“The way you walked was thorny, through no fault of your own, but as the rain enters the soil, the river enters the sea, so tears run to a predestined end.”
-The Wolf Man
“Have you ever met a werewolf? I've been acquainted with a few in my time.”
Aminta Ampara trudged up the hill toward the school. The snow was already drifting high in the valleys and up against the walls of the castle, but there was a path through the high drifts forged by the students as they went to Care of Magical Creatures. Aminta followed the path, her cloak trailing across the hard-packed snow.
The students would be inside right now, packing to go home for Christmas. Tomorrow the castle would be empty, or nearly so. There were always a few students who stayed over the holiday, whether because they did not have family to go home to or because they did not want to go home, but they tended to be a small group, and the castle would soon be blissfully peaceful until the bulk of the student body returned to Hogwarts.
Aminta quite enjoyed teaching, and even liked most of her students, but she had to admit that several hundred teenagers got very noisy. She tended to put a silencing charm on her office door each day to block out the din from the halls.
The best part about her new position at Hogwarts as the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher was becoming reacquainted with old friends. She had not seen Minerva McGonagall much in the years since they'd been at school together, but they'd picked their friendship right back up. Minerva had changed very little over the space of the intervening years, and was still running about the school in tartan and obsessing over the Gryffindor Quidditch team, just as she had when she was a student. Burdock Kettleburn, who had been in Aminta's year at school, was much the same as she remembered him as well, though minus a few fingertips. He was an entertaining fellow, and she went down to his cottage on the edge of the forest to visit whenever she got the chance. He was experimenting with brewing flavoured meads in his kitchen, and she thought the blueberry mead had been a great success.
All in all, she was quite pleased with her current position in life.
A tickling started between her shoulders, distracting her from her ruminations. She got the unpleasant feeling that someone was watching her, the sensation crawling up her spine. She stopped and turned around, looking over the forest behind her with a frown, but there was no one there. Strange.
Aminta quickened her pace toward the castle.
The castle had emptied of students on schedule, and Aminta found herself at her leisure, much to her delight. The relative silence of the castle was very pleasant, and the mood among the staff was cheerful, as it always was when the students were away. With no classes to teach and a stack of homework graded thanks to the Self-Checking Charm, she went down to the village to do a little Christmas shopping for her sister's children. She had none of her own, and doted on her two nieces by her younger sister.
She was browsing a table of on-sale merchandise outside Dervish and Banges when she heard her name being called.
She turned and saw a young man jogging up to her with an eager look on his face. “Yes? May I help you?”
He stopped abruptly, standing almost too close to her, and held out his hand. She shook it, gripping firmly. Men often judged others by the firmness of their handshake, and Aminta had determined years ago to use that to her advantage, and cultivated a strong handshake. The young man had, evidently, not done the same. She tried not to form any opinions around that.
“I work for the Department of Mysteries, ma'am, and I was hoping to have a moment of your time to discuss your recent appointment to the job of Defence Against the Dark Arts.”
“Awfully young to be working for the Ministry, aren't you?” she asked warily, eyeing him.
“My uncle is an Unspeakable,” he admitted, though he was grinning proudly. “He got me the job. And how are you liking yours thus far?”
“I like it quite well, thank you,” she said politely, wondering what this was all about.
“No intentions of leaving the school?”
She gave him a strange look. What on earth did he mean by that? “None.”
He stepped a little closer to her. If she hadn't spent ten years in Italy becoming accustomed to a different definition of personal boundaries during conversation, she would have stepped back away from him. “Professor, have you noticed how many teachers have previously occupied your position at the school in the past ten years?”
“Well...” She knew there'd been a high turnover since old Professor Merrythought had retired, but had not given it much thought. “A fair few, I imagine. Why is the Ministry concerned with staffing problems at Hogwarts?”
“For the past ten years, roughly since Professor Dippet died and Professor Dumbledore became headmaster, there has been a new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher every year at Hogwarts. No one has stayed in the post for more than a single school year. It's a very high turnover rate, considering most professors retain their post for several decades. I think you'll agree it is a mystery, and we are, after all, the Department of Mysteries,” he said with a slightly rueful smile that should have looked endearing but instead came off contrived.
“I believe my predecessor left her post because she was with child,” Aminta said, raising her eyebrows at him. “Not for any sinister reasons. I can't speak for any of the others, but I haven't heard of anything Dark going on at the school. I don't believe there's a thing wrong except a run of bad luck keeping the position filled.”
“We've had some concerns, Professor. For your safety,” he said, giving her an oily smile.
She returned it with a cold one of her own. “I assure you, I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself.”
“No doubt, ma'am, no doubt. Then I shall take my leave of you, Professor. I wish you good luck for the future.”
That sounded a little ominous. She did not like this young man, though his manners were inoffensive and his appearance was almost handsome. He should have been likeable enough, but for some reason he was making her skin crawl. She nodded to him stiffly, dismissing him.
He bowed slightly then, inclining his head. “Your servant, Professor.”
She watched him leave, and realized suddenly that he had failed to introduce himself. He'd known her name, but she did not know his. She called out to him, unable to let him leave without learning his name. “I'm sorry, what did you say your name was?”
He stopped and turned, grinning at her. He waved as he continued to walk, moving backwards now. “Oh, how rude of me – it's Rookwood, ma'am. Augustus Rookwood.”
Aminta left the castle on Christmas Eve morning and took the Knight Bus to her sister's home near Ipswich, planning to spend Christmas Day with her young nieces. Christmas wasn't quite the same without children around, and the girls were young enough – only nine and ten years old – that their Christmases were still pleasantly full of dolls and toy unicorns and other assorted girlish delights, which they would soon outgrow. Aminta's sister, Portia, was dreading the days when her girls became teenagers and no longer wanted dolls and frilly princess dresses. Aminta was rather looking forward to it, herself. She couldn't wait to have the girls at school, in her classes.
Aminta sat up late with her sister and brother-in-law after the girls were in bed, chatting about her students and the school itself as they arranged presents under the tree. Portia and her husband had both attended Hogwarts, of course, and eagerly asked after favourite professors and subjects. When they finally began to yawn, Aminta promised to lock up the house for them, sitting with a glass of wine before going to bed herself.
There was a strange howling from the forest around the house, and Aminta cast an extra protection spell on the home before heading to bed. Wolves in Ipswich? What on earth was the world coming to?
She took her nieces into the village on Boxing Day for a special grown-up luncheon. She enjoyed these day trips with her nieces, though they always made her wish she'd had children of her own. Still, there were positive aspects to being a beloved aunt rather than a mother. At least when she had the two girls all hopped up on sugar, she could return them to their parents and go home for a quiet evening alone.
The village was cold, snow on the ground in small drifts, and crowded with Muggles. She took the girls to a small Muggle tea shop, where they had tea heavily laced with milk and ate cupcakes and tea biscuits until she thought the girls might explode. The little girls were bouncy with energy as they returned home, walking down a winding country lane that looked very picturesque.
Aminta noticed as they passed over a small stone bridge halfway to her sister's home that the girls seemed to be slowing down a bit, acting less jumpy and giggly, and thought they must be getting tired, but then she felt a cold despair suffuse her that had nothing to do with the weather.
She grabbed her nieces and pulled them in close behind her, drawing her wand. They seemed confused, but their high, childish voices were almost groggy as they asked their aunt what was wrong.
She hushed them, still looking around with her wand at the ready and keeping the girls at her back, and then her heart skipped a beat as she finally saw it, coming toward them from out of the trees.
The dementor's cloak trailed in the wind as it flowed soundlessly over the snowy ground, and Aminta aimed her wand at it without hesitating.
The silver crane burst from her wand, its large wings spreading as it flew at the dementor, chasing it away. Aminta's breath came back with a gasp, her hand shaking a bit now.
“What was that?” whispered Cleo, the younger of her two nieces.
Aminta dropped her arm, but kept her wand held firmly in her hand. She felt like crying. A dementor, when she had her two young nieces with her. She hadn't seen one in this part of the country before. There were not supposed to be any dementors in the country outside of the Ministry's control. It was very strange. Something was howling in the woods in the distance, bringing the world back into focus for Aminta.
Her heart was beating fast now. What if the dementor had found the girls in their backyard? They were so close to their house. It could have caught them alone. She couldn't stand to think what might have happened.
“Give me your hands,” she said, keeping her voice strong so as not to frighten the girls even more. “We're going straight home.”
She glanced around once to make sure there were no Muggles in sight, and then, with the girls clinging tightly to her arms, she Apparated the three of them back to her sister's home.
Aminta made sure both her sister and brother-in-law could cast the Patronus Charm before she returned to the school the next day, and extracted a promise from Portia not to let the girls outside alone. Portia was so horrified at the idea of a dementor loose in her area that Aminta didn't think her sister would allow the girls out of her sight until they could legally use magic themselves.
She took the Knight Bus into Hogsmeade, stopping at the Three Broomsticks for a cup of mulled wine to warm her before she went back up to the school. She stood at the bar with her drink in front of her and the small carpetbag she'd brought to her sister's house sitting at her feet.
The feeling of being watched settled over her again, and she turned around to scan the other patrons of the pub. A large man at the back of the room, sitting alone in shadow, seemed to be staring directly at her with glittering eyes. She could feel the evil coming from him, and turned away, back to the bar.
“Everything all right, Professor?” the young barmaid asked as she handed a butterbeer to another patron.
“Fine,” she said shortly. “Thank you.” She picked up her luggage and headed back to the school. The feeling that she was being watched did not go away after she left the pub, and followed her along the path to Hogwarts.
She felt safe again in the castle, her spirits bolstered by the presence of Albus Dumbledore and the other professors, and after a few days in the safety of the castle, she agreed to venture out again alongside Minerva McGonagall, to celebrate the New Year in Hogsmeade with a few drinks.
She told Minerva about running into the dementor in Ipswich with her nieces, and her horror over what might have happened. Minerva's dark eyes were unreadable as she drank her mulled wine, but there was no surprise on her face at the tale.
“I don't even want to think what would have happened to the girls if I hadn't been there,” Aminta said, putting a hand to her temple. “They would have no idea how to defend themselves.”
“That spell isn't normally taught until seventh year Defence,” Minerva agreed. “Most of the students wouldn't know how to defend themselves against a dementor.”
Aminta stared at her colleague. Minerva was right. None of the students knew the spell. She hadn't even taught it to the seventh-years yet, it was on the syllabus for after the Easter holiday. “I'm going to teach them,” she said without thinking.
Minerva raised an eyebrow. “Who? Not all of them, surely?”
“The sixth-years, then, and the seventh-years. Many of them are of age, or nearly so. They should know how to defend themselves.” She began to rearrange the syllabi for the two classes in her head. If she was careful about her use of time, and the students paid attention and put in some effort... She decided that some instruction in a Patronus was better than none at all, and resolved to begin them as soon as classes resumed.
Her back felt like there was an itch directly between her shoulderblades. She turned in her seat, expecting to see the big hulking brute of a man from the previous time she'd been in this pub, but this time no one was there.
The students picked up the Patronus Charm with a rapidity that Aminta liked to think did her credit as a teacher. Suddenly Patronuses were all over the school. It seemed to have become quite the latest thing, to cast one purely to show off. Still, it was good practice for them, and hopefully they'd be able to repel a real dementor long enough to escape, should the need arise. The other teachers, for the most part, took it in stride as the castle became a menagerie of silver animals. Professor Dumbledore in particular seemed to find the entire situation vastly amusing.
“You know how spells go in and out of fashion here at dear old Hogwarts,” he said one night during dinner, eyes twinkling, when Professor Babbling had complained over the lack of attention she was being paid in class thanks to the students' fascination with the Patronus Charm.
Aminta moved through the material for the rest of the term in the proper order, rushing a few lessons to catch up the time spent on Patronuses. The feeling of being watched was growing worse, and now seemed to follow her inside the school, so that she constantly felt as if someone was hovering overhead, and half-expected to see a ghost behind her whenever she turned around. But no one was there when she looked.
By the time the Easter holiday came, she was very grateful for the break, and the chance to get out and away from the school for a time. She decided against visiting her sister this time, wishing for some solitude, and instead took a room above the Leaky Cauldron for a few days, to do a little shopping in Diagon Alley and visit London.
She spent her days in the shops, or having tea in the little shop around the corner from Ollivander's, and reading peacefully in her room. No one seemed to be watching her. The feeling had disappeared, and it felt good to be alone. She felt she had privacy for the first time in months.
Aminta stopped in at the pub on the third evening of her holiday in town, and ordered a glass of firewhisky from the bartender of the Leaky Cauldron. He smiled as he poured her a glass, and she took it over to a small table in a corner, a book tucked under her arm, and sat down, ready to enjoy a glass and a good story, when the itching between her shoulderblades returned, and she looked out suddenly to stare around the pub. Someone caught her eye immediately.
A lone figure stood by the fire, large and cloaked in black, next to the mantel in a knot of open space, as if the rest of the pub patrons were unconsciously avoiding him. No one looked at him or spoke to him, and the air around him seemed heavy with malice. He made her skin crawl just looking at him. And then he turned to stare at her, and she recognized him.
It was the dirty man from the Three Broomsticks at Christmastime.
She looked away, hoping that avoiding eye contact would keep him away, but his attention was directed entirely at her now, and he made his way over to her. She could see him moving out of the corner of her eye. The empty space followed him, and she thought the other witches and wizards must be sensing the evil on him and trying to avoid getting too close to him, lest it infect them somehow.
“Hello,” he said, his voice strange and raspy. It gave her a creepy feeling, as if all the hairs on her arms were standing up.
She didn't answer, but he didn't seem to take the hint. She picked up her glass and stood, ready to move closer to the relative safety of the bar, but he stepped in front of her, blocking her way.
“Step aside, sir,” she said in the firm voice she reserved for misbehaving students.
“Aren't you an interesting one,” he said slowly, staring at her. She put her chin up defiantly, meeting his eyes. They reminded her of a shark's: flat, empty, soulless. A predator's eyes. A chill went down her spine, and the urge to run almost overpowered her.
“Step aside,” she repeated.
“Is that fear in your eyes?” He licked his lips, and the hungry look in his eyes sickened her. “Shall I make you scream?”
“I am not afraid of you,” she told him icily.
He leaned forward, leering at her. “I could make you afraid, oh yes.”
She looked at him with disgust, her lip curling. “I suggest you leave. Now.”
He reached out and put a hand to her throat, barely brushing her skin. His fingernails were long and dirty, and she jerked her head back instinctively. His hand tried to close around her throat as she moved, and she felt a sharp pain lance from her ear to the opposite side of her neck, at her collarbone, following the path of those filthy nails.
She touched two fingers to her collarbone, and there was blood on them when she looked down. A few other bar patrons had seen what had happened, noticed her bleeding, and were now coming over with their wands drawn.
The large, hulking man smiled at her, baring yellowed teeth, and slipped away as the other wizards and witches came to confront him.
Aminta couldn't focus; her vision was tunnelling, and the sounds of the pub seemed to recede. She could hear voices, sounding as if they came over a great distance.
“Are you all right?”
“Who was that?”
“I don't think she's all right, someone call for help-”
The world faded into obscurity, and Aminta knew no more.
She woke in the Hogwarts infirmary with Professor Dumbledore sitting in the chair next to her bed. A curtain had been drawn around the small cot for privacy.
“How are you feeling, Professor Ampara?” the headmaster asked, his blue eyes sharp as he examined her.
She put a hand up to her neck, where she'd been scratched. She could feel a bumpy line, but that couldn't be right, it had just been a scratch from some malicious cretin's fingernails, how could it have left a scar that couldn't be healed?
“There was some scarring,” Professor Dumbledore said. He was examining her face, searching for something. “Despite the best efforts and tender ministrations of Madam Luscinia, the wound proved impossible to fully heal.”
“I don't understand,” Aminta said, and her voice sounded raspy to her ears. She tried to sit up, but she felt dizzy and sick, and slumped back down into the pillows.
Professor Dumbledore took in her grey, pallid face, his eyes seeming to look straight through her. She'd found it disconcerting when she was a student, and he had taught Transfiguration, but it was just as strange a sensation as an adult. “Could you, perhaps, describe your attacker?” he asked suddenly.
“He was... big, and dirty. Long nails. Yellow teeth. He seemed... evil.” She shuddered. “How did I get back to Hogwarts?”
“Tom, the bartender, contacted me when he realized who you were. I assured him you would receive care here equal to that of St. Mungo's.”
Aminta looked up, staring into the headmaster's eyes. “Do you know who attacked me?”
“I suspect,” he said, nodding slightly. “As you know, my suspicions tend to be correct.”
She closed her eyes. “Who?”
“I believe you met up with Fenrir Greyback.” He paused. “A werewolf.”
Aminta touched the scar on her throat. “A werewolf? What does he want with me?”
“That, I cannot tell you.” He got to his feet, lacing his fingers together in front of him as he stared down at her. “To know any more than I have already told you might place you in even greater danger.”
Aminta frowned at him in frustration. “But, Headmaster-”
“I suggest you stay in the castle for the remainder of the school year.” Professor Dumbledore reached forward suddenly and took her hand. “I am terribly sorry that this has happened to you, Aminta.”
“It's not your fault,” she said, keeping the question out of her voice, but he answered it anyway.
“Ah, but isn't it?” He nodded to her, and his eyes were sad. “Your servant, Professor.”
He disappeared around the privacy curtain, and Aminta lay back on the bed, frowning. Why must he be so oblique?
“How are you feeling, Aminta?” Minerva asked, sitting in the armchair next to Aminta's. Her witch's hat was a tartan that made Aminta smile. Minerva was such a proud Scotswoman, always had been.
The staffroom was empty but for the two of them. The school day was over, and the other teachers had retreated to their offices and apartments in the castle, doing the drudge work that came with teaching and had to be done to keep the classes progressing and the students learning.
“I feel like I have the flu,” Aminta admitted. “Not at all well. Prunella gave me a potion that helps, but I don't think there's anything more she can do to heal me. I've been reading up on werewolf attacks, and there's nothing in the literature about attacks when the werewolf was not transformed. What kind of a monster attacks deliberately, knowing they might spread such a curse?”
“The headmaster doesn't believe you will have any ill effects once you heal,” Minerva said, her eyes worried. “Certainly you won't be a werewolf yourself.”
Aminta couldn't quite repress her shudder at the thought of contracting the curse. “I realize that, but what other effects it might have are unknown. I feel... I feel like I'm being targeted, Minerva.”
“As if this were done deliberately, as if I'm being watched. I don't know why anyone would want to come after me, and with a werewolf, it just...” She shook her head, bewildered. “It makes no sense.”
“Perhaps...” Minerva paused, frowning. “Perhaps it has to do with someone you might have known in the past. Someone of whom knowledge might now be dangerous.”
Aminta leaned forward. “What do you mean, Minerva?”
“When we were at school, there was someone – someone you might have known well enough then to know too much now. He was popular, well-known, and not many knew he was already becoming Dark even then.” Minerva closed her mouth firmly after that, as if she feared she'd said too much.
“A boy I might have known in school?” Aminta's eyebrows contracted. “To whom are you referring?”
Minerva looked as if she were carefully considering her next words. “Do you remember-”
The door burst open then, and a dark-haired student burst in, looking a little wild and harried. She wore Gryffindor colours and a prefect's badge. Aminta recognized her from her sixth-year class, a Miss Fletcher. She was an excellent student, one of the top in the class. She seemed very distraught today.
“Professor McGonagall-” She stopped abruptly when she caught sight of Aminta, and her cheeks coloured. “Oh, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt-”
“It's all right, Miss Fletcher. Aminta, we'll talk more later,” Minerva said, giving her a significant look as she rose gracefully from her chair.
Aminta watched them go and wondered what Minerva had meant to say. She couldn't think of any boys at school who might have become Dark wizards later – at least, not any of the popular boys. She sat back in her chair, staring at the fire. Who was there that everyone seemed to know and admire?
The first name that came to mind was Rubeus Hagrid. Though he had not been admired, everyone at school then had known Hagrid after he'd been expelled for killing poor Myrtle. He'd never been popular, though. And surely Dumbledore wouldn't have given him a job and permanent residence at the school if he was truly a Dark wizard? She's always gotten the impression Hagrid had killed Myrtle more out of ignorance than malice. He did love his monsters.
She ran through a few more names in her head. Ambrosius Flume, he'd been a year below her in school, a very popular boy, but he owned the sweetshop in town now with his wife, and she couldn't picture him as a Dark anything. And of course the Head Boy during her own sixth year, handsome Tom Riddle. He'd been quite popular, Award for Special Services to the School after that nasty business with Hagrid. Whatever had happened to him? She hadn't known him very well, though they'd spoken many times, as she'd been a prefect herself, and he had, after all, been quite a handsome boy. She'd paid some attention to him during his final year, but he'd never seemed interested in her, so she had stopped pursuing him. He'd been in Minerva's year, so shouldn't Minerva have known him well? He'd been a Slytherin, and Minerva of course had been a Gryffindor, so maybe she hadn't known him that well. Still... what had happened to him?
She didn't know. He'd seemed to disappear, she hadn't heard anything about him after he'd left school. Why would a young man who'd been Head Boy, a brilliant student, fade into obscurity once he'd gotten out into the world? Surely his prospects would have been bright.
She could hear howling out in the forest, the sound faint through the walls of the castle. It seemed to grow louder the more she tried to concentrate, to think, and the sound made the hairs on the back of her neck rise. She went over to the window to look out, fingering the scar on her throat. She couldn't see anything in the black night, but the howling continued. Perhaps the howling wasn't coming from the forest after all.
Perhaps it was coming from her mind.
Aminta walked quickly down the corridor. It was just past curfew, and the school was dark and empty, but she couldn't sleep, and walking helped her think. The suits of armour seemed to whisper to her as she passed, and she could still hear the howling out in the forest. She heard it all the time now. It kept her awake, seeming to fill the night air with its faceless terror. The warm air of the approaching summer did nothing to soothe Aminta's restless and frightened soul.
She was damned if she would leave the school. She would stay at her post, and teach these children how to defend themselves against the dark creatures of the world, creatures like Fenrir Greyback, teach them how to stay safe. How to survive. Some of the students were so little, hardly older than her little nieces.
Her nieces. The dementor. She had to make sure the students remembered their Patronuses. She tried to tell herself to remember to put it on the final exam. They needed to know it. There were dark things out there, waiting, watching. Ready for the attack. The students had to be ready too. She would make sure of it. She just had to pull herself together a little. Some sleep. She just needed some sleep. The potions that Prunella Luscinia made for her didn't help her sleep. She needed to sleep.
Why? Why her? What did Dumbledore know that he couldn't tell her? Who was the boy that she might have known? Why were they watching her? Someone was watching her. She could feel it, all the time now, that itching on her back, between her shoulders, that told her they were out there, watching her, waiting to catch her, waiting to attack -
She whirled around, her wand at the ready, and found Minerva McGonagall, looking alarmed, with her hands up defensively.
“You startled me,” Aminta said, lowering her wand.
“I apologize. Are you quite all right?” Minerva was examining her closely now, frowning.
“Quite.” She stood a little straighter.
“You were talking to yourself,” Minerva said, staring at her strangely.
Had she been? She'd been thinking so hard, she supposed she might have slipped... “I'm perfectly all right, thank you.”
Minerva stared at her for a moment, sorrow on her thin face. “You may not believe this, Aminta, but I regret suggesting you for the post of Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher,” she said, her voice constricted. “If I had realized what it would cost you-”
“I'm quite all right, Minerva.” She put every bit of strength she had left into her voice, trying to sound normal. “I was deep in thought, that's all.”
She escaped before Minerva could question her further, back to her office. Pacing the floor, she thought hard, keeping her lips firmly together so she didn't talk to herself again.
They were out there, watching her. She could feel it, here in her office, in her bed, everywhere in the castle, they were watching. She was sure it was the werewolf, Fenrir Greyback, somehow. Somehow he was here, watching her. Maybe through the scratch. He'd marked her, marked her with his evil, his curse, and now he was watching, and waiting. She knew he was out there.
What did he want with her? She was a teacher, of Defence Against the Dark Arts, why would he attack her? She was trained to defend against dark creatures like him. And attacking her would bring the scrutiny of Albus Dumbledore, the man who'd handily defeated the greatest dark wizard of the age, Grindelwald. Why would the werewolf take the risk of attracting Dumbledore's attention?
What did she have that he wanted? Or was it all just a madman's game?
The howling echoed in her head, in her bones, until she wanted to throw her head back and howl with it.
She held on until exams were over. She hadn't slept in days, but she pulled it together long enough to administer the exams to her students, and she was proud of them, of their progress through the year. They would build on it next year. She wasn't leaving the school. This summer, she would go somewhere bright and tropical, where there were no dementors and no werewolves, and recoup. She'd feel better. The scar would stop howling at her if she could just get away, and get some sleep.
And a drink. She needed a drink. The pub had firewhisky. She didn't have firewhisky at the school. The barmaid would give her some, and it would help. Maybe she could sleep tonight. The walk would do her good. Tire her out. Help her sleep.
The full moon was bright in the night sky overhead, coating the world with a pale shimmery silver as she walked along the road back to the castle shortly before midnight. She had bought an entire bottle of firewhisky from the Three Broomsticks, and would drink it in her office, and then, then she could finally sleep.
The forest seemed quieter, even for nighttime. There should have been insects, nocturnal creatures, owls, but there was nothing. An eerie silence hung over the Forbidden Forest as she walked the path back up to the school. She quickened her pace, the need to get back into the safety of the school suddenly overwhelming. Something was wrong in the forest. It was quiet. Too quiet. The silence pressed on her ears, sinking into her body.
The howling had stopped.
Something snapped behind her, a small branch, and she whirled around, her heart pounding. A figure stood in the shadows of the forest, and she knew who it was, and though she thought her heart would stop, it only beat faster.
It was the large man from the pub, the werewolf. Fenrir Greyback. Her heart was ready to fly out of her chest, and she had the odd sensation that he could hear her rapid heartbeat.
“Scream for me,” he said, and stepped out into the moonlight.