe, the importance of information, now with a threat of a war."
"Not a threat, anymore, is it?" Tenereus said warily. "No threat--an inevitability." He paused, frowning, and the stranger gladly opposed the gesture, smiling in response. The smile was haunting, and bitter, and cold. So very different from the last time Tenereus saw the face--so long ago...
"Is that all? Every other time you have visited me you have always had an obvious incentive, for we are nothing close to friends, are we?"
The stranger's smile became a frown--maybe even a scowl. "No, no, I do not believe that. I believe we could become rather fine allies of each other, were we to...compromise...over the independence a centaur requires. No, I'm talking about how we could actually allow this act to happen, instead of letting it sit in the open for far, far too long. We need your alliance."
"The centaurs all believe that we are fine here, and that there is nothing you can offer us--which I believe, to an extent. We are safe here, I hope you realize. Dumbledore treats us well and only the occasional stray student is warned not to trespass the forest borders--though not many do, with rumors they have heard." A look entered Tenereus's eyes. "If only they knew the enemy wasn't so distant."
The stranger laughed inappropriately and ignored the centaur's last comment. "Very well. But suppose.... suppose the curriculum changed, and a Care of Magical Creatures teacher called you less than human--which I can assure you, you are not. Or, perhaps, with the addition of Divination looming near, they shall ask for your guidance?" The stranger paused as he looked at Tenereus; the centaur seemed to begrudgingly consider the visitor's point.
"I know that we cannot settle this dispute tonight," the visitor continued, "And I am not surprised at that, for it is early in the year--and while I have much, much more to do, I would like to see that this can eventually be settled."
"And what would the centaurs have to say in return? What would we get? An alliance, yes, but would we have to risk our lives? We do not wish for that; we wish for a simple life and not one tangled up in such a war--"
"No, you are misreading my motives, Tenereus. We would not want you to fight; we care about your safety, for you are very important indeed. No, we want to know the secrets you hold...what the stars have given you."
Tenereus sighed. "Perhaps is the only answer I can give you. We do not wish to tangle ourselves in the war, or lose the independence we fought for so many years ago." He sighed and looked to the trees again. "I would love for you to check in, when we have had time to think about this, but, please, do not come too often. It must be hard for you to come here, I would imagine."
The visitor laughed once more, the sound swallowed by the trees. "Not at all. Before I had more pressing matters on my mind, you see. I can come here whenever I like. Would you like to continue this conversation tomorrow night?"
"No," he said sharply. "No, I'm sure you have pressing matters to attend to. I ask you, will you please give me slight solace, at least for the rest of the week, if these conversations are to continue?"
A glare settled on the owner of the face, an angry and frustrated look. "I don't see why not, but...I suppose so. We shall continue this next week. I hope we can reach common ground soon. Thank you for giving me your time."
The shadow slinked away, billowing through the trees, clearly satisfied. It stepped with confidence, out to miles of trees ahead but facing them with harsh poise. What had needed to be accomplished was and this made the stranger very pleased.
Tenereus, on the other hand, became more miserable, a long, deep sigh heaving from his lips. He looked at the area where the stranger left. "Rowena..." he muttered--he needed her more than ever--as he looked up at the stars. Surely this dispute was not over. Tenereus knew not to question people's motives and their future promises, and to take it in stride...
... But the stride was uncontrollable and made him nervous. He wished for the chaos to be over--wished for the answers that the stars had only hinted at--but as he looked for the slimmest of seconds towards the shadow of trees, he knew that his wishes would not come true.
No, he believed something terrible had just begun, and order would cease to be soon enough.
When Scarlett woke up, she was on her bed, her hair in perfect disarray. Her bones were sore, and the position of her sleeping only confirmed that; her neck was craned and her arms were stretched horribly, hurting her every movement. The dizziness from the night before had faded away, and Scarlett saw with some shade of sadness that there was no berating note from Theodore.
She looked at the clock; unbearably late, resting at noon. She groaned and sank back into her bed, tired yet still. She wondered idly where her friends were, and if they were working on their homework, or doing something equally productive, in which case she would feel no hesitation in staying in bed.
Today was, apparently, not her day for being productive, and every motion clearly implied that--it took moments before she fell back asleep, the bed too cozy to deny.
Finally she woke up again, still hazy, to the sound of a voice in her head.
Did I talk to you yesterday?
No, you did not. Why are you asking?
Well, it was just--I haven't talked to you and yesterday I was really tired and dizzy... I may have. I can't remember anything after leaving the Owlery.
Are you tired now?
You should sleep.
Why--why am I so--
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